Thomas Francis Levinge
Inquest into the Death of Thomas Francis LEVINGE
Inquest into the Death of Thomas Francis LEVINGE
Delivered on :17
Delivered at :
Finding of :
Suppression Order :
Summary : The
deceased was a 73 year old male at the time of his death. He and his wife
were on the Sun Princess which left Fremantle for Sydney on 29 September
2013. On 7 October 2013 the deceased disappeared after he jumped off the
stern of the ship in Prince Frederick Harbour in the Kimberley region of
Western Australia. The deceased has not been seen or heard from since.
CCTV recording from the Sun Princess showed the deceased climbing over the
railing at the stern of the ship and jumping into the ocean. The Coroner
concluded that there was little doubt that the deceased was aware of the
likely consequences of his actions. On that basis the coroner concluded
that the deceased intended to end his life.
The coroner was unable to find the cause of death but found that death
occurred by way of suicide.
Cruise ship passenger took own life off
Kimberley coast by jumping overboard, coroner rules
A 73-year-old man took his own life by jumping overboard
from a cruise ship off the West Australian coast, a coronial inquest has found.
Thomas Francis Levinge was reported missing on October 7, 2013 while
taking a cruise with his wife from Fremantle to Sydney.
Coroner Barry King said CCTV footage captured Mr Levinge climbing over the
ship's railing and jumping into the sea "deliberately and without hesitation".
Mr King inferred Mr Levinge had the intention to end his life and it was
unlikely he survived the fall of about 12 to 14 metres.
Despite a search involving three aircraft and a Royal Australian Navy
ship, his body was never found.
The coroner heard Mr Levinge, who migrated to Australia from Ireland in
1972, suffered from short-term memory loss in the years leading up to his death.
Couple at odds over where to eat dinner, court hears
In September 2013, Mr Levinge and his wife booked a room on board a Sun
Princess cruise ship.
The coroner was told on the evening Mr Levinge went missing, he had a
disagreement with his wife about where on the ship to eat dinner.
Mrs Levinge did not see her husband for the rest of the night and became
worried when he was not in their room when she woke up the next morning.
She raised the alarm with the ship's crew who conducted a search of the
ship and called his name over the public address system several times.
Later that morning, the crew notified authorities of the possibility Mr
Levinge had been lost overboard off the Kimberley coastline.
Eleven days later, a security officer on board the ship discovered CCTV
recordings showing Mr Levinge jumping into the sea from the ship's stern.
The coroner was told by a doctor that the probability of Mr Levinge
surviving in the water until daylight was very low, if he did indeed survive the
Mr King ruled the cause of Mr Levinge's death "unknown", but suggested he
could have died from injuries suffered from the impact with the water, drowning,
dehydration, exhaustion, hypothermia or an attack from a predatory animal.
The coroner's file has been closed.
RECORD OF INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH
Ref No: 8/15
I, Barry Paul King, Coroner, having investigated
the suspected death of Thomas Francis Levinge with an inquest held at Perth
Coroners Court, Court 51, CLC Building, 501 Hay Street, Perth, on 3 March 2015,
find that the death of Thomas Francis Levinge has been established beyond all
reasonable doubt and that death occurred on or about 7 October 2013 in the
waters of Prince Frederick Harbour from an unknown cause in the following
Mr J T Bishop assisting the Coroner
THE DECEASED 3
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE DECEASEDíS DISAPPEARANCE 5
CHANCES OF SURVIVAL 9
FURTHER INVESTIGATIONS 10
CONCLUSION AS TO WHETHER DEATH HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED 11
CONCLUSION AS TO HOW DEATH OCCURRED AND THE CAUSE OF
THE DEATH 11
At about 6.00 pm on 7 October 2013 Thomas Francis Levinge (the
deceased) disappeared after he jumped off the stern of a cruise ship in
Prince Frederick Harbour in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. He
was 73 years old.
The evidence of a survival expert, Dr Paul Luckin, indicates that the
deceased was unlikely to have survived the fall of 12 to 14 metres to the
ocean and that, if the deceased had survived the fall, he would not have
survived until midday on the following day.
On 10 June 2014 this Court received an email request from the
deceasedís daughter Maria Levinge for an inquest into the assumed death of
her father. Ms Levinge explained the circumstances of the deceasedís
disappearance and identified a subsequent investigation by Senior Constable
Steve Williamson of the Western Australia Police.
Under section 23 of the Act, where a person is missing and the State
Coroner has reasonable cause to suspect that the person has died and that
the death was a reportable death, the State Coroner may direct that the
suspected death of the person be investigated. Where the State Coroner has
given such a direction, a coroner
must hold an inquest into the circumstances
of the suspected death of the person and, if the coroner finds that the
death of the person has been established beyond all reasonable doubt, into
how the death occurred and the cause of death.
On 17 June 2014 the State Coroner considered that she had reasonable
cause to suspect that Mr Levinge had died and directed that the suspected
death be investigated.
On 3 March 2015 I held an inquest into the deceasedís suspected
death. The evidence adduced was the report1
Constable Williamson and brief oral evidence from him.2
The following information was primarily obtained from statements
provided by the deceasedís family.3
The deceased was born in 1940 in County Longford in Ireland. After
finishing his education he went to London to look for work and met his wife
to be, who was also Irish. They married in 1962 and had three daughters.
ts 5 - 8
Tabs 8 and 25
In 1972 the deceased and his family immigrated to Australia where the
deceased set up a successful business selling automotive paints.
The deceased loved living in Australia, including the opportunities
for bushwalking and camping. He was a keen golfer and joined golf clubs
where he played every Saturday. He was extremely fit and healthy, rising
early each day and going for walks in the nearby bush. He enjoyed nature and
wildlife and he liked to fix things.
The deceased was a devoted family man, working hard to provide for
his family. He was quick witted, intelligent and proud, including being
proud of his daughters, who all obtained university degrees, and of his two
The deceased was a devout Catholic. He was active in the local church
and was a member and twice president of the local branch of the Catenian
Association, which raised money for charity.
The deceased sold his business in about 2000. He worked part-time
with the new owners for about 10 years before retiring completely in about
During his semi-retirement the deceased was able to play golf twice a
week and he and his wife were able to travel more, especially on cruise
ships of which they had
particularly fond. They had been on several cruises through Asia. Their
favourite ship was the Sun Princess.
In the last two or three years before he disappeared the deceased
began to lose his short term memory function, leading to difficulty
performing day to day tasks such as fixing things or operating electronic
equipment. He became less able to play card games that he had played since
childhood, and he could no longer concentrate long enough to play 18 holes
The deceasedís loss of memory function apparently distressed him
deeply, possibly because there was a history of dementia in his family which
he feared he would also develop. He did not talk about it with his wife or
his daughters, and he did not complain of memory loss to his doctor of over
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE DECEASEDíS DISAPPEARANCE
The Levinges booked onto a Sun Princess cruise leaving Fremantle for
Sydney on 29 September 2013. The deceased was looking forward to the voyage
and was in good spirits. However for some days after the cruise had
deceased had trouble remembering how to find their stateroom.5
Nonetheless the Levinges were enjoying the cruise. They had made a
group of new friends with whom they socialised each evening in the Regency
dining room. The deceased was always telling jokes and chatting amiably with
whoever he met. During the day the Levinges engaged in several activities
together, but would also do things apart, depending on what entertainment
was available on the ship.6
On 7 October 2013 the Levinges had breakfast together and carried out
their usual activities during the morning. They had lunch at the Horizon
Court restaurant and stayed there until about 4.30 pm. The ship stopped at
about 5.00 pm in the waters of Prince Frederick Harbour to enable the
passengers to watch the sunset at about
5.30 pm, and the Levinges went on deck where
they stayed until the sun had set.7
At 5.30 pm the Levinges went to their stateroom to get ready for
dinner. While there they had a disagreement about where to eat dinner. The
deceased wanted to eat at the Regency dining room, but Mrs Levinge did not
want to get dressed up to eat there after being wind- blown from being on
the deck in the afternoon.
As Mrs Levinge was
not particularly hungry, she suggested that the deceased go to the Regency
on his own and she would meet him later at a show at the theatre.8
The deceased left the stateroom in casual attire rather than dressed
for dinner. In the hallway nearby he was seen by a stateroom steward, Ricky
Delos Santos, to whom he had spoken several times since the cruise began.
The deceased greeted Mr Santos who replied, ĎEnjoy your dinner,í and the
deceased thanked him.9
Mrs Levinge went to the Horizon Court restaurant for a light dinner
and later went to the theatre, but the deceased did not show up. Mrs Levinge
went back to the stateroom and thought that the deceased might be there, but
he was not. She then went to listen to singing as she normally did after
dinner and stayed there until about 9.45 pm. The deceased was not in the
stateroom when she returned, so Mrs Levinge took a temazepam tablet and went
The deceased was still not in the stateroom when Mrs Levinge woke up
the next morning. She thought that he may have slept on deck under the stars
as he sometimes did, but as time went on and she could not
find him, she began to worry.11
help from the shipís crew who arranged for the deceasedís name to be called
over the public address system several times over the next two hours, but
the deceased did not appear. The shipís crew conducted a search of the ship
Shipís crew also went around the ship with pictures of the deceased
asking passengers if they had seen him. A passenger stated that he believed
that he had seen the deceased at 9.00 am that morning having breakfast in
the Horizon restaurant. CCTV recordings from 6.00 pm the previous night to
11.00 am that morning were reviewed, but the deceased was not seen on the
At about 11.10 am on 8 October 2013 the Sun Princess notified the
Rescue Coordination Centre of the possibility that the deceased had been
lost overboard. By 2.00 pm on 8 October 2013 the ship had returned to its
position at 9.00 am to search for the deceased in the sea. Three aircraft
and a Royal Australian Navy ship joined in the search, but the deceased was
On 19 October 2013 a Ship Security Officer on board the Sun Princess
reviewed CCTV recordings from earlier on 7 October 2013 and discovered that
6.00 pm that evening the deceased was recorded climbing over the railing at
the stern of the ship and jumping into the sea.15
deceasedís identity was confirmed by Maria Levinge.16
CHANCES OF SURVIVAL
At about 5.00 pm on 8 October 2013, Dr Paul Luckin was consulted by
the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in relation to the deceasedís
likely life expectancy. Dr Luckin considered that, had the deceased jumped
from the ship at 9.00 am that morning, it was likely that he had died at or
very soon after the fall from injuries caused when entering the water. Dr
Luckin thought that, if the deceased had survived the fall, the
survivability until the end of daylight was a maximum of 40% and that
survival until daylight on 9 October 2013 was not possible.17
When later asked by Mr Bishop for a further opinion about the
deceasedís chances of survival if he entered the water at 6.00 pm on 7
October 2013, Dr Luckin said that he believed that the probability of
survival until daylight was very low, possibly 10%. He did not believe that
the deceased could have survived until midday on 8 October 2013.18
After it was known
that the deceased had entered the water 15 hours earlier than originally
thought, a drift analysis using a computer based program was conducted by
water police officers to ascertain the possibility that he had been able to
reach land in Prince Frederick Harbour.19
The results of the analysis indicated that, if a person were floating
on the surface without the assistance of swimming, there was a 1.2% chance
that the person would make landfall on Murrara Island approximately two
hours after entering the water. After four hours, there was a 10% chance of
the person making landfall on a small islet and a 1.4% chance of making
landfall on Murrara Island.20
Police intelligence analysts reviewed the deceasedís Medicare and
Centrelink records and determined that the deceased had not had any medical
treatment or received any Centrelink payments since September 2013.21
The deceased has
not been in contact with any member of his family since he last spoke with
Mrs Levinge on 7 October 2013.
CONCLUSION AS TO WHETHER DEATH HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED
In my view the foregoing evidence establishes the death of the
deceased beyond all reasonable doubt.
CONCLUSION AS TO HOW DEATH OCCURRED AND THE CAUSE OF THE DEATH
The CCTV recording shows the deceased deliberately and without
hesitation climbing over the railing at the stern of the Sun Princess and
jumping into the ocean. While it is tempting to speculate as to the reasons
for his actions, there can be little doubt that the deceased was aware of
their likely consequence. On that basis I infer that he intended to end his
I find that death occurred by way of suicide.
The evidence relating to the cause of death is inconclusive. Dr
Luckin considered that the deceased may have died from injury suffered from
impact with the water or from drowning. Drowning may have resulted from
injury or from exhaustion, dehydration or hypothermia.22
given the relevant location,
that other possibilities may include attack by
a predatory animal.
In these circumstances I find that the cause of death is unknown.
B P King Coroner
17 March 2015