About 8am on Tuesday 23th of March 1982, 23-year-old Laurence Paul
Lander was last seen at his home in Cooranbong NSW. Laurence was seen to
walk into the bush on the farm he lived at on Mt Faulk Road, and was
later expected to return to the house but did not arrive. Laurence was
intellectually disabled and suffered from a medical condition requiring
daily medication and there remain concerns for his welfare.
Any person with information which may assist in locating the whereabouts
of Laurence is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
CORONERS COURT OF NEW SOUTH WALES
Inquest into the death of Laurence Paul Lander
Hearing dates: 10 June 2015
Date of findings: 10 June 2015
Place of findings: NSW Coroner Court - Glebe
Findings of: Magistrate Sharon Freund, Deputy State Coroner
File number: 2014/311202
Representation: Ms D. Williamson assisting the Deputy State Coroner,
Magistrate S.C. Freund;
Findings: I find that Laurence Paul Lander died sometime after 8am 23
March 1982. In relation to the manner and cause of his death I make an
The Coroners Act 2009 (NSW) in s81 (1) requires that when an inquest is
held, the coroner must record in writing his or her findings as to
various aspects of the death. These are the findings of an inquest into
the death of Laurence Paul Lander
Introduction Laurence Paul Lander was
born on 15 November 1958. He was last seen alive at about 8 am on 23
March 1982, he was just 23 years of age and intellectually disabled.
The brief of evidence indicates that Laurence had his own teeth which
were in good order with no previous dental treatment. He had no history
of broken bones, no scars or tattoos and did not wear jewellery. During
his school years Laurence attended Morisset High School. The school
history indicates that Laurence exhibited very strange behaviours whilst
at school and would more often than not absent himself from the
classroom. He was quite isolated with no friends, spending a
considerable amount of time hiding in the school toilets. Laurence, as a
result of his mental health issues, had numerous admissions to Morisset
Hospital. For the sake completeness I will summarise the most
significant of those admissions:
1. Between 10 May 1979 – 11 May 1979: Mental Retardation – Anti-social
behaviour Laurence was admitted under Schedule 2 with delusions, lack of
orientation and evidence of failure to apply care for himself. He had
been causing a nuisance, threatening people verbally. He preferred to be
known as Captain Thunderbolt as he was living in the bush as the
bushranger had. He had travelled about NSW a lot, living in the bush,
but always came to the attention of police who returned him home. This
upset Laurence as he felt he had not done anything wrong. He presented
as an unkempt mentally retarded young man with limited vocabulary.
Evidence of thought disorder was lacking however he lacked insight into
the appropriateness of his behaviour. There was no disturbance of memory
of effects. He was kept overnight and discharged the following day to
the care of his parents.
2. Between 30 May 1979 – 19 June 1979: Chronic Schizophrenia; Mental
Retardation Laurence was admitted because he’d been wandering around the
countryside making a nuisance of himself by threatening people with a
knife and claiming to be a bushranger. His behaviour was childish and
erratic. He presented with many features of schizophrenia. He had spent
the previous 5-6 years (since leaving school) wandering around NSW
living on a pension, sleeping under bridges and in the bush. He was
viewed by his parents (and others) as a retarded boy who had eccentric
fantasies and a wish to avoid the problems of city living. His father
was hostile with him for being a “bludger” and both parents were hostile
with the treating Psychologist who viewed Laurence as a sick person
needing psychiatric care. His parents persuaded a Magistrate to
discharge him to their care, however Laurence refused to go. They
reconsidered their attitude and as Laurence started to respond to the
Stelazine medication and ward routine, becoming less restless and
unrealistic in his thinking, they became quite grateful and happy for
him to be at the hospital. He had weekend leave which was successful and
it was felt that he had improved as much as he was likely to. Laurence
was considered verbally quite proficient and with stabilisation of his
schizophrenic illness it was felt he would function in the borderline
range and be capable of Sheltered Workshop employment. He was discharged
to his parents care with community support.
3. Between 27 July 1979 – 26 September 1979: Chronic Schizophrenia;
Mental Retardation Laurence was admitted to Newcastle Psychiatric Centre
following complaints from the public about his behaviour. He was
wondering around near public toilets saying he was Captain Thunderbolt
and talking about funerals, death and dying. He was transferred to
Morisset Hospital on 03/08/79. He settled fairly well after starting on
Modecate Injections. It was felt he would cope at home if the injections
were continued, however his parents were unsure and ambivalent in their
attitude toward his treatment, which was thought to make future
4. After 7 March 1980: A determination of Tribunal under Section 14 of
the Mental Health Act 1958 was made ordering Laurence (a temporary
patient) be reclassified as a continued treatment patient and detained
in an admission centre, mental hospital or authorised hospital for
further observation and treatment. The evidence indicates that at about
8.00am on 23 March 1982, Laurence left his home address on a farm at Mt
Faulk Road, Cooranbong where he resided with his parents and walked into
the bush. At the time he was wearing blue jeans, yellow collared shirt
with brown circles and black shoes. He was carrying a water bottle
filled with water. The area surrounding the house from where he went
missing is 200 acres of bushland.
appears that Laurence had been discharged into the care of his parents
well prior to the date of his disappearance. He was reported missing to
Morisset Police Station, 3 days later, on 26 March 1982. The family
confirmed they searched around the bush themselves, but indicate that no
search was conducted by Police. All checks completed through the Missing
Person’s Unit, including Centrelink, Medicare, Immigration and Financial
Institutions, have shown no activity or activation by Laurence Paul
The role of a Coroner as set out in s. 81 of the Coroners Act 2009 is to
make findings as to: 1. the identity of the deceased; 2. the date and
place of a person’s death; 3. the physical or medical cause of death;
and 4. the manner of death; in other words, the circumstances
surrounding the death. A Coroner, pursuant to s. 82 of the Coroners Act
2009, also has the power to make recommendations concerning any public
health or safety issues arising out of the death in question. The issues
in relation to the disappearance and suspected death of Laurence Lander
are as follows: 1. Is Laurence Lander deceased? 2. If so, what is the
manner and cause of his death?
Unfortunately, Laurence’s parents are now deceased. He is survived by
his sister, Julie Sander, who resides in Queensland however I am advised
that she has mental health issues of her own. She has not seen or heard
from her brother since his disappearance.
Conclusion It seems that despite Laurence Lander being reported missing
to Police three days after his disappearance no efforts were made by
police to search the bushland surrounding the property of his parents
where he was last seen alive. Moreover, it seems that the efforts made
by police to investigate Laurence’s disappearance were negligible. His
disappearance may have been suspicious but we will never know. I do note
however that significant changes have been made to the NSW Police
Standard Operating Procedures in regard to missing persons and that
those operating procedures would ensure that a missing person like
Laurence would not fall off the radar today. Laurence clearly had mental
health issues. It is unlikely he had the wherewithal to survive on his
own, without coming to the attention of authorities. Accordingly, I am
satisfied that as he has been missing since 23 March 1982, and taking
into consideration the circumstances of his disappearance and his mental
health issues I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that
Laurance Lander is deceased. However there is no evidence before me in
relation to the details of his death so in relation to the manner and
cause of his death I make an open finding.
Findings required by s81(1) As a result of considering all of the
documentary evidence and the oral evidence heard at the inquest, I am
able to confirm that the death occurred and make the following findings
in relation to it. I find that Laurence Paul Lander died sometime after
8am 23 March 1982. In relation to the manner and cause of his death I
make an open findings
I close this inquest.
Magistrate S.C Freund
Deputy State Coroner
Glebe 10 June 2015
Coroner critical of police effort to find missing Lake Macquarie man
A coroner has found police made little or no effort to find a
man who vanished in Lake Macquarie 33 years ago.
Deputy State Coroner Sharon Freund has investigated how and why Laurence
Lander went missing from his parent's property at Cooranbong in 1982.
The inquest was told the then 23-year-old went for a walk, before vanishing.
He is now presumed dead.
He had mental health problems and an intellectual disability and was known to
live in bushland, at times calling himself Captain Thunderbolt.
In delivering an open finding in relation to his presumed death, the Deputy
State Coroner said his disappearance may have been suspicious.
She also took aim at the police investigation, saying no efforts were made to
search bushland where he was last seen alive.
She said it seems the efforts made by police to investigate the disappearance
She noted significant changes to missing person protocols, and said the
current procedures would ensure Laurence would not fall off the radar today.