Kyle Coleman was shot by his best friend, his body and belongings were burnt by the side of a farm and lies were told to police by his killer, before he himself committed suicide instead of confessing. James Coleman (no relation) took his own life four days after his friend Kyle, 17, disappeared from a hunting trip to Undilla station in Camooweal, west of Mount Isa, Queensland in 2014.
Findings handed down on Friday by Coroner Jane Bentley revealed that Kyle’s death was the result of a ‘discharge from a firearm’ by his friend of ten years, according to a court
Ms Bentley concluded that Kyle likely never left the station and his burnt remains were likely eaten by animals.
She said: ‘I find that Kyle died at or near the fire site and his body was left on Undilla Station and his remains have since been moved and/or disposed of by animals.
‘After Kyle died James burnt Kyle’s belongings including his swag and his backpack which contained his watch and his time sheet book.
James, who had been ‘very good friends’ with Kyle for over a decade, was found to have accidentally shot his friend, while the pair were likely intoxicated. ‘I find that he was killed by James Coleman and his death was as a result of the discharge of a firearm by James Coleman,’ said Ms Bentley.
‘James shot Kyle with a Mossberg bolt-action shotgun. I find that both Kyle and James were intoxicated at the time of the shooting.
‘Kyle and James were very good friends when they left Mount Isa to go camping on 21 February 2014. There is no evidence of any falling out or animosity between the two,’ she added.
A look into the investigation conducted by Detective Senior Constable Megan Johnston showed that it had been ‘thorough’ but had been ‘hampered’ by James, who provided ‘false information’. Ms Bentley said: ‘Police officers investigating the disappearance of Kyle Coleman acted appropriately and in the course of a proper investigation.
‘James Coleman was deliberately untruthful when he said that he and Kyle had returned to Mount Isa together.
‘None of their actions could be said to have contributed to the death of James Coleman.’
The Coroner concluded that James committed suicide rather than admitting to what had happened. The inquest started early April found that James had told police his friend had returned to Mount Isa with him a day earlier than planned.
Detective Senior Constable Megan Johnston told the inquest his version of events were ‘impossible’.
She said: ‘I would say it was impossible, if you compare the time frame that it took for me to conduct the drive around up to Undilla and return with James … (it’s) completely impossible.’
The detective agreed with barrister Dennis Lynch when he said James’ story was ‘riddled with lies’ and says the timeline suggests Kyle never returned to town from the station. The inquest heard from Kyle’s father, Robert Coleman, who believes his son Kyle was killed by his best friend James and then disposed of in a burn pit.
But James’ girlfriend at the time, Toni-Lee Sabin has told the inquest she believes her then-boyfriend’s version of events because he stuck to the ‘same story’ until his death.
‘I don’t believe James would walk up to someone and shoot someone,’ she said.
Both Mr Lynch and counsel assisting the coroner Stephanie Williams agreed Kyle never came home from the hunting trip. After the 17-year-old vanished, a massive search spanning thousands of kilometres around the cattle station and Mount Isa took place.
The burn pit where some of Kyle’s belongings were found contained remains of a watch, parts of a swag, a timesheet book and bullet casings which Kyle’s father believes belonged to him.
‘It was a watch we bought him the previous year — as a family, as a dad, I know it’s his stuff,’ Mr Coleman said.