The West Australian coroner has found that a 20-year-old woman missing for more than 12 years was a victim of a homicide, but has refused to rule on whether a suspect in the case was involved in the crime.
Sarah Anne McMahon disappeared on November 8, 2000 after telling a colleague she was meeting a friend at 5.30pm and then failing to pick up her sister at 8.30pm that evening.
Donald Victor Morey, 57, has long been considered a suspect in her disappearance and was the last person to speak to Ms McMahon before she disappeared.
After the initial police investigation drew a blank, a further investigation was launched after Morey was convicted of the attempted murder of a Perth prostitute in 2004 and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
He had also been a person of interest in the death of another prostitute the previous year.
However, police were again unable to substantiate enough evidence against Morey, who has consistently denied any involvement in Ms McMahon's disappearance.
A cold case review of both investigations was launched last year and Morey said he was still in contact with Ms McMahon, who he claimed was living in Canada with her two children.
Coroner Alastair Hope said on Thursday that because Ms McMahon had not contacted her loved ones in more than 12 years, he was confident she was dead.
"The circumstances in which Ms McMahon disappeared are sinister and I have confidently been able to exclude the possibility that she died by way of natural causes, accident or suicide," he said.
"In my view, the evidence points overwhelmingly to the proposition that she died by way of unlawful homicide."
Mr Hope said there was no evidence that Ms McMahon left the country and there were no records held in Medicare, Centrelink, the Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or her bank that would suggest that she was alive in Australia after that time.
A key piece of evidence examined at the inquest was a statement from Natasha Tracy-Ann Kendrick, dated November 11, 2011.
In her statement, Ms Kendrick said she walked into Morey's room and saw a bloodied naked girl on the bed with an "old fashioned rope" around her neck.
Ms Kendrick claimed that she later saw Morey carrying "something wrapped in a quilt over his left shoulder" and said she knew it was McMahon's body.
However, Mr Hope noted that police were unable to find evidence to corroborate her account.
He said there was also evidence capable of supporting a conclusion that Morey lied to police about his movements on November 8, 2000 and falsified documents to support those lies.
"It is always possible that some further evidence may come to light which could result in criminal charges being laid at some later date," he said.
"In that context, I do not propose to make any finding in relation to Mr Morey's involvement."
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