It’s been exactly a year since PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE was published in Australia. I thought I’d celebrate its birthday (and the shortlisting for best debut novel for both the Davitt and Ned Kelly awards 🙂 ) by posting the ‘deleted scene’: my beloved Coroner’s inquest report. I wrote the Coroner’s report as a sort-of prologue, and it almost made it into the book (‘this close’) — it was cut during the final proofreading stage when it was decided that such a dry, bureaucratic piece of writing might not be the best opening for a novel.
CORONERS REGULATIONS 1996
4th April 1997
Case No: 2418/94
RECORD OF INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH
I, BRONWYN WRIGHT, Coroner,
having investigated the death of ERIC ALAN TUCKER with Inquest held at Coronial Services Centre, South Melbourne on 27 June 1996
find that the identity of the deceased was ERIC ALAN TUCKER and that death occurred on 23 December 1994 at 1/49 Rathdowne Street, Carlton from
1 (a) HEAD INJURY
in the following circumstances:
On 23 December 1994, at approximately 10.40am the body of Eric Alan Tucker was discovered at 1/49 Rathdowne Street, Carlton by the apartment complex caretaker, Sean McMahon. The apartment door was open and the deceased had been covered with a blanket. There was wine and a small amount of broken glass on the carpet.
See Sean McMahon statement, Exhibit 2, dated 23/12/1994.
Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell was the first on the scene, having received a call from D24 while driving past the Rathdowne Street address. Uniformed officers and paramedics arrived half an hour later.
A neighbour claimed to have seen a young woman leaving the apartment at approximately 7.00am that morning.
While some neighbours reported seeing a woman, known to them as Brigitte Weaver, coming and going to and from the apartment; others, including Sean, could not verify seeing any other person aside from Eric at the apartment.
See Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell statement, Exhibit 10, dated 23/12/1994.
In the wake of the discovery of Eric’s body, Police Investigators, led by Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell, commenced trying to locate Brigitte in order to pursue their investigation into the circumstances in which Eric’s death occurred.
While initially a person of interest, Brigitte was excluded of involvement in the death. At the time of Eric’s death, Brigitte had been critically injured in a hit-and-run car accident in East Melbourne. Doctors at St Vincent’s Hospital operated, placed her on life-support and induced coma. On waking, she had no memory of Eric Tucker when questioned by Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell. This may have been due to amnesia caused by head trauma during the accident, or simply to the fact that she did not know Eric. Brigitte lived with her grandparents in North Fitzroy and there was no conclusive evidence of her having been at the Rathdowne Street apartment.
Sean, diagnosed with depression, committed suicide on 25 January 1995.
Police investigations found no further suspects in the Eric Tucker homicide case.
Eric was born in Tasmania on 15 July 1949. He was an only child. His parents separated when he was 15 and the whereabouts of his father is unknown. Eric left home at the age of 16 and found employment at a musicians’ booking agency in Melbourne. He married his first wife, Margaret, at 20 and they had two children. He married his second wife, Michelle, at 27. They moved to Sydney and had another child.
Eric was a successful concert promoter with his own business, Tucker Touring. His work colleagues described him as entrepreneurial; a respected business and family man.
At the time of his death, Eric was 45 years old. His place of residence was Sydney, where he lived with Michelle Tucker. He also rented the Rathdowne Street apartment where he stayed when in Melbourne. Neighbours said he kept to himself, was rarely at the apartment and had few visitors. There was confusion as to whether or not a woman was also living at the Rathdowne Street address. However, there was no evidence to support any persons aside from Eric residing at the apartment.
History of violence
The relationship between Eric and Margaret Tucker featured a clearly documented history of family violence. This included physical and verbal abuse and controlling behaviour perpetrated by Eric against Margaret.
On 11 December 1975, Margaret Tucker obtained an interim- intervention order against Eric. The application stated that on 30 November 1975, after she requested a divorce, Eric had physically assaulted her, leaving her with a fractured nose and bruising to the face, head and body. The application also set out other instances of physical violence to Margaret and her young children that Margaret stated had occurred in the months preceding this event. The order was revoked on the return date for the hearing on 15 January 1976.
On 28 May 1976, Eric and Margaret were divorced. On 18 August 1976, Eric remarried.
Further, friends and family members of Eric’s second wife, Michelle, claimed Eric was abusive and threatening to her. However, no incidents were ever reported to the police.
Both Margaret and Michelle were excluded as persons of interest in the investigation.
Events preceding Eric’s death
On 16 December 1994, Eric was managing the concert tour of rock band Death Rowe. The tour was about to commence when the lead singer, Calvin Rowe, was detected by security staff at Melbourne Airport to be carrying cocaine. Police arrested Calvin for drug possession, and Eric made arrangements to immediately cancel the tour.
After being questioned and cleared of any involvement in the incident, Eric returned to 1/49 Rathdowne Street, Carlton at around midnight.
Eric made one phone call to his wife and several calls to work colleagues including, friend, Ian Willcox. Ian said Eric sounded optimistic and was planning the next concert tour. Several calls were made to Eric’s mobile phone and to the landline, but there is no evidence of any person having seen Eric leave the apartment between 17 December and the time of his death. No phone calls were answered after 7.30pm on 22 December 1994.
Cause of death
Dr Simon Marks, Forensic Pathologist at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, attended the scene of the incident. Due to the blood stain and bone fragments on the carpet, and the absence of blood spatter elsewhere, Dr Marks provided his opinion that Eric had been covered with a blanket at the time of death and the cause of death was head injury from multiple blows inflicted by a person or persons with a heavy, blunt object. Dr Marks estimated the duration of the post mortem interval as approximately one hour prior to being discovered.
On 24 December 1994 at 1.00am, Dr Marks performed an autopsy. He attributed the cause of death to intracerebral haemorrhage secondary to skull fracture. Dr Marks also noted significant bruising in the groin area.
Toxicology analysis of body fluids disclosed the presence of benzoylmethylecgonine, tetrahydrocannabinol and alcohol. No evidence of any significant natural disease process was present.
Due to the severity of injury, Eric was not considered suitable for visual identification. Eric’s identity was established by way of dental records examination.
See Exhibit 50, statement dated 24/12/1994 adopted at transcript.
Victoria Police Homicide Squad attended the scene and conducted the investigation into Eric’s death. Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell of the Homicide Squad was in charge of the investigation.
An extensive search of Eric’s Rathdowne Street premises and the vicinity on 23 December 1994 did not locate a murder weapon.
During the investigation, Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell was accused by Senior Constable Colin Moore, who also attended the scene, of evidence tampering and falsifying reports. An independent police investigation cleared Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell of all allegations.
Senior Constable Colin Moore died on 15 March 1996 from a gunshot wound while cleaning his service revolver. His death was ruled as accidental.
Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell prepared the Inquest brief and gave evidence at the Inquest of the investigations undertaken in an endeavour to get as much information as possible about how Eric died, and of the search for the person or persons who may have been involved.
See Exhibit 56 Inquest brief.
Having considered all of the evidence and the inferences that can properly be drawn therefrom, and having directed myself in regard to the standard of proof, I make the following findings:
Eric Tucker was killed unlawfully by person or persons unknown.
There is insufficient evidence to establish which person or persons were responsible for the unlawful killing of Eric Tucker. There are no witnesses to the killing known at this time.
This then concludes my findings.
Finally I would like to thank Police Investigators and others so involved, as well as counsel and instructing solicitors, for their assistance. I would encourage the State of Victoria to continue with its efforts to bring justice to those responsible for the death of Eric Tucker.
Dated at Melbourne on this 4th day of April 1997.