Record of Investigation into Death (With Inquest)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
I, Simon Cooper, Coroner, having investigated the death of Scott Rock
WITH AN INQUEST held in the Launceston Coroner’s Court on 14 January 2015
a) The identity of the deceased is Scott Rock;
b) Mr Rock died in the circumstances set out further in this finding;
c) Mr Rock died as a result of head injuries caused by blunt force trauma;
d) Mr Rock died on or about 29 March 2011 at Mornington Drive, Ravenswood in Tasmania;
e) Mr Rock was born in Launceston, Tasmania on 15 September 1967, was aged 43 years, a divorced man who was unemployed at the date of his death; and
f) Neville Lindsay Whiting contributed to the cause of Mr Rock’s death.
Scott Rock was born at Launceston in Tasmania on 15 September 1967, one of four children to Murray Alwyn and Lynette Deloryse Rock.
Mr Rock was the father of six children: Jonathan, Ebony-Lee, Tenille, Jacob Mark, Mille Ruth and Levi James. Levi’s mother was Teena Louise Kelly, with whom Mr Rock had an “on-again, off-again” relationship which ended approximately 12 months prior to Mr Rock’s death. Another of Ms Kelly’s children was fathered by Sean Timothy Hudson. Mr Hudson lived on an irregular basis with Ms Kelly at her home at 18 Mornington Drive, Ravenswood.
CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE DEATH:
On the evening of Tuesday 29 March 2011, Mr Rock was at the Sunny Hills Country Club in Ravenswood, when Ms Kelly arrived in company with several other people including Sean Hudson and Levi. Ms Kelly and Sean Hudson had already consumed alcohol. Ms Kelly went inside the club and bought a bottle of vodka. While she did that Mr Rock went out to the car that Levi was in and spoke to him. Ms Kelly returned to the vehicle with the alcohol she had purchased and returned home with Mr Hudson, Levi and the others; Mr Rock remained at the Club.
Mr Hudson and Ms Kelly drank the vodka she had bought. When that ran out Ms Kelly arranged for a friend, Neville Lindsay Whiting, to drive her into Launceston to buy more. Mr Whiting drove Ms Kelly’s station wagon. They visited another friend, Scott Keating, where more alcohol was consumed by Ms Kelly, Mr Hudson and Mr Whiting; and then returned to Ms Kelly’s home.
While driving back to Ravenswood Mr Whiting did some ‘burnouts’ which ‘cooked’ the tyres of Ms Kelly’s station wagon. Mr Hudson and Mr Whiting left Ms Kelly’s home to obtain an implement to change the vehicle’s tyres. They were only away for a short time.
At about the same time they returned, Mr Rock arrived. It is not clear whether Mr Rock arrived at the address without notice or was invited to the address. Nothing turns on this fact in any event.
Virtually straight after Mr Rock entered Ms Kelly’s home an argument occurred between them. Although it had nothing to do with him, Mr Hudson became involved in the argument. Mr Hudson and Mr Rock began to exchange abuse. Mr Rock left the residence and began to walk along Mornington Drive.
Mr Hudson followed him. So did Mr Whiting. Mr Hudson and Mr Rock continued to exchange abuse. The pair stood “toe-to-toe” and Mr Hudson punched Mr Rock twice to the face. The punches caused Mr Rock to fall to the ground although not lose consciousness. At this point Mr Hudson began to walk away. Mr Whiting stepped in, causing the ultimately fatal injuries to Mr Rock. The nature of injuries suffered by Mr Rock and remnants of a six pack of stubbies found at the scene supports the account given to police by Mr Hudson that while Mr Rock was on the ground Mr Whiting stomped on his head several times and struck him to the head with a backpack. The backpack belonged to Mr Rock and was being used by him to carry stubbies of beer. Several stubbies were in it when Mr Whiting struck Mr Rock.
After the incident both Mr Hudson and Mr Whiting left the scene for a short time. They returned to where Mr Rock was lying on the road to check on his condition. They realised he was dead. Mr Whiting fetched Ms Kelly’s station wagon and brought it back to where Mr Rock’s body was lying. Mr Hudson and Mr Whiting wrapped Mr Rock’s body in a blue tarpaulin and placed him in the rear of the station wagon.
Mr Whiting, with Mr Hudson as passenger, drove to Scott Keating’s nearby residence (they had been there earlier in the evening). Mr Keating and another man, Ricky Lockwood, both saw Mr Rock’s body in the rear of the station wagon. At this point Mr Hudson and Mr Whiting split up. Mr Hudson went with Mr Lockwood and Mr Keating to purchase yet more alcohol from Launceston. Mr Whiting drove the station wagon to Excalibur Road, Underwood, where he dumped Mr Rock’s body on the side of a bush track, covered it with timber, poured petrol all over it and set fire to it.
The next morning (Wednesday 30 March 2011) just before noon police attended the intersection of Amundsen Street and Mornington Drive, Ravenswood where they located a large amount of blood and broken glass upon the road. At the time the origin of the blood was not known, however the quantity of blood was sufficient to run from the road into the gutter. Also located were three (3) broken stubbies, an unbroken stubbie, and plastic packaging. Due to the significant nature of the blood at this scene, forensic testing and photographs were taken. Subsequent DNA testing of blood from this scene was identified as belonging to Mr Rock. Police enquiries were commenced after this time.
Around 7.30pm on Monday 4 April 2011, Mr Timothy Perkins was spotlighting for kangaroo in Excalibur Road, Underwood when he observed the remnants of a campfire with what he thought was a human skull. He got out of the car and observed a human skull and rib cage in the remnants of the fire. Mr Perkins contacted the police.
After the body was recovered an autopsy was carried out upon it by the State Forensic Pathologist, Dr Christopher Hamilton Lawrence, at the Royal Hobart Hospital on 6 April 2011. A CT scan to the remains of Mr Rock identified significant fractures to the left side of the jaw, the left facial bones, the left side of the skull, and to the back of the head. Mr Rock’s body was extremely badly burned, so much so that its legs had been amputated at a line roughly mid-femur.
Dr Lawrence concluded that Mr Rock died of head injuries due to blunt force trauma.
The body was able to be positively identified as Scott Rock as a consequence of DNA testing.
After discovery and identification of the body a homicide investigation was commenced. Mr Whiting and Mr Hudson were identified as the persons responsible for the death of Mr Rock. Both were arrested shortly after Mr Rock’s remains were located. Both were subsequently charged with his murder.
After a trial at the Launceston Supreme Court, Neville Lindsay Whiting was found guilty by jury and convicted of murder. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, eligible for parole after 11 years. Sean Timothy Hudson was found not guilty of murder but convicted of being an accessory after the fact of murder. He also pleaded guilty to one count of Criminal Code Assault. He was sentenced to 7½ years imprisonment, eligible for parole after 5½ years.
Section 25 (4) of the Coroners Act 1995 provides: “if in the course of…criminal proceedings [arising out of a death] a person has been charged on indictment, the inquest, on each resumption, must not contain any findings which is inconsistent with the determination of the matter by the result of those proceedings”. The provision is a curious one – the meaning of the expression “the inquest containing findings” is not immediately apparent (at least to me). To make sense of the provision it must be that it is a prohibition on a Coroner in the exercise of his or her jurisdiction in respect of, in this case the murder of a deceased person, reaching a conclusion that is inconsistent with, in this case, the jury’s verdict. Given that Mr Hudson was acquitted of murder, the provision seems to operate to preclude me from making a finding that Mr Hudson contributed to the cause of Mr Rock’s death.
The investigation into Mr Rock’s death by Tasmania Police was of the highest possible standard. I am satisfied as a result of the material obtained during that investigation, and tendered at the inquest, as well as the findings made by the Supreme Court, and the sentencing comments in relation to both Mr Whiting and Mr Hudson, that Mr Scott Rock met his death in the circumstances outlined in these findings. I am affirmatively satisfied that Mr Whiting contributed to the cause of Mr Rock’s death.
COMMENTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
The circumstances of Mr Rock’s death are not such as to require me to make any findings in recommendations pursuant to section 28 of the Coroners Act 1995.
In conclusion I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the family of Mr Scott Rock.