Michael John SIM

 

                    

 

Great South West Walk (Portland): All You Need to Know

The Great South West Walk at Portland.

 

IN THE CORONERS COURT OF VICTORIA AT MELBOURNE

COR 2021 003685

FINDING INTO DEATH WITHOUT INQUEST

Form 38 Rule 63(2) Section 67 of the Coroners Act 2008

Findings of: Coroner Simon McGregor

Deceased: Michael John Sim

Date of birth: 9 December 1966

Date of death: 27 October 2020

Cause of death: 1(a) unascertained

Place of death: Norman Wade Scenic Drive, Portland, Victoria, 3305

 

INTRODUCTION

1. On 27 October 2020, Michael John Sim was 53 years old when he failed to return from a coastal walk. At the time of his death, Michael lived alone at 50 Peter Street, Portland, Victoria.

THE CORONIAL INVESTIGATION

2. For the reasons set out below, Sergeant Victoria Hudson of the Portland Criminal Investigation Unit made application to the court on 12 July 2021 to investigate whether Michael, still classified as a missing person, ought be declared deceased.

3. Michaelís death was then reported to the Coroner as it fell within the definition of a reportable death in the Coroners Act 2008 (the Act). Reportable deaths include deaths that are unexpected, unnatural or violent or result from accident or injury.

4. The role of a coroner is to independently investigate reportable deaths to establish, if possible, identity, medical cause of death, and surrounding circumstances. Surrounding circumstances are limited to events which are sufficiently proximate and causally related to the death. The purpose of a coronial investigation is to establish the facts, not to cast blame or determine criminal or civil liability.

5. Under the Act, coroners also have the important functions of helping to prevent deaths and promoting public health and safety and the administration of justice through the making of comments or recommendations in appropriate cases about any matter connected to the death under investigation.

6. Victoria Police assigned an officer to be the Coronerís Investigator for the investigation of Michaelís death. The Coronerís Investigator conducted inquiries on my behalf, including taking statements from witnesses Ė such as family, the forensic pathologist, treating clinicians and investigating officers Ė and submitted a coronial brief of evidence.

7. This finding draws on the totality of the coronial investigation into the death of Michael John Sim including evidence contained in the coronial brief. Whilst I have reviewed all the material, I will only refer to that which is directly relevant to my findings or necessary for narrative clarity. In the coronial jurisdiction, facts must be established on the balance of probabilities.

MATTERS IN RELATION TO WHICH A FINDING MUST, IF POSSIBLE, BE MADE

Circumstances in which the death occurred

Background

8. Michael was born in Geelong and was the youngest of three brothers. He began primary school in Euroa, Victoria, but finished it in Mount Tom Price, Western Australia (WA), after the family relocated. He completed secondary schooling in Geraldton, WA, and then at Saint Laurenceís College in Brisbane.

9. In 1988, Michael relocated to Portland, Vic, to work as a smelter and purchased a house on Peter Street where he lived for the rest of his life. Michael established long term friendships in the community and enjoyed the many outdoor activities that the region offered, including keen interests in photography, rock climbing, and scuba diving.

10. Michael worked in Queensland and then Geelong and travelled internationally before he resumed living in Peter Street, Portland, in about 2005. At this time, Michael began working as a Ďfly in fly outí chef and camp manager in the oil industry. 

11. In 2020, Michael was unable to work due to COVID-related border closures however he continued to receive JobKeeper payments from his employer for income support. He kept himself healthy and happy by walking long distances most days, sometimes with friends, sometime by himself, and taking many photographs of the rugged local coastline.  He further developed earlier interest in videography by utilising drones to capture footage showcasing the spectacular Portland coastline.

Michaelís disappearance

12. On 24 October 2020 at 8.26pm, Michael had a brief conversation with his mother on Facebook Messenger. This was the last time she spoke to her son.

13. On 25 October 2020, Michael spoke to his friend Boyd Dohnt in the morning using an internet-based phone application called Line. Michael said that he planned on going out and taking some photos but would be leaving his drones behind because of the weather conditions. Michael did not specify where he was going.

14. At 11.44am, Michael sent a text message to his friend John Reisin to tell him that he had just returned from a walk and that the strength of the wind felt like a wind turbine. He later sent a further message at 12.27pm saying ďHaha, dogs blown off leads. I had 10am swim... bit of wind resistance aboutĒ. This was the last known contact with Michael. 

15. At 1.10pm, Dohnt sent Michael a Facebook Messenger message. It was marked as delivered to Michael, but not read. No reply from Michael was ever received. 

16. At 4.17pm, Dohnt sent Michael another Facebook Messenger message, but this one was not marked on his device as delivered to Michael's phone.

17. On 26 October 2020, Portland residents Heather Dunn and Danny Roberts drove around Norman Wade Scenic Drive, observing local wildlife and taking in the view of the Cape Nelson lighthouse. This was a regular trip for them, something they sometimes did up to three times per day. On this occasion, they both noticed a silver sedan parked at the area known locally as ďFlat RockĒ. In the afternoon, when they repeated the drive, the vehicle was still in the same spot, which was unusual.

18. On 27 October 2020, Dunn and Roberts repeated their drive and noticed that the silver sedan was parked in the same location as the day before. Upon investigating, they found the vehicle to be empty and notified Victoria Police.

The Search

19. Victoria Police Senior Constables Holman and McKenzie attended the car park and documented a silver Holden sedan with Victorian registration 1OM6SK, owned by Michael Sim of 50 Peter St in Portland. Michaelís vehicle was locked, and nothing appeared to be out of place. A foot patrol of the local area was conducted however nothing of interest was found. The constables then proceeded to Michaelís residence on Peter Street and found that the rear door of the property was unlocked. Michael was not home however, and so a calling card was left.

20. The police search was expanded with unsuccessful attempts made to call Michaelís phone. A doorknock of neighbouring properties was also unsuccessful. At 4.44pm, police members re-attended the Flat Rock car park and searched the intersecting Great South West Walk for approximately one kilometre north and south of the car park. Nothing of interest was located, and police air and water searches were arranged.

21. The Victoria Police air search commenced at approximately 8.35pm using searchlights and infrared radar on the coastal area and water near the car however nothing of interest was located. The search resumed at first light the next morning, with police divers and Coast Guard resources also assisting.

22. A thorough search of Michaelís residence was conducted. The house appeared to be in a tidy but lived-in condition with some clothes on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink. The property had the appearance as though Michael intended to return to the address. Michaelís car was also searched, with his wallet being located but no other items of interest.

23. The search continued for two more days without result, and the file was then provided to Portland Victoria Police Crime Investigation Unit to complete.

24. As part of the ongoing investigation, the weather data was obtained from the Bureau of Meteorology for the closest weather station, being the Cape Nelson lighthouse site number 90184, between 12.00am on 25 October 2020 and 11.30pm on 27 October 2020

25. The data showed that the temperature was between 9 and 12 degrees Celsius and that there was a south-easterly wind gusting up to 60 kilometres per hour. The closest available wave height data indicated the surf was about 1.5 to 2 metres in height at the relevant time.

26. Michael's parents attended his address and confirmed to my investigators that all of the drones he owned were still at the house, and that only one camera was missing. This is consistent with Michaelís conversation with Dohnt on 25 October 2020. His parents were able to access his iPad, where his Google Maps history showed a last known location on the Great South West Walk, approximately 3.8 km from the Flat Rock car park where his vehicle was located. 

27. Exclusionary DNA samples were provided by Michaelís parents to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine for comparison against the Victoria missing persons DNA database however no matches were found.

28. Searches conducted of telecommunications databases produced results consistent with the history given above and provided no further leads. Banking and Centrelink records confirm a last known withdrawal of $100 cash from Portland on the 24th of October 2020. After that date, the only activity on Michaelís accounts was consistent with JobKeeper payments being deposited by his employer.  When a person is listed as missing rather than deceased, the payments would be expected to continue.

29. In due course, Michael's mother obtained permission from the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal to withdraw the funds from his bank, settle his debts, and close the accounts. No suspicious further transactions were recorded.

30. To this day, there has still been no further contact from Michael, nor has there been any new records generated applicable to him, since his disappearance on 25 October 2020.

FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

31. On the balance of probabilities, I find that Michael Sim died on Sunday 25 October 2020 after he attended the section of Victorian coastline adjacent to the Flat Rock car park on Norman Wade Scenic Drive, Portland. It is likely that he died by misadventure during inclement weather having attempted to take the wilderness photographs that he had discussed with his friend that morning.

32. This conclusion is corroborated by Michaelís own Google timeline history, the missing camera from his house, and the consistent financial transactions recorded in his bank accounts.

33. The absence of Michaelís body is consistent with the hypothesis that he fell or was swept into the ocean where the large waves and strong currents and tides likely carried away his body, all of which was assisted by the significant delay in noticing his absence.

34. There are no suspicious circumstances.

FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION

35. Pursuant to section 67(1) of the Coroners Act 2008 I make the following findings:

a) the identity of the deceased was Michael John Sim, born 9 December 1966;

b) the death by misadventure occurred on 27 October 2020 at Norman Wade Scenic Drive, Portland, Victoria, 3305; and

c) the death occurred in the circumstances described above.

36. Having considered all of the circumstances, I am satisfied that his death was the unintended consequence of his stated plan to take photographs in the wilderness. I convey my sincere condolences to Michaelís family for their loss. Pursuant to section 73(1A) of the Act, I order that this finding be published on the Coroners Court of Victoria website in accordance with the rules.

I direct that a copy of this finding be provided to the following: Esma Sim, Senior Next of Kin Sergeant Victoria Hudson, Coronerís Investigator

CORONER SIMON McGREGOR

CORONER

Date: 11 July 2022

Police airwing helps search for missing man at Cape Nelson

UPDATE, Wednesday, 8am:

Police are continuing to appeal for public assistance to help locate missing Portland man Michael Sim.

The 53-year-old man's car was found at a carpark on Norman Wade Scenic Drive about 10.30am on Tuesday last week.

 

Police believe the silver Holden Commodore sedan had been parked at that location for about two days before it was reported to police.

Mr Sim may have gone to the enjoy his hobby of photography.

Portland and district police officers, with the assistance of Water Police, Search and Rescue, the Air Wing and the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard have intensively searched the area.

The search effort has since been scaled back, with local units continuing to patrol the area when available.

Police have released images of Mr Sim and his car in the hope someone recognises him and the vehicle and may be able to provide information to police regarding his current whereabouts.

Anyone who sees Mr Sim or with information about him is urged to contact Portland Police Station on 5522 1500 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Sunday, 9am:
 

The search for a missing 53-year-old man in the vicinity of Yellow Rock Coastal Park, near Portland, has been scaled back.
 

A Victoria Police media liaison spokeswoman said the man's car was located by a member of the public at a carpark on Norman Wade Scenic Drive about 10.30am on Tuesday and a report was made to police.
 

"The search has now been scaled back and local units will continue to patrol on land when available," she said.
 

 
 

A the height of the search late last week the Victoria Police Water Police, Search and Rescue and the air wing, as well as the Portland Coast Guard,

were involved in the search.

A Friday it was reported that the chance of finding the man alive were viewed as slim.

Portland police are requesting that anyone with information contact the Portland police station on 5522 1500 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

 

By Jessica Howard and Andrew Thomson
first published November 4 2020 

 

Friday, 1.30pm:
 

Portland police, with the assistance of Water Police, Search and Rescue and the Coast Guard, are currently continuing to search for a missing 53-year-old man in the vicinity of Yellow Rock Coastal Park, near Portland.
 

A Victoria Police media liaison spokesman said the man's car was located by a member of the public at a carpark on Norman Wade Scenic Drive about 10.30am on Tuesday and a report was made to police.

"The search is ongoing, anyone with information is urged to contact Portland Police Station on 5522 1500," he said.
 

It's understood that a meeting was held between rescue coordinators on Friday morning and it was decided to continue the search.

But, the chances of finding the man alive are believed to be slim and the search is expected to be scaled down or called off in the near future.

Portland police have declined to comment further or to provide a timeline for when the search will end.

If the search is unsuccessful, it's expect that carriage of the case will be handed over to the Portland police crime investigation detectives.

Thursday, 8pm:

Portland police said from 8am tomorrow a meeting would be held to assess current weather conditions. They are hoping conditions will provide an opportunity for further searching by water police and search and rescue squads.
 

Thursday, 8am:
 

Specialist Victoria Police Squad members are expected to attend and coordinate a search for a 53-year-old man near Portland this morning.

Portland police officers called off a search later on Wednesday, which is expected to resume first thing Thursday.

The search for the missing man in the vicinity of Yellow Rock Coastal park near Portland has involved the Victoria Police air wing.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the 53-year-old man's car was located by a member of the public at a carpark on Norman Wade Scenic Drive about 10.30am Tuesday.

Portland district police, with the assistance of the police air wing and Portland Coast Guard, started an operation.

Portland police Sergeant Ray Hastings said members were making inquiries to help locate a 53-year-old Portland man.

"His vehicle was left at a car park at Flat Rock Falls where it is believed to have been left for a couple of days," he said.

"A regular walker sighted the car and contact police on Tuesday."

Anyone with information is urged to contact Portland police station on 5522 1500.

Earlier, 9am:The Victoria Police air wing has been called to help locate a man believed to be missing near Cape Nelson.

Portland police Sergeant Ray Hastings said members were making inquiries to help locate a 53-year-old Portland man.
 

"His vehicle was left at a car park at Flat Rock Falls where it is believed to have been left for a couple of days," he said.

"A regular walker sighted the car and contact police on Tuesday."

Sergeant Hastings said police were conducting a search of the area.

"We are establishing a command post out at the scene where his vehicle is," he said.
 

"Search and rescue, water police and the Portland Coast Guard have been called in for assistance.

"The police air wing is also coming down."

Anyone with information is urged to contact Portland police.