Three years ago two Mount Isa families, both named Coleman, were united in grief mourning the loss of their sons.
But they were less united about the cause of death of one of the young men, and it wasn’t until the inquest of May 2016 that the coroner ruled Kyle Coleman, 17, was accidentally killed on a camping trip by James Coleman, 21, who took his own life a few days later.
The pair were good friends who loved camping and shooting. They even worked together with apprentice Kyle reporting to James. On Friday February 21, 2014 the pair went camping at Undilla Station near Camooweal in James’s Holden Colorado.
Undilla station owner Lindsay Miller gave them permission to go onto the station but told them they would not be able to get past the first creek crossing due to heavy rain.
What happened after that was disputed but the following day James Coleman was in Mount Isa while Kyle was missing.
James said they returned late on Friday to the house where James lived with partner Toni-Lee Sabin. James said they had an argument and Kyle left. Toni-Lee, asleep, did not hear them and first saw James when he returned in the morning after washing his car (a fact he did not tell police).
Kyle never accessed social media or bank accounts after February 21 and the family searched in vain for him on Saturday.
Kyle’s father Rob reported him missing to police on the Sunday and exhaustive SES searches, initially around Mount Isa and later around Undilla failed to locate him.
On Tuesday James accompanied police to Undilla. He told police they did not cross Harris Creek due to flooding and returned home.
That Tuesday night James felt unwell and on the Wednesday James called in sick to work. That same day he committed suicide in a shed at the back of his home.
Investigating police seized a rifle from James’s father’s house that James had taken camping without permission (another fact he did not tell police) which was later found to have bloodstains whose DNA matched Kyle’s. They also found phone records which confirmed the two phones came back into service around 8am the Saturday morning.
In May 2014 Lindsay Miller found a jack belonging to a Colorado in the mud at an Undilla river crossing. He found evidence of shooting at a tree site and also found a fire site, 45 minutes past the Harris Creek Crossing James said they did not cross. There he found a shotgun shell, burnt canvas material, burnt cotton material (consistent with a doona Kyle owned) and small bones (which turned out to be animal bones) which he gave to police. In June he found pieces of a burnt watch at the fire site including a buckle with “FCUK” engraved on it, a brand which Kyle owned. Some cardboard the same as the cover of a timesheet book owned by Kyle was also found at the site.
Coroner Jane Bentley took this evidence into account in her findings last last year.
She judged Kyle and James entered Undilla Station via an alternate route that did not take them to the Harris Creek crossing then crossed the Thornton River where James’s car became bogged and he freed it with his jack which he left in the river.
Kyle and James travelled to the location where the gun shot damaged trees were located and then travelled to the fire site.
“Kyle died at or near the fire site and his body was left on Undilla Station and his remains have since been moved and/or disposed of by animals,” Coroner Bentley ruled. “After Kyle died James burnt Kyle’s belongings including his swag and his backpack which contained his watch and his timesheet book. He burnt those items at the fire site. James left Undilla and returned to Mount Isa alone.
“There is no evidence on which I could infer that Kyle’s death was other than accidental.”