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Shooting death of Jeffrey Brooks in 1996 at south-east Queensland crayfish farm referred to DPP – ABC News

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Shooting death of Jeffrey Brooks in 1996 at south-east Queensland crayfish farm referred to DPP
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The death of a marine biologist 27 years ago will be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions by a coroner who found "reasonable suspicion" a crayfish farm manager and his wife were involved.
Jeffrey Brooks died after being shot in the chest by a 12-gauge single-barrel shotgun at a Beenleigh crayfish farm in March 1996.
Police initially said the Lismore man had shot himself accidentally when reaching for the weapon.
A 1998 coronial inquest into Mr Brooks' death handed down an open finding, meaning suspicious circumstances could not be ruled out.
The inquest was reopened in 2018, shortly after a podcast probing the 24-year old's death aired.
On Tuesday, Coroner Donald MacKenzie found there was "sufficient information" to find a "reasonable suspicion" Johannes Geiger and his wife Regine Kidellerup "were involved in the killing".
However, he noted he was not making the finding the pair were guilty of a criminal offence and made the finding Mr Brooks died either by accidental discharge of the shotgun, or by person or persons unknown.
"There is evidence of statements by the deceased concerned for his life, motive, aggressive behaviour 24 hours before the shooting, opportunity and post offence behaviour that potentially incriminates them both."
"In accordance with section 48 of the Coroners Act, I have referred the brief of evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on this basis."
He also absolved farm hand Graham Lloyd, who discovered Mr Brooks body and contacted authorities, of any involvement. 
"I do not hold a reasonable suspicion that Mr Lloyd was involved," he said.
"In particular his behaviour immediately after discovering the deceased's body is consistent with innocence and he presented as an honest witness."
There were gasps and tears from the Brooks family and their supporters as the findings were read.
Mr Brooks' family have always maintained the marine biologist was murdered and made a complaint to the Crime and Corruption Commission over the handling of the case.
But Mr MacKenzie found the investigation was "adequate". 
"In relation to the Brooks family's assertion that the Queensland Police Service preliminary investigation into this death was flawed, I reject that submission," he said.
"The investigation was not perfect, but it was adequate.
"I do not accept the investigating police, particularly the lead detective, now-retired Mr Michael Condon, closed his mind to this death being a homicide.
"Subsequent independent reviews confirmed the investigation was thorough and satisfactory."
He said he would understand if the family were frustrated by his findings. 
"I imagine that Mr and Mrs Brooks are disappointed that this inquest did not uncover any further critical evidence to support their theory behind the loss of their beloved son," he said.
"The effluxion of time, some 26 years, has dulled memories and in some cases relevant witnesses are no longer available to testify.
"However, I can assure them that every avenue of inquiry was pursued.
"I pass on the condolences of this court for their loss of a fine young man taken too soon."
Speaking outside the court, Brooks' family welcomed the decision to refer the matter to the DPP.
"We are very happy that Coroner MacKenzie has referred the brief of evidence to the DPP for further investigation, it's something we'd really hoped for," Lawrence Brooks, Jeffrey's father, said.
"Jeffrey's death changed our close-knit family forever and although we have endeavoured to get on with our lives, they'll never be the same this side of eternity," Wendy Brooks, Jeffrey's mother, said.
"Jeffrey is not just part of our past. He's also part of our future."
But Mr Brooks did not accept that the police investigation had been adequate.
"We can say that after working hard for 27 years to try and justice for Jeffrey we are extremely upset that once again Mr Condon has been given a pat on the back for doing a sound and adequate investigation in the Jeffrey's death," he said.
The Brooks family had been particularly critical of the police decision to destroy the gun used in the shooting, after the 1998 inquest into his death.
But Mr MacKenzie rejected this criticism.
"It [the gun] was dangerous, had been tested and there was no further investigation known to police at the time."
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He further rejected the findings of a private investigation commissioned by Mr Brooks' employers, Sailrate, into his death.
"The report was unbalanced, and client-focused and almost completely ignored the possibility of a firearm mishandling accident," he said.
"The directors of Sailrite had everything to gain from the matter being a homicide.
"They were clearly exposed to a work health and safety prosecution, a common lawsuit by the deceased's wife and others, or increased work cover payments if it was found an employee, the deceased, died from the misfire of a known to be clearly dangerous firearm provided by his employer."
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