Family of Andrew Russell feel "let down" by judicial system

THE family of missing Bathurst man Andrew Russell have been dealt a devastating blow after an inquest has been unable to determine the manner and cause of his death.

Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame handed down her findings on Thursday, saying Mr Russell died on or shortly after June 2, 2009.

Ms Grahame found while it was likely Mr Russell died in the Bathurst / Sofala area, she was unable to determine the exact place of his death.

And while she found the death was suspicious, the manner and medical cause of Mr Russell’s death have not been not established.

The findings have gutted Mr Russell’s father Bruce Herbert and step-mother Suzanne Wallace who said they were disappointed with the result.

“We’re not happy, we know who murdered Andrew and he should be held accountable,” Ms Wallace said. “It’s so unfair.”

Mr Herbert said he felt “let down” by the judicial system, saying he “didn’t need a judge to tell him who killed his son.”

“I know who did it,” Mr Herbert said.

The coroner’s finding was another blow for the family after the man accused of Mr Russell’s murder, Tony Simmons, was last year acquitted after a judge-only trial before Justice Peter Hamill.

In handing down that decision, Justice Hamill said the evidence he heard during the trial caused him to have “grave suspicions” that Simmons had killed Mr Russell.

However, the timing of the events and the possibility Simmons was big-noting himself to undercover police officers provided substantial and reasonable doubt.

For these reasons, Simmons was found not guilty.

Mr Russell’s parents had hoped the inquest into his death might provide some answers but those hopes, too, have now been dashed.

In making her decision, Ms Grahame noted the elaborate covert police operation that saw Simmons make a number of admissions and even attempt to show undercover operatives where he had disposed of Mr Russell’s body.

She also noted that the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Sergeant Joel Fawkner, gave additional evidence that despite the court’s verdict, he believed Andrew Russell had been killed by Tony Simmons with the assistance of Keiran Moore.

However, after reviewing the evidence before her, Ms Grahame said  she had formed her own opinion that Simmons’ admissions were too unreliable for a firm finding in this jurisdiction.

Ms Grahame also acknowledged “the pain Andrew’s family must feel when his death is clearly suspicious, yet no one has been convicted”.

She recommended Mr Russell’s death be referred to the Unsolved Homicide Unit, which will ensure the matter will be reviewed again over the coming years.