Thomas Dominic RAE
Family heartbreak as search for Thomas Rae suspended
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
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
The family said the Esperance community had helped ease the burden over the past
“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
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
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
ACT : CORONERS ACT 1996
CORONER : MICHAEL ANDREW GLIDDON JENKIN
HEARD : 7 MAY 2020
DELIVERED : 14 MAY 2020
FILE NO/S : CORC 1310 of 2019
DECEASED : RAE, THOMAS DOMINIC
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
HAS DEATH BEEN ESTABLISHED?
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.
CAUSE AND MANNER OF DEATH
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.
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
Police say it is believed he fell from rocks into the ocean.