The prime suspect in the murder of a man whose decomposing body was found in a makeshift coffin in bushland at Mount Ousley in August 2009 is most likely dead, according to a coroner.
The inquest into the death of Chinese national Jun Chen concluded yesterday, with Deputy State Coroner Geraldine Beattie finding that Mr Chen had been stabbed to death in a North Sydney karaoke bar in the early hours of March 2, 2009.
The man whom police believe to be responsible for his death, Sydney-based solicitor Gary Gold, fled to Hong Kong on March 9 that year, five days after friends told authorities that Mr Chen was missing.
Mr Gold subsequently changed his name to James Wu and a man by that name was found dead just under two months later.
Despite Mr Chen’s family’s belief that Mr Gold faked his own death to evade police, Coroner Beattie accepted that ‘‘on the balance of probability’’ the 37-year-old lawyer was dead.
‘‘The person identified as Gary Gold was found deceased on May 2, 2009. The coroner in Hong Kong found he died of natural causes,’’ she said.
Coroner Beattie rejected suggestions by lawyers representing Mr Chen’s parents, De Liang Chen and Mei Ying Xue, that police could have done more to stop Mr Gold leaving the country.
Stephen Wilkinson, of Lloyd Truman Sadiq Solicitors, said police had been told by Mr Chen’s friends that he had been going to see Mr Gold on the night he disappeared to discuss the whereabouts of $375,000 he had entrusted the lawyer to make an investment on behalf of his family in China.
Police later discovered Mr Gold had lost the bulk of that money in a one-night gambling spree at Star City casino.
Mr Wilkinson said that on March 5, 2009, police had been given the address of the karaoke bar where the pair were supposed to be meeting that night, but a search warrant had not been executed until April 8.
That crime scene examination uncovered blood stains on the carpet and wall tiles, and a blood analysis had shown it to be consistent with it being from the offspring of the parents of the deceased.
Mr Wilkinson suggested police should have made inquiries with travel companies to see if Mr Gold had made any ticket purchases, and airport authorities should have been alerted.
However, the counsel assisting the coroner, Daniel Maddocks, said the police response was appropriate.
‘‘We’ve heard evidence that the name Gary Gold did pop up relatively quickly in the investigation but no doubt there were lots of names being thrown at police,’’ he said.
‘‘...There wasn’t enough evidence on March 9 to hold Gary Gold within the jurisdiction of NSW.’’
Coroner Beattie agreed: ‘‘The police investigation quickly escalated from local police to detectives to the specialist Asian Crime Squad. It appears to have been an extensive investigation.’’
Commander of the Asian Crime Squad, Detective Superintendent Scott Cook said any new evidence would be investigated thoroughly.
‘‘The investigation is complete subject to any more evidence coming to light,’’ he said. ‘‘Based on evidence we have so far, we are satisfied with the finding of the coroner.’’
Mr Chen’s parents also said they were ‘‘comfortable’’ with the findings and were pleased that the investigation would be reopened if new evidence was uncovered.
‘‘It is the biggest grief in my life to lose a child like this,’’ his father said.