Piecing Together The Mystery Of The Dead Man No One Can Identify
In the modern era of CCTV, digital tracking and incredible police forensics, why can no-one solve the mystery of the dead man found beside a Sydney street?
When someone dies, it's the role of the Coroner to answer four key questions: When, where, how and who?
Usually the "who" is the easy part.
But not in the case of the middle-aged man with a royal blue checked shirt, cream cargo pants, black slippers and socks found dead at the back of a unit block in Campsie, in Sydney's south-west earlier this year.
It was 6.35am on April 11. A person walking down the street noticed the man's body near a fence at the rear of the complex on the corner of Beamish and Fletcher Streets.
He'd been dead for some hours. Several signs pointed to suicide.
But who was he?
He appeared to be aged between 50 and 70. He was of Asian appearance. He had no mobile phone, no driver's licence, and no documents on him.
Just an Opal, the card used to ride Sydney's public transport system.
But the card was prepaid and had no bank or personal details attached to it.
It had only been used the three days prior to the man's death, and each trip started or finished at a spot known as "Dan's Corner", which is only two buildings from where the man's body was found.
At the morgue, staff took fingerprint impressions and DNA samples from the dead man to compare to NSW and national databases. No matches were found.
Coroner Les Mabbutt conducted an inquest into the man's death.
"The deceased is somebody’s son, possibly somebody’s sibling and perhaps somebody’s father."
"Tragically, there is a possibility he has a family in Australia or overseas who do not know what has become of him," Magistrate Mabbutt said in his findings.
But how can a man just exist without there being any record of him, or anyone to report him missing?
Police door-knocked the streets close to where the body was found without success.
Officers couldn't find anyone who knew someone matching the dead man's description. There were no matches either in the Missing Persons database.
The Coroner's findings also reveal police went on the hunt for security video.
"Police were not able to locate any CCTV camera footage that showed the area where the deceased was found."
"Subsequent inquiries to obtain footage consistent with the use of the Opal card did not result in the recovery of any footage of the deceased person."
Investigators sent out media releases to Chinese news outlets in Sydney, asking for information. Not one helpful call was received.
They even gave consideration to releasing a photo of the dead man. But the only image available was a crime scene picture.
Magistrate Mabbutt agreed that would not have been an appropriate move.
The NSW Coroner's Court and morgue, in Glebe. Photo: Google Maps
Investigating police told the Coroner they suspect the man may have been an "unlawful non-citizen", and explained "there are many share houses and boarding houses in the area where 'unlawful non-citizens' may reside."
If that was the case, they reason, then accessing health care and other community support may have been difficult, and might explain why he did not have ID on him and why he wasn't reported missing.
Another theory is that he was estranged from his family who reside somewhere in Australia.
But Magistrate Mabbutt said he couldn't make a finding either way.
"It can only be hoped that information may come to light in the future that may assist in identifying the deceased and reuniting him with those who knew him."
Campsie Police can be contacted on (02) 9784 9399
If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.