Record of Investigation into Death (Without Inquest)

Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 1996
Rule 11 

I, Glenn Hay, Coroner, having investigated the death of

Guy Anthony Bardenhagen

WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST

Find that :

(a) Guy Bardenhagen was born in Hobart, Tasmania on 20 September 1946;

(b) Guy Bardenhagen is presumed to have died in the vicinity of Mt Picton in south west Tasmania on or around the 30 January 1962; and

(c) no other person contributed to Guy Bardenhagen’s death. 

Background:

Guy Bardenhagen was the eldest of four children. He is described as having been good at sporting activities and academic in his school work while being generally disorganised and at times, moody in temprement. As the eldest child, additional responsibility fell to him due to his father having to work at two jobs. Around the age of about 10 years Guy Bardenhagen, with the encouragement of his parents, joined the Y.M.C.A. in Hobart. Within his activities at the Y.M.C.A. he developed a close friendship with one of the adult male team leaders (Team Leader) of the Association and he rose to the role of Junior Leader amongst his peers.

After a period of about 5 years Guy Bardenhagen’s mentor accepted a transfer interstate and a group of the boys at the Association convinced the Team Leader that they should engage on an often talked of walk to the Lake Pedder-Mt Picton area before he left. With the consent of parents the final party consisted of the Team Leader and three teenagers including Guy Bardenhagen. The walk was planned to last for about a week. It is the evidence of the Team Leader that the permission of all parents was sought and given.

Circumstances Surrounding the Death :

The walking party left Hobart on 23 January 1962 and after several days they approached and were in sight of the peak of Mt Picton. They camped at the edge of North Lake. On the morning of one of the last days of the trip, 30 January 1962, the group decided to walk to the summit in a 2-3 hour return walk described as ‘easy’ for the experience of the group. Part of that walk involved walking across screes and boulderfields. They went off only lightly clothed. Part way to the summit with only a short distance to go ‘only minutes away’ and as they were still in sight of their camping area, a ‘race to the top’ was suggested between one of the other boys and the Team Leader. Such challenges were a regular occurance between this youth and the Team Leader. It was agreed that Guy Bardenhagen and the third youth would follow at their own pace and all would meet at the summit. Prior to leaving the Team Leader spoke with the other youth and asked that he keep an eye on Guy Bardenhagen as he had had a heated argument earlier that day with him about his sullen moods, general laziness and unwillingness to easily interact with the others since the trip started.

Guy Bardenhagen and his companion set off after the leading two but after a short time his companion was attracted to the sight of several wallabies and delayed his ascent for a short time. Assuming Guy Bardenhagen had continued the easy climb to the peak the companion he found that he was not there with the others at the summit. All three waited for about 30 minutes for Guy Bardenhagen but he did not arrive.

As a storm was approaching the party decided to return to the camping area by different routes, calling for and expecting to meet Guy Bardenhagen on the way back. One of the party recalled hearing a response to their calling from the direction of the camp site and assumed that it was Guy Bardenhagen, particularly when they returned to the camp and discovered that their camping equipment, which had earlier been left out, had been packed inside their tents.

The party made assumptions that Guy Bardenhagen had returned earlier to the camp site, packed away the items and had either gone for a short walk around a nearby tarn or was ‘sulking’’ in his tent, so there were no concerns until several hours later when it was noted that he was not in his tent. The group then set up a local search for him including further futile attempts to head back towards the summit.

Weather conditions had deteriorated rapidly and two of the party including the Team Leader were unable to break camp until early the next morning to make the 30 kilometer trip to Geeveston over indistinct walking tracks and logging tracks to raise the alarm. About two hours into this march they came upon another group of walkers who confirmed they had heard the search calls from near the ridge of Mt Picton and had called responses the previous day and it was this group who had put away the camping equipment due to approaching poor weather.

Another member of the group had a recollection that having gone into Guy Bardenhagen’s tent later in the afternoon of his disappearance, he discovered a note from another group of walkers confirming it was they who had answered calls from the summit area.

It took most of that day for the Team Leader and his companion to reach Geeveston and report to police. It was some two days after disappearance that search parties attended the North Lake area to set up coordinated searches.

An extensive land and air search of the area by police, army and civilian search teams for about a week failed to locate Guy Bardenhagen and despite some unconfirmed or unsubstantiated suggestion he had been seen in other places, all subsequent enquires including in New Zealand have not revealed any indication that he left the Mt Picton area on or after 30 January 1962.

Guy Bardenhagens’ disappearance has to this date been considered to be a ‘missing person’ matter as no body has been found, however his suspected death must have been a reasonable liklihood at all relevant times.

Findings, Comments and Recommendations :

Extensive inquiries were made in 1962 and inquiries made in New Zealand in 1963. Guy Bardenhagen has been treated as a ‘missing person’ to this date. All members of the walking party on 30 January 1962 have provided sworn testimony in the past six months or thereabouts and police have made exhaustive other inquiries in an attempt to ascertain the whereabouts of Guy Bardenhagen. All of this evidence and information has been made available to me for the purpose of my investigation into his suspected death.

I consider that all available evidence at this time establishes that Guy Bardenhagen perished at some time on the 30 January 1962 or soon thereafter in or about Mt Picton in Tasmania. Whilst I believe that Guy Bardenhagen’s tragic death is likely to have been the result of prolonged exposure of the elements due to becoming lost or unable to walk to safety, the evidence does not permit me to determine the precise manner in which he met his death or whether or not his mental state had any, and if so what, contribution to the final outcome. He may have been considered somewhat moody on this trip, possibly due to the impending departure of his mentor and close friend, there is no evidence to suggest that he would wish to cause himself harm.

Given the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and the lack of evidence unveiled throughout the investigation including that there is no reliable evidence of any person having sighted him since that day, I find that he is presumed to have died on that day and at that place.

I find there is no evidence of the intervention of any other person in Guy Bardenhagen’s presumed death.

It is unnecessary for me to make any formal recommendations.

I conclude this matter by conveying my sincere condolences to Guy Bardenhagen’s family.

Dated 9 May 2011 at Hobart in Tasmania.

  

Glenn Hay
CORONER