More than 14 years since gay Wollongong newsreader Ross Warren disappeared from a Tamarama park, his death is finally on the record.
Warren is one of the subjects of a coronial inquest into the deaths of three gay men in Sydney’s eastern suburbs in the 1980s. This week, the final statements were made, and senior deputy state coroner Jacqueline Milledge retired to write her recommendations -“ promising there would be many.
But before she finished, she had some comforting words for the family of Ross Warren. Although she would not hand down her final rulings on his death until later this year, she believed there was enough evidence to confirm he was dead, and no longer a missing person.
Milledge also had some unofficial words for the family of John Russell, a 31-year-old gay man whose body was found at the bottom of a Tamarama cliff a few months after Warren’s disappearance.
When Russell was found, his body was in an unusual position for someone who had accidentally fallen from a cliff. At least four hairs -“ not his -“ were clutched in his hand, as though they had been pulled out. Russell had received news he would receive a large inheritance and had been out celebrating with friends the night of his death.
Milledge told Russell’s father and brother, who had endured the months of inquest evidence with humour and good grace, she believed there was sufficient evidence to rule out Russell’s death had been due to suicide or an accident.
The Coroner’s Court has heard months of evidence following a two-year police investigation into gay-hate-related violence, and the deaths or disappearances of Warren, Russell and French national Gilles Mattaini during the late 1980s.
Statements have come from convicted murderers of gay men, the police and victims of gay bashings.
The second to last person to give evidence during the inquest was former Bligh candidate Gary Burns. Approximately 90 police statements relating to Burns’s dealings with NSW police were presented by Patrick Saidi, representing the police service.
Saidi tried to have all of Burns’s evidence dismissed, suggesting he was a vexatious complainant, who regularly made unreasonable claims about police officers.
The statements tendered by Saidi, including claims Burns had presented himself as a member of parliament and a friend of the police commissioner to young police officers, had little to do with the subject of the inquest, Milledge ruled.
Burns told the court he regularly attended beats to warn people about their dangers. Burns had also recently informed a Bankstown newspaper about a gay beat in the area.
The inquest was adjourned.