Thomas Dominic RAE

Thomas Dominic Rae, 25, of Esperance went missing while fishing near Dalyup on Sunday, July 7.


Family heartbreak as search for Thomas Rae suspended

Tom ZaunmayrKalgoorlie Miner

The family of missing Esperance man Thomas Rae has opened up about their heartbreak at the possibility of never seeing their son again.

Police announced yesterday the search was suspended unless new information came to light.

Mr Rae has been missing since Sunday, July 7, when he disappeared while fishing off rocks at Warrenup Beach, west of Esperance WA.

In a statement, the Rae family said they were still coming to terms with the potential loss of their son.

“At 25 years of age, Tom was a happy and joyful young man who loved sport, including football, running, and tennis, while also indulging himself among the outdoor activities that Esperance had to offer. Fishing was one of those past times he enjoyed with family and friends,” they said.

“Tom’s cheerful character was loved by all who knew him and by many who didn’t in the Esperance community.

“As a member of the Esperance Woolworth’s staff, he played a valuable role in the lives of many, making their shopping a pleasant and personal experience. People responded to Tom’s kind nature and obvious concern for the welfare of others.”

The family said the Esperance community had helped ease the burden over the past week.

“The Rae family would like to thank the Esperance community for the outpouring of support directed their way in the wake of Tom’s disappearance.”

“This includes the local Police, Volunteer Marine Rescue, State Emergency Services, and other volunteers and Individuals who have travelled from all over the state to assist with the search for Tom.

“Tom had an ability to connect and positively impact many among the public, and our family has been touched by the overwhelming support that we have received from the Esperance community over the last week. We will be forever grateful for this.”

Tom’s father Jake Rae said emergency services had done their best to make the situation as easy as possible for the family, including comforting family members.

His mother, Suzanne Rae, said she was proud of her son.

“It is very hard to imagine life with Thomas not in it,” she said.

“The whole Rae Family is going to miss Thomas so very much.”

A report will be prepared for the coroner

                                       JURISDICTION : CORONER'S COURT OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA



HEARD : 7 MAY 2020


FILE NO/S : CORC 1310 of 2019


RECORD OF INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH I, Michael Andrew Gliddon Jenkin, Coroner, having investigated the disappearance of Thomas Dominic RAE with an inquest held at the Perth Coroner’s Court, Court 85, CLC Building, 501 Hay Street, Perth, on 7 May 2020, find the death of Thomas Dominic RAE has been established beyond all reasonable doubt, and the identity of the deceased person was Thomas Dominic RAE and that death occurred on or about 7 July 2019, at Shelley Beach, Coomalbidgup, in the following circumstances: Counsel Appearing: Sergeant L Housiaux assisted the Coroner


1. Thomas Dominic Rae (Mr Rae) was 25-years of age when he went missing, whilst fishing off rocks at Shelley Beach1 in Esperance. For the reasons set out below, I find that his death occurred, on or about 7 July 2019, by accident, as a result of immersion in water (drowning).

2. On 25 February 2020, the State Coroner determined that on the basis of the evidence contained in a police report with respect to the Mr Rae’s disappearance, that she had reasonable cause to suspect that he had died and that his death was a “reportable death”.2 3. Accordingly, pursuant to section 23(1) of the Coroners Act 1996 (WA), the State Coroner directed that the suspected death be investigated.

3 In accordance with that direction, I held an inquest into the suspected death of Mr Rae, on 7 May 2020. Members of Mr Rae’s family attended the inquest by means of a telephone link.

4. Senior Constable Matt Gulland, the police investigating officer gave oral evidence at the inquest, and provided the Court with a report into Mr Rae’s disappearance and suspected death.

5. Attachments to the police report included statements from relevant witnesses and information relating to the search for Mr Rae. The brief of evidence, which comprised two volumes, also included extensive information about Mr Rae’s medical history.

6. The inquest focused on the circumstances surrounding Mr Rae’s disappearance and the issue of whether he was deceased.

MR RAE Background

7. Mr Rae was born on 14 September 19939 and lived with his family in Dalyup, about 35 km west of Esperance, until 27 December 2018. On that date, he moved to Castletown, a suburb of Esperance. He lived in a rented unit in a complex in Esperance, and also owned a unit in the same complex that he rented out.

8. Mr Rae was employed at a local supermarket as a checkout operator. He was described as a friendly, cheerful and approachable person, who was always smiling. Mr Rae enjoyed outdoor activities such as fishing and sport, including: football, tennis and running. Health issues

9. Apparently as a result of oxygen deprivation at birth, Mr Rae had a mild intellectual impairment. He was registered with the Disability Services Commission, but he lived independently. 

10. Over time, Mr Rae received a number of mental health diagnoses including: anxiety, depression, bipolar affective disorder and mixed affective disorder.12 However, at his last psychiatric review on 15 January 2019, he was assessed as having no psychiatric illnesses.

11. Mr Rae presented to Esperance Hospital (EH) in February 2013 with septic arthritis, following a knee injury at work. He presented again in August 2014, when he was treated for an injured forearm after reportedly being stabbed during an altercation at work. 14 On 16 October 2015, Mr Rae saw his GP and had stitches after a workplace accident in which he sustained a cut to his left forearm.15

12. On 31 October 2016, Mr Rae was seen by his GP after he had “lost control” two days earlier and damaged his father’s house. Mr Rae reported auditory hallucinations and he was commenced on the antipsychotic olanzapine, and referred to a community mental health service.

13. Mr Rae was seen by visiting psychiatrists in Esperance on 8 November 2016 and 13 December 2016 respectively. One of the psychiatrists noted that Mr Rae may have been taken advantage of at his workplace and that he had a case manager through the Disability Services Commission.

14. The psychiatrist who saw Mr Rae in December 2016, concluded that it was likely he had a depressive illness in the context of significant stress in the workplace, and that acting out in anger was a major symptom. Mr Rae was prescribed escitalopram (an antidepressant), and lorazepam (a benzodiazepine), to be used as required for agitation, as required. His antipsychotic medication, olanzapine, was to be ceased after two weeks.

15. On 6 January 2017, Mr Rae presented to EH and was diagnosed with worsening symptoms of depression with psychotic features. He reported suicidal ideation with a solid plan and had threatened to “blow up” his father’s home.  He was admitted to EH as a voluntary patient and diagnosed with mixed bipolar affective disorder, anxiety and depression.

16. During his admission, Mr Rae’s depressive symptoms settled, but he developed hypomania with elevated and disinhibited mood. His antidepressant medication was reduced, and a mood stabiliser (sodium valproate) and the antipsychotic, olanzapine were added. Following his discharge from hospital, Mr Rae was managed by a community mental health service for about 12 months.

17. A worker’s compensation claim completed by Mr Rae’s GP on 25 January 2017, noted that Mr Rae was depressed with suicidal ideation, and had reported workplace bullying in October 2016.23

18. On 10 February 2017, Mr Rae was found to have a benign malformation in his brain (intra-ventricular arachnoid cyst).24 Such cysts are usually congenital, but may occur as a result of trauma. Small cysts are generally asymptomatic, but larger cysts can cause symptoms and require neurosurgical management.

19. Mr Rae saw his GP on several occasions between February 2017 and July 2017. During this period, his mental state and mood appeared to be stable and he resumed full-time work. He denied suicidal ideation and his level of anxiety improved dramatically.

20. Mr Rae was discharged from the community mental health service on 20 December 2017 with a diagnosis of mixed affective disorder. His treatment plan was that he continue taking his medication for 12 months, and then be reviewed by a visiting psychiatrist, with a view to stopping medication altogether, if he was stable.

21. On 24 January 2018, Mr Rae saw his GP after taking his mood stabiliser once a day instead of twice daily. His speech was rapid at times and he was told to take his medication as directed. When he was reviewed by his GP on 28 March 2018, he was stable and taking his medication as prescribed. 30 When Mr Rae saw his GP on 7 January 2019, it was noted that he had allegedly assaulted his father on 26 December 2018, and would be appearing in court in relation to the matter on 8 January 2019. Although his speech was agitated, he denied low mood. He was given a prescription for the antidepressant, escitalopram, and a mood stabiliser (sodium valproate).

22. When Mr Rae was reviewed by a visiting psychiatrist on 15 January 2019, he said there had been a build-up of tension between himself and his father over a long period, and this had culminated in a physical altercation. The reviewing psychiatrist concluded that Mr Rae did not have any psychiatric illnesses and there was no indication for medication, and Mr Rae was discharged from the community mental health service on 12 February 2019. 

23. Mr Rae last saw his GP on the 16 April 2019. On that day, he presented with right knee pain and was advised to take paracetamol and antiinflammatories. There was no mention of any mental health concerns at this appointment


24. At about 9.40 am on 7 July 2019, Mr Rae and his friend, Mr White, drove to an area known as Shelley Beach, Coomalbidgup to go fishing. They had gone fishing in this general area on a number of occasions in the previous 18-months, and had fished at the same spot the week before.

25. Shelley Beach is a small stretch of beach about 200 metres long, approximately 72 km west of Esperance. The area is characterised by steep cliffs and the beach is protected by a headland on the western side.

26. On 7 July 2019, there was a light breeze and a two to three metre swell. 38 Waves were crashing on the shore causing a substantial amount of sea water to flow over rocks near the shoreline. The rocks near the shoreline are covered with black algae, and become extremely slippery when wet (see Photos 1 and 2).

27. After Mr Rae and Mr White had fished from the beach for about 40 minutes, Mr Rae climbed onto rocks about 50 metres away. He returned a few minutes later and said he wanted to fish from that area.

28. Mr White was very apprehensive about fishing from the rocks, because he knew it was dangerous to do so and neither he, nor Mr Rae were experienced rock fishers.

29. Mr Rae walked off in the direction of the rocks with his fishing gear, and Mr White lost sight of him as Mr Rae moved behind a rocky outcrop. About 10 minutes later, Mr White, who had stayed at the beach fishing, decided to check on Mr Rae.

30. Mr White walked to the area of rocks where he assumed Mr Rae had been fishing. Mr White found one of Mr Rae’s fishing rod and a packet of fish bait resting on the rocks. There was no sign of Mr Rae.  THE SEARCH Initial search at the scene

31. Mr White searched the rocks in the area where Mr Rae was thought to have been fishing, and then ran to the beach carpark to see if Mr Rae had gone to his car. At about 11.55 am, Mr White sent a text message to his partner, telling her what had happened, and continued searching for Mr Rae. Mr White’s partner and Mr White’s father arrived at Shelley Beach to help search for Mr Rae at about 1.05 pm. The police search begins

32. At 12.10 pm on 7 July 2019, Senior Constable Gulland and First Class Constable Tonkin were advised that Mr Rae had gone missing off rocks at Shelley Beach. At about the same time, the Police Operations Centre advised the Water Police and the Esperance Volunteer Search and Rescue Group (VSR). Meanwhile, arrangements were made for police divers and jet-skis from Surf Life Saving WA (SLSWA) to be made available to assist the search, by first light on 8 July 2019.

33. By the time Officers Gulland and Tonkin arrived at Shelley Beach, volunteers from the Esperance unit of the State Emergency Service (SES) were searching the beach and the area around the rocks, where it was thought Mr Rae had been fishing. Police searched Mr Rae’s vehicle but found nothing of significance and a land and sea search continued until last light on 7 July 2019.

34. As the search got underway, police made enquiries about whether search aircraft were available, but rotary and fixed wing aircraft were already tasked with other jobs. A jet aircraft that was available was deemed unsuitable given the nature of the search. Senior Constable Gulland expressed the opinion that the lack of aircraft did not impede the search for Mr Rae Timeframe for survival

35. Mr Rae was not a strong swimmer48,49 and on 8 July 2019, police consulted with Dr Paul Luckin, a consultant anaesthetist based in Queensland and an expert in search and rescue operations. Dr Luckin advised that if Mr Rae had been swept off rocks and had survived, his “time frame for survival” was a maximum of six hours.

36. However, on the basis that Mr Rae had been swept off rocks and into the sea, it was Dr Luckin’s view that: There is a high probability that death occurred within a few minutes of entering the water, as a result of the psychological effects of sudden cold-water immersions, the lack of a life jacket, and the physical impact of being swept against the rocks of the impact zone.

37. Dr Luckin’s assessment considered factors including: the sea temperature was only about 16.5◦ Celsius, Mr Rae’s body shape and the fact that he was not wearing a lifejacket when he was last seen, and time which had elapsed since he had gone missing, including the fact that during the night, there was no radiant heat from the sun and it was difficult to see oncoming waves, which increased the risk of drowning. The search operation

38. Over the following nine days, between 8 and 16 July 2019, police coordinated an extensive sea and land search, in an unsuccessful attempt to locate Mr Rae. The following resources were deployed: i. SES foot patrols: teams of SES members, assisted by police, conducted searches of 16 km of coastline during the 10 days of the search. ii. Rescue vessels: two rescue vessels from the VSR, two jet skis from SLSWA and a vessel from the Department of Transport conducted sea searches on days one, two and three of the search operation. iii. Police drone: a police drone equipped with video recording equipment searched the shoreline and ocean on day two of the search. iv. Police divers: police divers were deployed on days two and three of the search and were assisted by jets skis from SLSWA. A total of 84 hours of searches were conducted of the rocks and shoreline around the area where Mr Rae was last seen. Police vehicle patrols: during the 10 days of the operation, police conducted numerous searches of vehicle and walking tracks in the area.

39. It was decided to make one further effort to locate Mr Rae and at 8.00 am on 16 July 2019, volunteers from the SES conducted a search from Shelley Beach to 11 Mile Beach. They also searched the area around Butty Head. Police suspended the search operation at 5.00 pm on 16 July 2019.

40. The search operation attracted significant media interest and social media was inundated by posts relating to Mr Rae. On 14 August 2019, a member of the public reported a decomposing body on the beach near the whale tail sculpture in Esperance. The remains were subsequently identified by a veterinarian and by Dr Cooke from the State Mortuary, as the remains of a kangaroo.

41. Despite an extensive land and sea search over a period of 10 days, no trace of Mr Rae was found. Senior Constable Gulland said that in his opinion, all of the resources that he required to conduct the search were made available to him.

42. Having carefully considered all of the available evidence in this case, I am satisfied that every effort was made to locate Mr Rae as soon as police became aware that he was missing. POLICE INVESTIGATION Enquiries by Police

43. Police conducted an extensive investigation into Mr Rae’s disappearance. Enquiries with various State agencies (including missing persons units) and Commonwealth agencies including Centrelink and Medicare proved fruitless.

44. The last transaction on Mr Rae’s Members Equity bank account occurred on 7 July 2019, and there were no transactions on any of his other bank accounts after his disappearance. Police enquiries identified that no social media posts were made by Mr Rae after his disappearance.

45. Detectives based at Esperance interviewed Mr White and concluded that no criminality was involved in Mr Rae’s disappearance. There have been no sightings of Mr Rae, nor has there been any contact from him, since he went missing on 7 July 2019. Conclusion reached by police investigator

46. At the conclusion of his investigation, it was Senior Constable Gulland who expressed the opinion that Mr Rae had fallen from rocks at Shelley Beach into the ocean whilst fishing, and subsequently drowned. I note that members of Mr Rae’s family reached the same conclusion.


47. In my view, the evidence establishes beyond all reasonable doubt, that Mr Rae died on or about 7 July 2019 in the vicinity of Shelley Beach, Coomalbidgup.

48. In reaching that conclusion, I have had regard to the following facts, established by the evidence: i. Mr Rae and Mr White went fishing at Shelley Beach at about 9.40 am on 7 July 2019; ii. Mr Rae told Mr White he was going to fish from some rocks at Shelley Beach; iii. When Mr Rae went to fish from rocks at Shelley Beach, there was a swell of two to three metres and the rocks in the area where Mr Rae was fishing were extremely slippery and treacherous; iv. Mr Rae was not wearing a lifejacket and was considered to be a poor swimmer; v. about 10 minutes after Mr Rae had started fishing from rocks at Shelley Beach, Mr White went to check on him, but found no trace; vi. a survival expert considered that Mr Rae’s timeframe for survival after entering the water, was a maximum of 6 hours. However, the survival expert considered that there was a high probability that Mr Rae had died within a few minutes of entering the water; vii. an extensive land and sea search over a ten-day period failed to find any trace of him; and viii. since 7 July 2019, there have been no sightings of Mr Rae, and no contact of any kind from him, since that date.


49. After carefully considering the available evidence, I have concluded that Mr Rae was swept from rocks whilst fishing at Shelley Beach, Coomalbidgup, and that he subsequently died in the ocean from immersion (drowning).

50. It is the case that Mr Rae had experienced mental health issues and had been variously diagnosed with: anxiety, depression, bipolar affective disorder and mixed affective disorder. He had also experienced periods of suicidal ideation and been prescribed anti-depressants and mood stabilising medication.

51. However, a visiting psychiatrist who assessed Mr Rae on 15 January 2019, found he had no psychiatric illnesses and did not require medication and Mr Rae was discharged from the community mental health service that had been supervising his care on 12 February 2019.

52. Mr Rae’s mood in the six-month period prior to his death was described as “really good”  and he appeared to be happy and in good spirits on 7 July 2019.  In the absence of any evidence that he intended to take his life, I find that Mr Rae’s death occurred by way of accident.


53. Mr Rae was 25-years of age when he went missing whilst fishing from rocks at Shelley Beach near Coomalbidgup. In my view, the evidence in this case leads to the inescapable conclusion that he died on 7 July 2019 from immersion (drowning), after being swept into the ocean.

54. Once again, this case highlights the dangers of fishing from rocks without a life jacket or a harness tethered to a strongpoint. I would urge all those contemplating fishing from shoreline rocks in Western Australian to ensure they take appropriate precautions before doing so.

MAG Jenkin

Coroner 14 May 2020 


Search for missing WA fisherman called off

The search for a missing 25-year-old rock fisherman who disappeared off Western Australia's rugged southern coast has been called off.

Thomas Dominic Rae was reported missing on July 7 by a friend who had left him momentarily at Warrenup Beach in Dalyup, near Esperance.

After an extensive land and marine search, police said on Thursday the search would be suspended pending new information.

Mr Rae's family described him as a happy and joyful young man who loved sport and outdoor activities, and whose cheer was welcomed by shoppers at the supermarket where he worked.

"Tom had an ability to connect and positively impact many among the public, and our family has been touched by the overwhelming support that we have received from the Esperance community over the last week," his father said.

"Like any family, we are devastated by the loss of a child and sibling.

"We are still grieving and trying to come to terms with what has happened to Thomas."

Police say it is believed he fell from rocks into the ocean.