A marine mechanic who disappeared in Exmouth three years ago most likely drowned after taking a work dinghy into open waters, a coronial inquest was told today.
A brief inquest was held today into the suspected death of 30-year-old Jake Preston Bearup, who worked for the Exmouth Fishing Company and is believed to have been lost at sea, not having been seen since January 10, 2010.
His employer reported him missing after he failed to pick up two fellow workers on January 11.
They found his company ute at the marina and a 4.5m dinghy missing. During a three-day search, the vessel was found upturned in open waters but no other trace of Mr Bearup was found.
Counsel assisting the coroner Lyle Housiaux said Mr Bearup, originally from NSW, was last seen buying a bottle of vodka from a local tavern on January 10, 2010 and neighbours heard loud music from his house until about 9pm.
Constable Samantha Kenny told the inquest there had been no activity on Mr Bearup's phone or bank accounts since he disappeared. She said Medicare, Centrelink, immigration and travel enquiries turned up no clues.
She said Mr Bearup's mother and girlfriend, who lived in Canada at the time, believed he was in good spirits leading up to his disappearance and his friends noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Const Kenny said it appeared Mr Bearup, who was fit and healthy and experienced on the water, enjoyed his job but was lonely in Exmouth without his girlfriend.
She said Mr Bearup's mother believed he had an alcohol problem. A vodka bottle, the same type he bought the day before, was found half empty on his kitchen bench.
The dinghy is only designed for use in calm waters and the fuel tank was found separately in the water from the dinghy.
Const Kenny said the most likely scenario was that sometime during the night on January 10 or the early morning hours of January 11, Mr Bearup took the tender vessel out into open water and perished at sea.
Coroner Barry King reserved his decision.