A coroner has found homicide was behind the death of a missing NSW pensioner who abruptly ceased contact with family and later had his bank account raided by a friend.
But – with that friend also dead and little other evidence available – Patrick Kear’s final resting place and how he got there remains a mystery.
NSW coroner Derek Lee on Thursday could only say the pig breeder and garlic grower died sometime after his last known sighting – at his home in Wells Crossing, near Grafton, on January 11, 2016.
Mr Lee said there was “no plausible explanation” as to why Mr Kear had not contacted his sister Catherine for more than four-and-a-half years and no evidence had been found of signs of life.
Most significantly, 15 withdrawals were made from Mr Kear’s bank account in the months between the then-51-year-old’s last sighting and when his missing persons report was filed in May 2016.
The final six withdrawals – captured on CCTV – were made by Mr Kear’s long-time friend Terry Thompson.
“There is no evidence that Patrick had ever given authority to Mr Thompson to access his account,” Mr Lee said.
But police were never able to question Mr Thompson over the withdrawals as he died in a non-suspicious car crash in early June 2016, weeks before the CCTV was uncovered.
Mr Thompson had lived with Mr Kear for more than a decade but moved out in 2015 after disharmony resulting from Mr Kear’s deteriorating mental health.
The inquest heard in early 2016, Mr Kear had expressed worry that “something was going to happen to me” and that Mr Thompson and another person “are going to knock me”.
In the weeks after January 11, a friend searching for the pig breeder found Mr Kear’s dog Lily at Mr Thompson’s new home.
While the female homeowner suggested Mr Kear had left the dog to see his sister in Queensland, the friend considered this “unusual as Patrick was known to take Lily with him everywhere”, the coroner said on Thursday.
The home was searched by police in July 2016, but nothing of investigative value was uncovered.
Further covert and overt investigative strategies were unable to provide any valuable material.
Shortly before his own death, Mr Thompson told detectives February 2016 was the last time he saw Mr Kear, who had spoken of going to see his sister.
Mr Lee said he couldn’t completely exclude the possibility Mr Kear died of natural causes or misadventure but homicide was most probable.
That finding didn’t mean an offence had occurred, Mr Lee said, but rather meant the death was a result of the direct actions of another person – “most likely in an episode of interpersonal violence”.
“In Patrick’s case, because he has not been found and no post-mortem examination has been conducted, the available evidence does not allow for any further conclusion to be made as to the cause of his death,” he said.