WA coroner handed Josh Warneke death file

Michael Ramsey
·2-min read

Western Australia's state coroner has been handed a report into the suspected murder of Josh Warneke following a fresh police investigation.

The 21-year-old tradesman was found dead on the side of the road after a night out in Broome, in the state's north, in 2010.

Gene Gibson, a cognitively-impaired Aboriginal man from a remote desert community who spoke little English and was unable to understand the legal process, was wrongly convicted of causing his death and spent almost five years in jail.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter after a series of flawed police interviews were deemed inadmissible, leading prosecutors to drop a murder charge.

Mr Gibson walked free in 2017 after appealing the conviction and was paid $1.5 million in compensation by the state government.

Police launched a fresh investigation into Mr Warneke's death, re-interviewing witnesses and offering a $250,000 reward for information.

In a brief statement on Friday, WA Police said it had provided its report into his death to the state coroner. It said the investigation continued to be managed by the special crime division.

Mr Warneke's mother last year called for a coronial inquest, saying she believed it was the only way she would learn what happened to her son.

A leaked report last year revealed police were investigating whether Mr Warneke may have been hit by a car, rather than struck by a weapon as was originally suspected.

Mr Warneke was seen about 2.45am walking along an intersection towards Roebuck Estate where he lived. His body was spotted on the side of the road by a taxi driver minutes later.

WA's corruption watchdog in 2018 revealed WA Police had not implemented two key recommendations stemming from the case about interacting with Aboriginal people.

An earlier CCC report found there had been systemic failures by WA Police in their handling of the original investigation.