RECORD OF INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH (WITHOUT INQUEST)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
I, Michael Brett, Coroner, having investigated the death of
Reginald John JAFFRAY
(a) The identity of the deceased is Reginald John Jaffray (Mr Jaffray);
(b) Mr Jaffray was born on 12 May 1941 at Burnie in Tasmania;
(c) Mr Jaffray died between 28 October 2011 and 29 October 2011 on his property at 170 Natone Road, Stowport in Tasmania;
(d) The cause of Mr Jaffray’s death was drowning; and
(e) No other person contributed to the cause of Mr Jaffray’s death.
Circumstances Surrounding the Death:
Mr Jaffray had lived with his wife on a small property at 170 Natone Road, Stowport since 1980. He and his wife were married for 48 years. They have three adult sons.
The evidence makes it clear that Mr Jaffray was a hard working man of strong character. He had strong and caring relationships with his wife and children and his friends. He was well respected in his community. He was, and had always been, in good physical health although in the months before his death there had been some investigation in respect of suspected prostate cancer.
A few years ago, Mr Jaffray developed symptoms of dementia. In September 2010, Dr Tolman, a visiting Gerontologist, diagnosed moderately advanced dementia of the Alzheimers type. She prescribed some medication and advised Mr Jaffray that he should not drive.
Mr Jaffray’s wife and children report that Mr Jaffray was upset and frustrated by the advancing effects of the disease. In the few weeks prior to his death, the symptoms of the disease became more noticeable. His wife, in particular, reports him being more paranoid and delusional. An example of this was a tendency to look out the window at night with a torch, believing people to be in the yard around the house.
On 28 October 2011, Mr Jaffray went for a drive with his son Craig. They had a pleasant day but during conversation, Mr Jaffray made a comment to the effect that he “might as well go jump off the bloody wharf”.
Mr Jaffray went missing that night, from his home, whilst his wife was having a bath. Family and friends, and subsequently police, were alerted and commenced a search for him. Over the course of the next 24 hours there was an extensive search conducted of the property and other places where it was thought he might have gone. The police helicopter was involved in the search. Mr Jaffray was eventually located shortly before 6:00pm by police divers in a dam near his house. He was deceased.
An autopsy revealed findings consistent with drowning.
I am satisfied that Mr Jaffray’s death was caused by drowning, after he entered the water of the dam. It is impossible to determine conclusively how Mr Jaffray came to be in the dam. The only realistic possibilities are that he entered the water deliberately in order to take his life or that he fell into the dam accidentally whilst wandering in the dark.
Whilst this question cannot be determined conclusively, I think it more probable than not that Mr Jaffray’s death was accidental. My reasons for this conclusion are as follows:
(a) Apart from some very vague and generalised comments made to his friend Mr McQueen, and the comment made to his son Craig on the day in question, there is no other evidence that Mr Jaffray had ever indicated an intention to take his own life. He did not leave a note nor any other document confirming that intention, and had not expressed that intention directly. The comments made to Mr McQueen and to Craig are consistent with the expression of frustration and sadness with the advancing effects of the dementia on his life;
(b) He was, by all reports, a man of strong character with strong and loving relationships with his wife and sons. I think it unlikely that he would have consciously subjected them to the distress which was likely to be caused by the taking of his own life;
(c) Several witnesses describe his strong and longstanding fear of water. This fear seems to have been to the extent of being quite paranoid about the thought of even entering water. I think it highly unlikely that had he chosen to take his own life, that he would have chosen the method by which he in fact met his death; and
(d) An Eveready Dolphin style torch was found by searchers in reeds on the edge of the dam near where Mr Jaffray’s body was located. There is a clear inference that he took the torch with him when he went out for the walk. This conduct is consistent with the delusional and paranoid conduct described by his wife in recent weeks, and consistent with Mr Jaffray wandering in accordance with these delusions, rather than a formed intention to take his own life.
In either case, Mr Jaffray’s death was, in all probability, related to his condition of dementia. There was no action that could have been taken by any person to prevent the death.
Comments & Recommendations:
I have decided not to hold an inquest in this matter. In my opinion, no further information of significance or relevance to the issues which I am required to determine will be elicited by an inquest.
There is no need for me to make any recommendation.
I take this opportunity of conveying my sincere condolences to Mrs Jaffray, Mr Jaffray’s sons, and other family members and friends.
The matter is now concluded.
DATED: 16 November 2012 at Devonport in the State of Tasmania