Record of Investigation Into Death
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Regulations 1996
I, Stephen Raymond Carey, Coroner, having investigated the death of
Donald John MARSHALL
WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST
Find That :
(a) The identity of the deceased is Donald John Marshall ("Mr Marshall") who died on or about 1 March 1987 in waters off Cape Portland, Tasmania.
(b) Mr Marshall was born in Burnie, Tasmania on 12 August 1952 and was aged 34 at the date of his death.
(c) Mr Marshall was a married man who worked as a part-time physical education teacher and was also a self-employed commercial fisherman.
Mr Marshall is presumed to have died by drowning in circumstances unable to be determined but which were accidental.
Circumstances Surrounding the Death :
Mr Marshall was on a fishing trip when, on 25 February 1987, he came ashore for the purposes of meeting his wife Roslyn Marshall and other family members at Eddystone Point Lighthouse where they had a picnic lunch together. At approximately 4.00 pm he boarded his vessel after advising his family that he intended to proceed to the West Coast of Tasmania for the purposes of fishing if the weather permitted this to occur. At the time of leaving his family Mrs Marshall described her husband as being in good spirits and showing no mental or physical signs of concern.
On Saturday 28 February 1987 Peter Bevan, a professional fisherman, was on his vessel "Storm Bay" off Fosters Island which is near Cape Portland. He anchored his vessel near the vessel "Florence" which was owned and operated by Mr Marshall. The two men were known to each other and they had a discussion during which it was agreed that the following day they would travel to Devonport together and then proceed on to the West Coast, weather permitting.
At approximately 9.30 am on Sunday 1 March 1987 Mr Bevan was pulling his craypots near Fosters Island when he noticed "Florence" drifting about half a mile north west of Fosters Island. He had been calling Mr Marshall via his marine radio since approximately 8.30 am that morning without any response.
Mr Bevan approached the vessel "Florence", he noted that Mr Marshallfs dog was aboard and was in a frenzy barking. Mr Bevanfs deckhand, Mr Ed Hulsman, boarded "Florence" but could not locate Mr Marshall. At this time they noted that the engine of "Florence" was idling in astern and both radios were switched on. There was also rope attached to craypot buoys which were running from the pot hauler affixed to the vessel. The rope appeared to be jammed between the rollers of the pot hauler and the bulwarks.
Realising that Mr Marshall was missing, the alarm was raised with other vessels in the area. A search was commenced immediately and continued with Police Search and Rescue resources joining the search at a later time, utilising both air and seaborne resources. Land and sea searches lasted on a daily basis until 14 March 1987 when they were discontinued. No sign was found of Mr Marshall. At the time it was concluded, given the manner in which the vessel was located and the fact that Mr Marshall had obviously been retrieving his craypots, that some form of accident had occurred whilst he was engaged in retrieving a craypot, possibly involving him being hit on the head by one of the craypot buoys.
By order of the Supreme Court of Tasmania dated 3 August 1987 Mrs Roslyn June Marshall, the wife of Mr Marshall, was granted leave to swear to the death of Mr Marshall for the purposes of administering his estate. The file relating to Mr Marshall has been retained as a missing person matter until April 2011 when it was reconsidered by the Cold Case Unit of Tasmania Police. Their further investigations have concluded that there is no record of Mr Marshall with any State or Commonwealth Department or Agency, any financial institution or any Australian Police databases since March 1987. Upon consideration of the material now provided I am satisfied that there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding Mr Marshallfs disappearance, and that on 1 March 1987 he has met with an accident whilst engaged in retrieving craypots and has fallen overboard and thereupon succumbed to the elements or has drowned.
Before I conclude this matter I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the family of Mr Marshall.
Dated: The 4 day of October 2011 at Hobart in the State of Tasmania