Sevak SIMONIAN

 

Circumstances:

Sevak Simonian was last seen at his home in Belrose NSW on Monday 20 October 2014. He was reported missing by his family on 23 October after they became concerned about not hearing from him.
Sevak was a keen bushwalker. On the 24 October his vehicle was located at the Kanangra Walls car park at Kanangra Boyd National Park. There was no sign of Sevak where the vehicle was found.
Despite several extensive searches, Sevak is still missing.
It is out of character for Sevak to not contact his family or friends, especially for such a length of time.
If you have information that may assist police to locate Sevak please call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

 

STATE CORONER’S COURT OF NEW SOUTH WALES

Inquest: Inquest into the disappearance and suspected death of Sevak Simonian

Hearing dates: 12-13 February 2019, 10 May 2019

Date of findings: 22 May 2019

Place of findings: NSW State Coroner’s Court, Lidcombe

Findings of: Magistrate Harriet Grahame,

Deputy State Coroner

 File numbers: 2016/97718

Representation: Mr B Hart (Sergeant), advocate assisting the court

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

1. Sevak Simonian was last seen on 20 October 2014. Sevak was greatly loved and his family suffers the torment of not knowing where he is or what has happened to him since that time. His parents Massis and Rosik have continued to search for answers and their heartbreak is ongoing.

2. Sevak was reported to NSW Police as missing on the evening of 23 October 2014. His parents had held off going to the police for a short time because Sevak was a keen bushwalker and known to go adventuring in the countryside from time to time. The difference on this occasion was that he did not leave a message or any indication of when he would be home. The family supplied police with a photograph and information was scanned onto the NSW Police data base. In the early hours of 24 October 2014 a missing person report was created and initial investigations commenced.

3. It became clear that Sevak was not answering his telephone and that he had not attended his delivery job, as expected on the evening of 21 October 2014. His non-attendance was unexpected and out of character as Sevak was usually reliable in this respect. Police issued an alert for his motor vehicle, but this was unsuccessful in locating his car. At the same time family members were trying to gather information from friends and commencing their own search.

4. Around 6.30pm on 24 October 2014, police were advised that Sevak’s father had located his son’s vehicle in the carpark at the end of Kanangra Boyd Road within the Kanangra Boyd National Park. The area where Sevak’s car was found is about 45 kilometres by road to Jenolan Caves and about 120 kilometres from the township of Katoomba.1 The bushland is dense and rocky. Sevak’s car was about 27 kilometres along a dirt road from the park entrance. The road ends and visitors are presented with a number of walking tracks leading into the valley or along the ridge line. The area is adjacent to the main ridge of Kanangra Walls, considered a major attraction in the region.

5. On the morning of 25 October 2014 an extensive physical search was launched in this area. This full scale coordinated search continued for the next 16 days. Other parallel investigations were also commenced and have been ongoing since that time. However, no credible information has been received indicating any further sightings of Sevak alive.2There has also been no recovery of Sevak’s body, despite extensive searching in the area where his car was discovered.

6. Sevak’s disappearance and suspected death was formally reported to the Coroner on 31 March 2016. The role of the coroner and scope of the inquest 1 Statement of Detective Senior Constable Cairnes (24/1/17) [26] 2 The brief contains detail in relation to each of the reported sightings and the follow up investigations which took place. None of the sightings is credible. 2

7. The role of the coroner in a case such as this is to make findings firstly as to whether the nominated person is actually dead and only if that can be established, to make further findings as to the date and place of death and to the manner and cause of death.

8. The decision about whether a person is dead is considered a “threshold question” in a missing person case. 4 Given the seriousness of the finding, it is well established that the court should apply the Briginshaw standard. The proof of death must be clear, cogent and exact. At common law, there is a presumption in favour of the continuance of life6 however, it is not a rigid presumption and the circumstances of any given case must be carefully examined before a finding of death can be made.

9. In addition to deciding these questions, at the conclusion of proceedings, the coroner may make recommendations in relation to matters arising directly from the evidence if they have the capacity to improve public health and safety in the future.

 The evidence

10. The inquest proceeded initially over three days in February 2019 and included a view of the bushland area adjacent to where Sevak’s car was discovered. The matter was then adjourned so that further inquiries could be made and it recommenced on 10 May 2019 for further evidence and submissions.

11. A three volume brief of evidence was tendered, including statements, expert reports, photographs and maps. It comprises records from many, many days of investigative work and analysis. Oral evidence and supplementary statements were also received, including from police involved in the search process. It is impossible to refer to all the material in the scope of these short findings, however, all of the material has now been carefully considered and reviewed.

Sevak’s background

12. Sevak was born in on 5 April 1993 to his parent Massis and Rosik Simonian. He has two brothers Sassoon and Serj Areen. At the time of his disappearance he lived at the family home in Belrose, NSW.

13. Sevak was described as a polite and well-behaved student. He was intelligent and knew a great deal about the natural world. However, he appears to have lost interest in schooling and left formal study at the end of year 11. According to his father, Sevak was a loving and happy boy, who was especially close to his mother. He enjoyed being in nature and the simple things in life. He loved farming and organic food.

14. Sevak’s family and friends told the court that Sevak had a passionate and long standing interest in fish and coral. He loved nature and walking in the bush. He was a role model for 3 Section 81 Coroners Act 2009 (NSW). 4 Dillon H and Hadley M “The Australasian Coroners’ Manual” Federation Press 205 at page 15. 5 Briginshaw v Briginshaw (1938) 60 CLR 336. 6 Axon v Axon (1937) 59 CLR 395. 7 Section 82 Coroners Act 2009 (NSW). 3 his brothers and had shown interest in martial arts. He enjoyed movies and relaxing with friends.

15 Sevak had no known health problems and had never been diagnosed with mental illness8 .

16. Police have only identified one telephone number linked to Sevak. He does not appear to have been active on social media and associated mostly with a small group of friends and workmates. He was well liked by those who knew him and had no apparent enemies or conflicts. The lead up to Sevak’s disappearance

17. Sevak had two jobs at the time of his death. He worked a Bunnings, Narrabeen and also as a delivery driver for an Indian restaurant on Pittwater road, Narrabeen. Police spoke to a number of his colleagues at Bunnings who were aware, to varying degrees, of his interest in nature and bushwalking.

18. The last direct evidence of Sevak comes from CCTV footage taken of him with his friend Zareh Ohanian at Chatswood Bunnings. Police obtained footage of Sevak returning wooden logs and appearing at the checkout just after 8pm an 20 October 2014.

19. His parents are of the view that he is likely to have returned home later that night. Although they did not actually see him, they noticed that his organic eggs had been moved when they entered the kitchen the following morning.

20. On the evening of 21 October 2014, Sevak was rostered to work at the Indian Restaurant, but uncharacteristically he did not attend. His employer tried to contact him by telephone, with no luck.

21. His parents also tried to contact him by telephone and spoke with a number of his friends. Their concerns escalated and despite their inquiries they discovered nothing further. Sevak’s parents called NSW police on the evening of 23 October 2014. A missing person report was created. Sevak’s father finds Sevak’s car

22. About 6.30pm on 24 October 2014 NSW Police were again contacted and informed that Sevak’s father had found his son’s car. Massis Simonian had apparently been led to the car by Sevak’s friend, Zareh Ohanian. The family had approached Zareh for ideas or information when they became concerned about Sevak’s whereabouts and welfare. Sevak’s love of the countryside and bushwalking was well-known. At that time his family were researching the Barrington Tops area as one where Sevak may have gone. Sevak’s father reports that Zareh dismissed the idea of Barrington Tops and stated that Sevak had been talking recently about the Blue Mountains. Zareh then suggested that they go together to look in that area.  I note that his mother told the court that Sevak did not believe in medication. He had a quiet and happy nature. She remembered a slight change in his behaviour prior to his disappearance but there was no evidence to establish suicidal thoughts or plans. Transcript 13/2/19 page 16, line 29 onwards. 

23. Massis Simonian and his son Sassoon travelled with Zareh to the Blue Mountains to search for Sevak. They contacted the police in that area, visited local tourist spots and offered a reward to local taxi drivers for any information leading to the discovery of Sevak’s car. Once in Katoomba Zareh suggested the Kanangra Boyd National Park, an area previously unknown to Massis Simonian. Zareh’s focus became narrower and eventually he guided them down the 27 kilometre dirt road where they immediately discovered Sevak’s vehicle. Zareh seemed to know “exactly where to go.”

24. Although Zareh would not admit to actual knowledge then or indeed later, it is highly implausible that this discovery was some sort of lucky accident. The Blue Mountains covers a wide area. There is strong evidence indicating that Zareh had actual knowledge in relation to where Sevak had gone.

25. Later investigations revealed that Sevak had renewed his National Parks Pass on 16 October 201410. Having carefully reviewed the evidence, I am of the view that it is impossible to establish exactly when Sevak’s car actually entered the Kanangra Boyd National Park. If one assumes he entered soon after he was last seen, one might expect that he entered the Kanangra Boyd National Park on the morning of 21 October 2014, after having slept at his family home on the night of 20 October 2014.

26. A device called a MetroCount which measures the Park’s incoming traffic recorded a vehicle which may (judging by the length of the vehicle) have been Sevak’s at 8.06am and later a second vehicle at 10.12am on 21 October 2014.11 Had Sevak been planning a short visit, an early arrival would have given him time to return for work in Sydney that evening, as expected. However, this is entirely speculative. It is also impossible to conclusively state that any particular car enters the park but does not exit, because it is always possible that some other similarly sized car remained in the park over a few days while its occupants went on a longer walk or overnight camping trip.12

27. The day after the car was located, with the assistance of Sevak’s parents, police were able to open and access the vehicle. The car appeared messy and somewhat disordered.13 Among other items, the car contained 23 containers of seaweed fertilizer and ten treated pine palings. Of particular interest was a pair of gum boots that Sevak referred to as his “snake boots.” Both family and friends state that Sevak would never go for a lengthy walk in the bush without the protection of his “snake boots”. There was also a new Nokia phone, still in its packaging. Sevak’s usual phone, described as a “crappy cheap Nokia” with a poor battery was not located.

28. The car was examined by Crime Scene Officers and while forensic tests were carried out, no useful information was revealed.

29. Later in the investigation, police discovered searches related to the Kanangra Boyd National park dating back some months on a computer used by Sevak. There were also searches 9 Statement of Detective Senior Constable Cairnes (24/1/17) [70] and statement of Massis Simonian 10 Statement of Detective Senior Constable Cairnes (24/1/17) [40] 11 For explanation of this evidence see evidence of Detective Senior Constable Cairnes, Transcript 12/2/19, page 11, line 35 onwards  See MetroCount records at Exhibit 1, Tab 4 13 Statement of Detective Senior Constable Cairnes (24/1/17) [40] 14 Statement of Detective Senior Constable Cairnes (24/1/17) [119] 5 which related to other areas Sevak is known to have had a connection with, including Barrington Tops, Wollombi and searches relating to survivalist techniques. The search commences at Kanangra Boyd National Park

30. Kanangra Boyd National Park is 667 square kilometres of wilderness. The area contains thick scrub, tall sheer cliffs and steep rocky ridgelines and slopes. In the valleys there are creeks and dense vegetation, with thorns and stinging nettles. The environment was described by Sergeant Patton as “very hostile”, not the sort of area where walkers should go solo or without an EPIRB.16 Some of the tracks are overgrown and seem to disappear into the bush. There is minimal or no phone reception across a very wide area. Sergeant Patton explained that one needs to be very fit, experienced and well-equipped to consider walking in the area.

31. Investigation revealed that the maximum temperature during the 36-48 hour period from 21 October 2014 was 10.6 degrees. There was rain, which although adding to the cold would have provided water if needed.17The conditions, while cold and somewhat wet, were not extreme. It is likely a strong young man like Sevak could have survived for some time, if he was uninjured.

32. The co-ordinated search went for seventeen days, initially under the direction of Inspector Spliet. He briefed Senior Constable Owen Peipman, an experienced search and rescue coordinator on 25 October 2014.18 Senior Constable Peipman immediately organised available resources on that first morning. An urgent response was considered necessary, because on the available evidence, it was clear that Sevak could already have been in bushland for up to four days.19 The initial response consisted of local police and approximately 35 personnel from the Rural Fire Service and the State Emergency Services. The search was supported by a New South Wales Police Helicopter, Polair 2.

33. As the search continued over the following weeks, police were assisted by numerous others. Sergeant Patton, the other involved search and rescue coordinator explained that most days police were assisted by between 20 and 40 volunteers.20 The weekends in particular brought large numbers of people wanting to help. There was helicopter coverage from the Westpac helicopter, the National Parks and Wildlife helicopter, as well as ongoing support from Polair. Tracks were covered by four wheel drives, and police trailbikes. Police also took cadaver dogs through the area during the search. They were somewhat restricted by the terrain, but in any event found nothing of interest. As the search progressed the police also received assistance from the Volunteer Rescue Association, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad, local bushwalking groups and members of the public. 15 Statement of Senior Constable Peipman (11 December 2014) [5] 16 Sergeant Patton, Transcript 12/2/19, page 30 line 2 onwards. 17 Statement of Detective Senior Constable Cairnes (24/1/17) [30] 18 I have had the opportunity to review the qualifications of both Sergeant Patton and Senior Constable Peipman and am well satisfied of their competence and skill in this area. During the view I had the opportunity to talk with them in situ and I was greatly impressed with their diligence and their commitment to the very difficult task they undertook. 19 Statement of Senior Constable Peipman (11 December 2014) [10] 20 Sergeant Patton, Transcript 12/2/19, page 32 line 34 onwards. 

34. Sergeant Patton gave evidence to the court in relation to the manner in which the search was conducted. Given Sevak had already been missing for some days at the commencement of the search it was not feasible to contain the search area by estimating how far he could have potentially gone, as one might if the searching had commenced very soon after the initial disappearance. Sergeant Patton explained that for this reason they “started with the probable areas, areas such as water, high points, those sorts of things where if someone is missing, where they’re likely to be if they’re still alive.”21 This involved line searching in some areas and more directed searching at identified points. The strategy involved the use of helicopters to drop searchers well into the bush to use available time most effectively, rather than retracing tracks on a daily basis. Police directed searches along the K2K track from Kanangra to Katoomba, also diverting to areas where there appeared to be smaller tracks or animal paths.

35. During the search police maintained contact with Dr Luckin, a well-respected expert in the field of survivability. By 9 November 2014, Dr Luckin was of the view that if Sevak had been alive, uninjured and mobile while the search was going on, he would have been able to walk out or attract the attention of the numerous searchers present in the area. On the other hand if he had been injured or immobile since the time he is thought to have entered Kanangra Boyd National Park then the likelihood that he remained alive was by then, in his view, nonexistent.22Dr Luckin also expressed concern over the ongoing hazards that searchers were exposed to. Various team meetings took place and searching was suspended later that day. Sergeant Patton told the court that he agreed with that decision and believed “every area that could be accessed with safety…whether on rope or on foot, was searched [by that] time…I don’t think there would be any benefit whatsoever to going back to search.”

36. Sergeant Patton told the court that during the helicopter searching, police saw packs of wild pigs and other animals throughout the search area. This caused concern that had Sevak tragically perished in an accident of some sort, his remains may have been quickly dispersed and made very difficult to find.

37. The land search was officially suspended 18 days after Sevak’s vehicle had been located. This was 22 days since had last been sighted.24The search was the largest ever undertaken in the Kanangra Boyd National Park.

38. I have had the opportunity to examine the original maps and tasking sheets that recorded the length and breadth of the search.25 I also had an opportunity to visit the search site with involved police, including Senior Constable Peipman and Sergeant Patton who talked me through the approach and extent of the search. I saw the difficulty of the conditions personally from the air and on land. I do not intend to recount now each individual day of the search and the all efforts undertaken. Suffice to say that I am wholly satisfied that an extensive and well documented search took place.

39. I am aware that since the initial coordinated search was suspended, individual civilians and police have returned to the area on many occasions with no result. 21 Sergeant Patton, Transcript 12/2/19, page 29 line 12 onwards. 22 Statement of Senior Constable Peipman (11 December 2014) [81] 23 Sergeant Patton Transcript 12/2/19,page 36 line 1 onwards 24 Statement of Detective Senior Constable Cairnes (24/1/17) [91] 25 Exhibit 2

What was Sevak doing in the National Park at the time he disappeared?

40. During the investigation it became known that Sevak had experimented with the cultivation of cannabis over a number of years. When his disappearance was initially reported, police found cannabis seeds, cannabis leaf and extractor fans in his bedroom. This appeared consistent with attempts to propagate seeds.

41. There was other evidence that was also consistent with him having been involved in small scale production. A review of his financial affairs suggested he had borrowed money from the bank which may have been used for some kind of enterprise. The court also became aware that on two occasions Sevak had been involved in renting rural properties, firstly in in the Colo Heights area and then in Barrington Tops. The Barrington Tops property was near National Park land and was rented on two separate occasions. It is noted that Sevak had a large amount of fertilizer in his car at the time of his disappearance and that he had recently purchased wooden palings that could have been used in creating a garden bed.

42. The court heard evidence from three of Sevak’s friends, Artak Arakelian, Christopher Ebrahimisiraki, and Patrick Dilanchian. Each of them had met Sevak through school or the Armenian community. Each confirmed that Sevak was passionate about growing a cannabis crop. Sevak’s brother also confirmed that he was aware of Sevak’s interest in growing cannabis.

43. Mr Arakelian told the court that he was aware that Sevak grew his own cannabis. Some years ago he had, on one occasion, seen a small “crop” Sevak was tending in the Church Point area. Later he became aware that Sevak was growing elsewhere on a larger scale, but he did not know any details about this enterprise. He also told the court that he was aware that Sevak had gone on “Guerrilla Ops”. This was the name he gave to missions to find a place to grow cannabis that was rural, but discreet and not easily accessible. Mr Arakelian told the court that on one occasion he had obtained an ounce of cannabis from Sevak, this indicated to him that Sevak was growing a larger quantity than before. However Sevak was reluctant to discuss exactly where this was taking place. Mr Arakelian stated that “it was common knowledge” amongst their friendship group that Sevak wanted to cultivate “on a big scale”, however he agreed he had personally never seen evidence of this.

44. Mr Ebrahimisiraki said he had heard that Zareh Ohanian and Sevak were growing a crop on their rented property but they had to cut it down because they were concerned it had been spotted by an aeroplane flying overhead. He described both Sevak and Zareh being secretive about their crop. 26 Artak Arakelian. Transcript 12/2/19, page 39, line 6 onwards 27 Artak Arakelian. Transcript 12/2/19, page 41, line 30 onwards 28 Later in his evidence he stated that he had bought “a quarter of a pound” 29 Artak Arakelian. Transcript 12/2/19, page 42, line 40 onwards

45. Patrick Dilanchian also had first-hand knowledge of Sevak growing and selling small amounts of cannabis, both in the field and via a hydroponic system.30 He confirmed that Sevak and Zareh appeared to be partners in this enterprise.

46. The point of delving into Sevak’s interest in cannabis was to ascertain if the information could somehow assist in identifying new lines for police investigation into Sevak’s tragic disappearance. I am sorry if these inquiries have exacerbated pain felt by the Simonian family or if they are concerned his reputation may suffer as a result. It was important in part to understand if there was any cogent evidence pointing towards a suspicious death. I am now satisfied that after extensive investigation of these issues that there is no evidence to suggest that Sevak had any links to organized criminal activity or large scale drug supply.31 He does not appear to have owed money to any individual. He appears to have only owned one working telephone and there is only one message on it which appears to directly relate to the possibility of drug supply. Having reviewed the material, I am satisfied that there is no evidence to suggest his disappearance is suspicious or related to failed business or drug transactions.

47. On the other hand it is certainly possible that Sevak could have been in the Kanangra Boyd National Park scoping for a remote area to grow cannabis or indeed to care for a small illegal plantation already established in a remote area. This possibility is consistent with the fact that his apparent partner in cannabis production, Zareh Ohanian was the very person who led the search to Sevak’s car. While there is no doubt that Sevak had a genuine interest in bushwalking,33 the possibility that he went to the Kanangra Boyd National Park in relation to his interest in cannabis cannot be discounted. The role of Zareh Ohanian

48. Sevak had known Zareh Ohanian for many years through school and the close knit Armenian community. Their relationship had strengthened in the years leading up to Sevak’s disappearance. Numerous witnesses attested to their close relationship and likely business partnership. However, when police questioned Zareh, he was somewhat elusive, seeming to downplay his relationship with Sevak. He stated that they shared an interest in fish and coral.

49. At the time of Sevak’s disappearance, Zareh told police that he had last seen Sevak when Sevak had assisted him to change the water for a fish tank. This was later shown to be false when CCTV footage was discovered showing the two men together returning wood to Bunnings on the evening of 20 October 2014. Zareh’s version of events changed several times. He appeared elusive and unreliable.

50. During the period immediately after Sevak’s disappearance, some members of Sevak’s family and a number of his friends became convinced that Zareh knew more than he was 30 Patrick Dilanchian. Transcript 13/2/19, page 7, line 25 onwards 31 I do not intend to recount the extensive investigations made in this regard, however I am satisfied that Detective Senior Constable Darren Cairnes has undertaken sufficient inquiries in relation to this issue. 32 For discussion of this evidence see Statement of Detective Senior Constable Darren Cairnes 18/4/19 [20] onwards 33 His interest in bushwalking is described by a number of his friends and associates, including work colleagues from Bunnings. 9 prepared to divulge. This was clearly indicated by the fact that he had been able to lead Sevak’s father to the car. He was also the last known person to have seen Sevak alive.

51. There were numerous attempts to get Zareh to share whatever information he may have. Mr Arakelian described the first time he attended the Ohanian house soon after Sevak’s disappearance to confront him. Zareh reportedly said “I’ve told you guys whatever I know. I’ve led his father back to the car, and that’s about as much as I can tell you guys.” When pressed further by Mr Arakelian, he still refused to say anything further. By this time Mr Arakelian and others were convinced that Zareh had been involved in some kind of cultivation project with Sevak and that he knew more than he was prepared to say, but was fearful of getting into trouble. They were suspicious of him and his reluctance to become involved in the search. Zareh said he was not capable of searching as his arm was in a sling.

52. Mr Ebrahimisiraki described another confrontation which occurred a short time after Sevak’s disappearance. Various friends went to the Simonian home for dinner and to question Zareh, but he would not cooperate. Mr Ebrahimisiraki expressed his anger within the group. He said “you could tell he’s lying just from the way he’s talking…you can tell he’s trying to hide something.”35 Mr Ebrahimisiraki explained his immense frustration with the situation to the court, “I actually thought he was the only person that would’ve known [something] cause if he knew where his car was then they must have been talking and they were good friends for the last couple of times.”36 Mr Ebrahimisiriraki explained how Sevak’s old group of friends all felt suspicious of Zareh. They also found it frustrating that Zareh did not contact the family for a number of days, making the initial search less likely to succeed.

53. Mr Dilanchian gave evidence that he had been involved in an earlier attempt with Sevak to grow cannabis. He was able to confirm that it was a small scale enterprise mainly for personal use and for use within a friendship group. It was also supplied to a few people they became acquainted with outside their own social circle. He described Sevak’s interest in cannabis as “sort of like a hobby”. Later he went with Zareh and Sevak to look at the property they subsequently leased. He did not know much detail about what Sevak and Zareh were doing as they kept that to themselves. However, he was aware that they were experimenting with an indoor hydroponic set-up. He agreed that Zareh appeared paranoid, nervous and uncooperative after Sevak’s disappearance.

54. On the day the search was called off, Massis Simonian recalled Zareh attending their home questioning him as to why the search had been suspended. He appeared agitated and apparently told Sevak’s father “He is there, he is there.”37

55. Police conducted an interview with Zareh Ohanian. They found him elusive and unreliable. It appeared almost certain that he knew more than he was willing to divulge, but he remained unwilling to assist.

56. Mr Ohanian’s telephone records show that on the day before Sevak went missing Sevak received 21 attempts to call or message from Zareh’s telephone. On 20 October 2014 Sevak 34 Artak Arakelian. Transcript 12/2/19, page 44, line 30 onwards 35 Christopher Ebrahimisiraki Transcript 12/2/19, page 58, line 1 onwards 36 Christopher Ebrahimisiraki Transcript 12/2/19, page 58, line 17 onwards 37 Statement of Detective Senior Constable Cairnes 15/6/18 [ 36] 10 received a total of 15 attempts from Zareh. The last call which actually connected to Sevak’s telephone was also from Zareh’s telephone at 6.23pm and lasted for 43 seconds. At 8.05pm, both men are recorded returning logs at Bunnings. Later that evening there are calls from Zareh’s telephone to Sevak’s telephone but they do not connect.

57. Police have analysed the call records after this point. It is noteworthy that on 22 October 2014, there are 13 attempts from Zareh’s telephone to contact Sevak. These calls appear to originate from a Sydney area adjacent to Zareh’s home, indicating he was not in the Blue Mountains. The rate of call attempts suddenly increases and indicates a certain urgency to get in touch. The following day there are a further eight attempts. He appears to make further attempts during the night and early hours of 24 October 2014. Later that day he leads the family to the car in what he puts forward is a lucky coincidence.

58. Suspicions about Zareh’s knowledge remained and the investigating officer had planned to re-interview Zareh after the bulk of the police brief had been obtained. However, before this could happen he was informed that Zareh Ohanian had died on 13 November 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

59. Further inquiries revealed that Zareh had become unwell in the foyer of a local hotel and had collapsed. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. During the embalming process 19 capsules of what was believed to be cocaine were found. It is thought that one of these had exploded causing his sudden death.

60. A statement was provided by Mr Vachik Ohanian, Zareh’s father for the purpose of this inquest. Mr Vachik Ohanian stated that he believed his son was growing vegetable such as lettuce, cabbage and carrots during the period he was “farming”. He did not know where the farm was located or who owned the farm. He stated that he had no knowledge of what had happened to Sevak and expressed a belief that his son had been “harassed” or ambushed by Sevak’s friends and family after the disappearance.39He stated he did not know what had happened to Sevak. Inquiries into the possibility that Sevak survived

61. Since Sevak’s disappearance police have also undertaken substantial inquiries to ascertain whether Sevak could still be alive somewhere. These inquiries, commonly described by police as “proof of life” checks include: • Obtaining information to ascertain whether he has used his Medicare card or other health services • Conducting checks on his passport to see whether he is listed as “on shore” • Checking any known bank accounts for financial activity • Checking RMS records for any activity or contact with police in relation to driving offences or interstate drivers licences • Checking other administrative records such as changes on the electoral roll, Centrelink activity, name changes 38 Exhibit 1, volume 3, Tab 43 records in relation to the death of Mr Ohanian 39 See Exhibit 4, statement of Vachik Ohanian 11 • Checking phone records to ascertain whether there is any activity later than his disappearance • Checking with Missing Persons Units in NSW and elsewhere for any possible matches with unidentified remains.

62. Detective Senior Constable Cairnes told the court that despite a major and coordinated investigation, there is no evidence of any activity which might positively suggest that Sevak remains alive.

Is Sevak dead?

63. Over the years there has been a substantial media outreach both within the Armenian community and throughout Australia via mainstream and social media in relation to the circumstances of Sevak’s disappearance. Various campaigns encouraging further searching have been supported by police and community members. His case has been highlighted on a number of television programs nationwide, where family members have also been featured. In addition his family offered a well-publicised reward for information leading to the discovery of his whereabouts.I note that on my recent view of the Kanangra Boyd National Park, a poster requesting information was still displayed. Sevak’s image has been displayed by both Crime Stoppers and in a Missing Persons Campaign supported by McDonalds. Despite these and other efforts, no further useful leads have been obtained.

64. Tragically, the strongest evidence that Sevak is dead is his total lack of contact with his family. In my view the evidence of the Simonian family’s close and loving bond suggests that if Sevak remained alive, he would have found a way during the past – almost five years - to contact his family, or to send a message to them. I do not believe that he would allow his family to suffer, if he could avoid it. In my view, Sevak’s failure to contact his family is, in itself, extremely strong evidence that he is no longer alive.

65. Having weighed up all the evidence before me I am able to make the formal finding that Sevak Simonian is dead. My task is to make findings “on the balance of probabilities” and I am now satisfied that the evidence in this case reaches that standard. Is it possible to say when, where or in what circumstances Sevak died?

66. I am able to make a finding, based on all the available evidence, that Sevak is dead. His death is highly likely to have occurred soon after he was last seen or in contact with his family and friends. Other questions are more difficult to answer.

67. While I think it likely that Sevak perished in bushland in the Kanangra Boyd National Park, it has not, in my view, been established to the requisite standard. 40 Detective Senior Constable Cairnes, Transcript 12/2/19, page 17, line 16 onwards. See also Statement of Detective Senior Constable Cairnes (24/1/17) [102] 41 Statement of Detective Senior Constable Cairnes 15/6/18 [ 6] onwards 

68. Tragically it is also impossible to know exactly why or how Sevak died. It is certainly possible that he suffered a terrible accident or sustained a serious injury or medical emergency while walking in the bush, but without having discovered any of his remains or other personal property, it is a possibility that remains somewhat speculative.

69. I note that there is no cogent evidence to support a finding that Sevak took his own life. In fact at the time of his death he was making forward plans.42 Equally there is no cogent evidence to suggest that he was a victim of foul play. Police have carefully investigated his telephone and financial records. He had no known enemies or associations with organised crime. Tragically, while his death may have been an accident, the exact cause and circumstances of his death remain uncertain. I return an open finding in these respects. Findings pursuant to sections 81 Coroners Act 2009 (NSW)

70. Sevak Simonian is dead. He died on or about the time of his disappearance on 21 October 2014. Despite extensive police investigations, I am unable to establish with the requisite degree of certainty where, why or how he died.

71. I am hopeful that one day his grieving family will be provided with more information. I note that the police remain ready to recommence their work should any new information or leads become available. Conclusion

72. Finally, I express my sincere sorrow to the Simonian family. Sevak’s sudden disappearance is a terrible tragedy. I am aware that my findings offer his family no solace or comfort. I can only imagine the terrible pain they continue to experience. I thank the Simonian family for attending the inquest in these sad circumstances. I am sorry if airing certain information has caused them even greater suffering, but each investigation has been undertaken in an attempt to find the truth of what has occurred.

73. I thank the officer in charge, Detective Senior Constable Cairnes for his thorough and tireless investigation. I thank all the officers and civilians who participated in the physical search for Sevak, particularly the search and rescue coordinators, Senior Constable Peipman and Sergeant Patton. Their commitment and dedication to the difficult and dangerous task they faced was commendable.

74. I close this inquest.

Magistrate Harriet Grahame Deputy State Coroner 22 May 2019 NSW State Coroner’s Court, Lidcombe

 

Bosses should give workers time off to search for missing Sydney man Sevak Simonian: Dick Smith

Entrepreneur and adventurer Dick Smith has called on bosses to give workers time off so they can assist the search for a Sydney man missing for eight days in a national park near Oberon in central western NSW.

Sevak Simonian, 21, has not been seen since he left his parents' home at Belrose in Sydney's north about 8pm on October 20.

His parents reported him missing to police, and his friends then came forward saying he was headed to the Kanangra-Boyd National Park near Oberon.

His car was found in the Kanangra Walls Road car park on October 24.

Police on Wednesday said they believed Mr Simonian entered the park on October 21 but only had a day pack with him when he disappeared.

Mr Smith said he was alarmed when he discovered on Tuesday morning that Mr Simonian had still not been found.

He spent two hours on Tuesday searching the national park in his helicopter. 

He said that, from speaking to police, it is understood 25 skilled bushwalkers were helping with the search effort but he said there needed to be more. 

"The best way to find someone who is lost in the bush is to have lots of people walking in the bush. If you're a bushwalker, a canyoner or a rock climber, get in touch with the police and offer the fact that you could go and also for bosses to give them the time off," he said.

"Police are concerned about people going in there not skilled but there are hundreds of very skilled bushwalkers in Sydney and they are not there because they don't know anything about it."

 

Mr Smith said that, while Mr Simonian had been missing for eight days, he believed Mr Simonian could be alive because there was plenty of water about.

Barry Washington, a friend and colleague of Mr Simonian at Bunnings in Narrabeen, said Mr Simonian loved the outdoors, and had been bushwalking on his own since he was 13.

"His passion is bushwalking, that's what he does. He loves it out there, he'd live out there forever if he could. Sometimes he stays out at Barrington Tops [National Park in the Hunter Valley] for two weeks, he likes to live off the land," said Mr Washington, who has been part of the team searching for Mr Simonian.

"He knows how to survive out there, to build shelters. He knows what he can and can't eat and drink."

Mr Washington said that, while Mr Simonian had previously been away on bushwalking trips for weeks, he would always let his employer know that he would be away. He never missed turning up to work, Mr Washington said.

"He never, ever does not come into work without calling in sick. He's responsible with work," Mr Washington said.

"He is a very fit guy, he is very health conscious. He's an organic eater, doesn't smoke or drink; he is one of the fittest people I know and strong as an ox."

Mr Washington said it was a "miserable day with low cloud cover" when Mr Simonian disappeared, and he may have lost his way or decided to take shelter to wait out the weather.

"My opinion is that if he is not injured and he has made it to a creek, he will last for an immense amount of time.

"If he is injured, he is capable of still getting out of there. He's the sort of guy that wouldn't panic," he said.

Mr Washington said Mr Simonian was not depressed, and had recently spoken about his plans for the future.

"He was saving up to buy a farm. He wants to live in the bush. He's just a good lovable kid. A very quiet guy, he likes to keep to himself. He would have gone out there for an adventure, I reckon, and the fog cover's gone too low," Mr Washington said.

Mr Simonian is described as being about 180 centimetres tall, with a thin build, olive skin, short black curly hair and brown eyes.

Mr Washington urged volunteers who want to help in the search to contact Oberon police station.

 

Lost in the wilderness: Hunt continues for Sevak

IT is a wilderness of majestic cliffs and plunging valleys that has claimed lives and changed others forever — but missing bushwalker Sevak Simonian’s parents hope he is one of the lucky ones.

The 21-year-old has been missing for 11 days in the deadly bush of the Kanangra-Boyd National Park, with only a day’s supply of food and water.

A police cadaver dog joined the search yesterday in an area that even highly skilled bushwalkers do not enter alone.

In 2000, Newcastle University Mountaneering Club members Steve Rogers, 26, and Mark Charles, 25, froze to death, tangled in their ropes at Carra Beangra Falls, while 35 years earlier abseiler Dick Donaghey was saved in a dramatic rescue involving 500 bushwalkers who took turns dragging and carrying his stretcher up a track called Murdering Gully.

 

National Parks and Wildlife Services area manager Kim De Govrik said up to a dozen walkers get lost in the park every year. “We find most people within a week — a search like this is exceptional but it is a very difficult terrain,” Mr De Govrik said. “It’s like searching for a needle in a haystack.”

Massis and Rosa Simonian are adamant their son must be found — dead or alive. But the northern beaches couple and their sons Sasoon and Areen are clinging to the hope that he will be found alive.

“We are still waiting and hoping. We will never give up,” Mr Simonian said.

Detectives are now searching the experienced bushwalker’s computer for clues of his planned route.

More than 40 people, including volunteer bushwalkers and cave specialists, scoured bushland near where his car was discovered on a dirt track near Kanangra Wall, near Oberon.

Two helicopters searched deeper into the valley but the dense scrub made it almost impossible to spot anything from the air.

Mr Simonian, who works at Bunnings, left his parents’ house on October 20 saying he was going bushwalking in the Blue Mountains.

After his family reported him missing, police searched popular walking routes for his car and discovered it parked at Kanangara Wall last Friday.

Inspector Chris Sammut told searchers yesterday morning that while there is a chance the walker could be found, reality could not be ignored.

“We have to be realistic, there’s every chance he has perished,” Insp Sammut said.

But two experienced bushwalkers involved in rescues in the 1960s said there was still a chance he may survive. David Roots, 83, who lead the rescue of Dick Donaghey, said there is plenty of water.

“But all the creeks come up to Kanangra Walls so if he is lost and still mobile he should be able to get to the many sources of water.”

 

EXCLUSIVE: Brother of missing Sevak Simonian speaks about #FindSevak

Source: Caroline Geroyan - armenia.com.au | Friday, 31 October 2014

 

 

SYDNEY: Sevak Simonian, 21, has now been missing for 11 days. The young Armenian-Australian from Belrose, in Sydney’s north, was last seen at his parents' home at about 8pm on Monday the 20th of October.

Friends stated he was headed for the Kanangra-Boyd National Park near Oberon, where he is believed to be lost. On the 24th of October his car was found in the Kanangra Walls Road car park and police believe that Mr Simonian entered the park on October 21 but only had a daypack with him when he disappeared.

Sevak’s brother, Sasoon Simonian, spoke to 
Armenia Online, saying that his younger brother enjoyed bushwalking but would only go for a day at a time, never as long as 10 days or so.

“He went every now and then," Sasoon Simonian said. "If he had a few days off he would go for a day walk but he would never just disappear, he is very reliable.”

The search party for Sevak Simonian began on Monday but Sasoon says that it has been limited because they need skilled SES volunteers, which there is a shortage of.

“It is frustrating and difficult because we have manpower and there are so many people who want to help but you cant just turn up and start searching, because then you will become the liability.”

On Tuesday 28th of October, Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith joined the search with his helicopter. He was alarmed when he found out that Sevak had still not been found.

Police had confirmed to Mr Smith that 25 skilled bushwalkers were helping with the search effort but he said there needed to be more.

"The best way to find someone who is lost in the bush is to have lots of people walking in the bush. If you're a bushwalker, a canyoner or a rock climber, get in touch with the police and offer the fact that you could go and also for bosses to give them the time off," he said.

Mr Smith also told the Sydney Morning Herald that bosses should give their employees a day off work to search for Sevak if they are part of the SES.

Sevak’s borther, Sasoon Simonian, couldn’t agree more.

Sasoon Simonian added: “Dick Smith donated $30,000 as part of the search and he was involved for a day looking with his chopper but it is on the authorities to get people into the bush because they have the power.”

To raise awareness, Sasoon has been speaking with Channel 7, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, 2UE and 2GB.

“My focus isn’t on the search because I can't do anything," Sasoon told 
Armenia Online. "I want to raise awareness, to get people out there searching for my brother. I went on 2GB a few days ago, and this morning spoke with Stuart Bocking on 2UE. Channel 7 was yesterday.”

Sevak Simonian’s classmate from Galstaun College, Tomik Torosian, and his peers are also experiencing the same frustration when it comes to looking for their friend, Sevak.

“I personally have spoken to members of the [Armenian] community and with the AYF (Armenian Youth Federation of Australia). I have also spoken to our entire [Galstaun College] class. We want to help but and have made calls and reached out but we are a small group – we need to get resourceful.”

 

Members of the Armenian community have used social media to raise awareness of Sevak’s disappearance and to find skilled volunteers. The #findsevak campaign has picked up fierce momentum but more experienced hikers are needed.

Australian news presenter George Donikian, SBS football host Les Murray, and CommSec Market Analyst Steven Daghlian have all used the hashtag #findsevak to raise awareness of the campaign and ensure Sevak is found.

 

Sasoon Simonian feels that more media awareness is paramount to collecting more experienced hikers, and that the media should be doing more at this point.

“The Facebook and Twitter campaigns have been good at raising awareness amongst the Armenian and wider Australian communities," Sasoon said. "We have been putting the word out to the community leaders, such as Vache Kahramanian from the ANC (Armenian National Committee of Australia) and the Armenian Church."

The AYF, ANC and Galstaun College are all in regular contact with SES and NSW Police, obtaining as much information as they can in regards to the search effort and offering their manpower in all ways possible. The main aim of the Armenian community, which Sevak is a valued member of, is to get him home safely.

“To find more skilled volunteers I feel like the media needs to do more. There needs to be a more serious sense of urgency,” said Sasoon.

“We are here on standby and we will do whatever it takes,” said Tomik. "I will not settle with 'he can’t be found'. He’s a human being. Someone from our community is out there and until we find out what happened we need to help in as many ways as possible. They can’t just stop searching for Sevak.”

Missing hiker’s shoes, gear found at parents’ home


 

 

 

BATHURST police have found hiking shoes and camping gear during a search of Sevak Simonian’s parents’ home in Sydney.
 

The search was conducted after the 21-year-old went missing in Kanangra-Boyd National Park near Oberon on October 20.

Mr Simonian was last seen by his parents and, despite a call for witnesses to come forward, the young man has not been seen since.

But Chifley Local Area Command Inspector Colin Cracknell said the discovery of camping items at his parents’ home did not mean Mr Simonian had forgotten to take them.

“We found hiking shoes and a backpack ... at the residence, but that’s not to say he doesn’t have two sets,” he said.

Inspector Cracknell said the young man’s parents reported no food had been taken from the family home. “Just because there’s no evidence of food being taken from his home, doesn’t mean he didn’t purchase any,” he said.

“We also seized his computer to see what areas he’s been searching so we can narrow down our search.”

Police have also searched the missing man’s car after it was discovered in the Kanangra Walls Road car park, but Inspector Cracknell said they found nothing of concern and the car did not look like it had been tampered with.

It has almost been two weeks since Mr Simonian [pictured] went missing, yet police and emergency service are continuing the search in the national park.

“We’ve pretty much searched everywhere that has readily accessible water,” Inspector Cracknell said. “Police are perplexed that with all the activity in the area, he hasn’t made himself known.

“We have grave fears for his safety.”

Mr Simonian is described as being about 180cm tall, with a thin build, olive skin, short black curly hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information about Mr Simonian’s whereabouts is urged to come forward.

Police have also asked members of the public who may have seen Mr Simonian or his car between Tuesday, October 21 and Friday, October 24 to come forward.

His car, which has since been towed by police, is a white 2006 Ford Falcon station wagon with registration number BR 45 HY.

If you have information, call Oberon Police Station on 6336 1000 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

 

Chifley police end search for missing man Sevak Simonian


THE search for a Sydney man missing for three weeks in the Kanangra Boyd National Park has been officially suspended.

Sevak Simonian was reported missing on the night of Thursday, October 23 after last being seen when he left his Belrose home the previous Monday.

His car was found in the Kanangara Walls Road car park on Friday, October 24 but an extensive search since then has failed to find any trace of the missing man.

Police from Chifley local area command and Police Rescue have been co-ordinating the search for 21-year-old, utilising resources from the local police and specialist police from the Rescue Squad, Dog Unit, and Police airwing, PolAir, as well as personnel from National Parks and Wildlife Service (NP&WS), NSW Ambulance Paramedics and volunteers from the State Emergency Service (SES), Rural Fire Service (RFS), Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA), and the Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad.

A NP&WS helicopter was also utilised along with specialist vertical rescue teams to search canyons, waterfalls and steep ridges within a 3km radius of the car park where Sevak’s vehicle was located. The Westpac Rescue helicopter also provided assistance.

After a review of the operation, police yesterday spoke with Mr Simonian’s family to advise them the search was being suspended pending further information.

[A command centre set up to help co-ordinate the search for Sevak Simonian]

A command centre set up to help co-ordinate the search for Sevak Simonian

“We would like to thank everyone involved in the search, especially the huge number of volunteers who gave up their time to assist police,” Chifley local area commander Superintendent Michael Robinson said today.

“While the search has been suspended, an investigation into Sevak’s disappearance is ongoing.

“We would again urge anyone who is considering entering the bush – even for a short walk – to “Think before you TREK.”

T: Take adequate supplies of food, water, navigation and first aid equipment.

R: Register your planned route and tell friends and family when you expect to return.

E: Emergency beacons are available free of charge from police & National Parks & Wildlife Service.

K: Keep to your planned route and follow the map and walking trails.

Visit http://www.trek.nsw.gov.au for more information.

* Police are urging anyone with information in relation to this incident to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page at nsw.crimestoppers.com.au/

Information will be treated in the strictest of confidence.

Police remind people they should not report crime information via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Social media campaign helps fund search for Sevak Simonian

 - Western Advocate

A CAMPAIGN launched on social media has raised more than $12,000 to contribute towards costs in the search for missing Belrose bushwalker Sevak Simonian.

The fundraising effort was established by Gilbert Verdian and has raised $12,400.

Mr Verdian, who did not know Mr Simonian, said people from the Northern Beaches community had donated to the fund, which has been used to pay for additional air cover in the search.

Mr Simonian, 21, from Belrose, has not been seen since he left for a bushwalk on Monday, October 20. His car was found at a car park at Kanangra Boyd National Park four days later.

Mr Verdian said he heard about Mr Simonian and just wanted to do something to help.

So, through social media, he started a campaign and using Facebook and Twitter raised the funds, which have since been donated to the SES.

"The SES indicated that they will use the money for helicopters that will provide critical air support and allow them to access remote terrain that would otherwise be difficult to do," Mr Verdian said.

"We want to assist and extend the search in any way possible so we can find Sevak. He is an experienced bushwalker and we are confident he can be found."

Chifley Local Area Command Inspector Colin Cracknell said the search for Mr Simonian was still underway yesterday afternoon, although numbers on the ground weren't as high as in previous days because volunteers had to go back to work.

Inspector Cracknell said the search was the largest he had ever been involved with in his 26 years of policing, with 60 volunteers actively searching the area.

plus another 15 emergency personnel manning the command post.

"It's been huge, the search is widely resourced and we have not left one stone unturned,"he said,.

 

Police give up hope of finding missing Sydney man Sevak Simonian

- Oberon Review

THE search for a Sydney man missing for almost three weeks in the Kanangra Boyd National Park has been suspended, with police giving up all hope he is still alive.

Sevak Simonian was reported missing on the night of Thursday, October 23 after last being seen when he left his Belrose home the previous Monday.

His car was found in the Kanangra Walls Road car park on Friday, October 24 but an extensive search since then has failed to find him.

Duty officer with Chifley Local Area Command Colin Cracknell, said the search was terminated at 1pm on Monday, with all personnel withdrawn from the site.

“Unfortunately, the result is a negative one,” he said, adding police will continue ongoing enquiries to try and establish Sevak’s whereabouts.

Inspector Cracknell said a report will be prepared for the coroner.

Inspector Cracknell said the decision to end the search was not taken lightly, with police only coming to the conclusion that Sevak is dead after enormous consultation with experts from the Rescue and Bomb Disposal Unit in Sydney and a specialist survival doctor who works with both NSW Police and the Australian Defence Force.

“Based on the advice of these experts we have concluded he has no chance of survival,” he said.

Inspector Cracknell said he had been in touch with Sevak’s parents and, while they are devastated at the loss of their child, they knew at some point it was inevitable the search would wind up.

“They thanked everyone who has been involved in the search, which I believe is the biggest search ever conducted within the Chifley Local Area Command,” he said.

“Unfortunately it’s the first time we’ve never not had a result. Up until now we’ve always found the person [or their remains], so in that sense this is a bit unusual,” he said.

“But in the search we have left no stone unturned, we were even airlifting people into search zones, because they weren’t accessible on foot.

“We’d plot a location on a map where they would search and then extracting them in the helicopter.

“We had a very dedicated team, hundreds of volunteers who gave of their time, freely carrying out the search.”

Inspector Cracknell also thanked the Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad, the VRA, SES, National Parks and Wildlife, Rapid Relief Team, NSW Ambulance and paramedics and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter for their assistance during the search.

 

Police renew call for information on missing man Sevak Simonian


 

 

POLICE have made a fresh appeal for information one year after Sydney man Sevak Simonian disappeared in Kanangra-Boyd National Park near Oberon.
 

Mr Simonian, then 21, was reported missing on October 23, 2014, but was last seen leaving his parents’ Belrose home three days earlier. His car was found in the Kanangra Walls Road car park on October 24.

A wide-scale search was launched in the rugged national park where Mr Simonian was known to have previously gone for bushwalks alone.

Helicopters and specialist vertical rescue teams searched canyons, waterfalls and steep ridges within a three-kilometre radius of where Mr Simonian’s vehicle was located.

Police found hiking shoes and camping gear during a search of Mr Simonian’s parents’ home on November 1.

“We found hiking shoes and a backpack ... at the residence, but that’s not to say he doesn’t have two sets,” Inspector Colin Cracknell said.

At the time a social media campaign established by fellow Northern Beaches resident Gilbert Verdian raised $12,400 to contribute to the cost of an air search.
 

Scores of volunteers gave their time to the search for Mr Simonian.

Entrepreneur and adventurer Dick Smith also called on bosses to give workers time off so they could assist the search.

The search was finally terminated on November 10, 2014.

Inspector Cracknell said the decision to end the search was not taken lightly and only done after extensive consultation with experts.

Northern Beaches detectives investigating Mr Simonian’s disappearance, under Strike Force Antare, have now appealed for anyone with information about his whereabouts or last known movements to come forward.

Mr Simonian is 180 centimetres tall, with a thin build, olive skin, short, black curly hair and brown eyes. 

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.