THE coroner said the witness was fragile and wanted to testify without feeling threatened. So he allowed her to give evidence to the inquest on Joedan Andrews by video link from a separate room in the courthouse.
She was the first witness to tell of how the two-year-old Mildura boy might have died in a car accident and been disposed of in pieces the night he disappeared from a house on an Aboriginal mission in Dareton, NSW, in December 2002.
Kathleen Brown, who looked to be in her 20s, said she came from Queensland but had been living at that time in Mildura, and had a boyfriend, Tim Mitchell. Around Christmas 2002, they took a taxi to the Dareton mission. She stayed in one house watching TV while Mr Mitchell went out. He returned angry, yelling and swearing.
“I asked him where he had been. He just hit me, backhanded me across the face, punched me and lifted me out of the chair and headbutted me.
“I said I wanted to go home but he said he had to do something first. He picked up some keys off the table and went out the front door.”
She saw him walking towards the house of Colin “Collyboy” Moore, who was living with Joedan and the child’s mother, Sarah Andrews. She saw him get into the driver’s side of the car, with Moore in the passenger seat and Joedan in the back. Two men in another car also drove off with them – “fast, because the wheels were spinning”. They headed to the scrub behind Moore’s house, she said.
When Mr Mitchell returned a couple of hours later he was again “wild about something” and had a spot of blood above his left eyebrow. “He hit me again and then he got up and said that we were leaving.”
Someone she did not know gave them a lift back to Mildura, where she realised that Mr Mitchell also had spots of blood on his shirt.
She asked about it. “He said it had nothing to do with me. He said, ‘Remember that little boy that belonged to Sarah? Well, you won’t be seeing him no more.’ He said . . . he died.
“I asked him what happened. He said driving around in the car, there was no brakes and they hit a tree and Joedan was standing up between the two front seats and he went through the front seats and he hit the windscreen when they hit a tree and he wasn’t moving so they thought he was dead.
“He said they cut his head off and buried his body separately, and that if I told anyone, they were going to kill me.”
Questioned by lawyer Stephen Rushton, SC, she agreed that the knife Mr Mitchell said was used was like a machete. “He said (it was) the one I seen before. It was supposed to belong to Collyboy. He used it to cut the heads off chickens at the mission. I had seen that a couple of weeks before.”
Ms Brown said she had told Mr Mitchell to “stop talking shit”. “He said, ‘Fine, don’t believe me’, and then we went to bed.”
Ms Brown said that when she heard from her family that Joedan was missing she was too frightened to speak up. Later, she and Mr Mitchell had a row in which he told her to pack her bags. She said she rang police who took her to a women’s refuge. That was the end of their relationship: “I never saw him again after that.”
She made a statement to police about Joedan’s disappearance in 2004.
A lawyer for Joedan’s mother, Sarah Andrews, was granted leave yesterday to appear at the inquest, as was a lawyer for Colin Moore senior, who “may be charged with accessory after the fact”, said his solicitor, Bruce Caulfield.
The inquest continues before NSW Deputy State Coroner Malcolm Macpherson.
First published in The Age.