Kimberley "Kim" Dale SMITH

Missing man's parents thank community




Record of Investigation into Death (Without Inquest) Coroners Act 1995 Coroners Rules 2006 Rule 11

I, Simon Cooper, Coroner, having investigated the suspected death of Kimberley Dale Smith Find That: (a) The identity of the deceased is Kimberly Dale Smith; (b) Mr Smith died in the circumstances set out in this finding; (c) The most likely cause of Mr Smith’s death was drowning; (d) Mr Smith died on 15 July 2012 near Heybridge in Tasmania; and (e) Mr Smith was born in Western Australia on 26 June 1975 and was aged 37 years; and was a single man whose occupation at the date of death was an unemployed marine biologist. Background: Kimberley Dale Smith was born in Western Australia on 26 June 1975 and was 37 years of age at the time of his death. He was by profession a marine biologist having graduated with honours in that discipline from the University of Western Australia aged about 23 and subsequently completing a Ph.D. Mr Smith studied at the University of Tasmania in 2011 undertaking a graduate certificate of business. He worked at the Tahune Airwalk in Southern Tasmania for a short period, but reportedly resigned due to a disagreement with other employees over his management approach. He also travelled to, and worked in, Mexico.

Mr Smith’s father describes him as having grown up “around boats including powerboats, sailing boats and dinghies”. Mr Smith senior said his son learnt to swim at a young age and was a strong swimmer with a lot of experience of boats and no fear of the water. Mr Smith first came to Tasmania in about 2002. He owned a property at George Street, Chasm Creek in Tasmania and a second property a short distance away at Heybridge on the Blythe River. His mother says that between 2002 and 2012 Mr Smith lived in both houses and often rented out each. At the time of his death he was living at the Chasm Creek property.

Medical records obtained as part of the police investigation in relation to Mr Smith’s disappearance indicate he was prescribed medication for depression between July 2010 and July 2012. During the same period he also attended consultations with a psychiatrist and for a psychological assessment. Two witnesses spoken to as part of the investigation told police that Mr Smith had spoken of suicide on more than one occasion. The same witnesses described Mr Smith smoking cannabis and consuming significant amounts of alcohol regularly. Mr Smith had a good relationship with his parents but seems to have lived a somewhat reclusive life. He does not appear to have been in a relationship at the time of his disappearance.

Circumstances Surrounding the Death:

Not far from his home at Chasm Creek a dilapidated dinghy washed ashore on a rocky outcrop. Mr Smith indicated to several acquaintances, all of whom subsequently made statements to police investigators, that he wished to attempt to retrieve the dinghy, apparently with a view to restoring it. Mr Smith’s mother, in her affidavit to investigators, described an incident when she was visiting Mr Smith and they both went on a walk. During that walk Mr Smith showed his mother the dinghy washed up on a rocky beach on the shore. Mr Smith took two large floats and some ropes and tried to lash the floats to the dinghy and drag it to the waterline. The attempt was unsuccessful and Mr Smith’s mother reports the dinghy sank in the shallows. She expressed the view that it seemed to be Mr Smith’s intention to float it and drag it through the shallow water back to Blythe Heads near his home. It was apparently also Mr Smith’s ultimate intention to put the dinghy in his garden as a feature with plants in it. Mr Smith’s mother said that he seemed very determined to get the dinghy.

At 1.45pm on 15 July 2012 Tasmania Police were contacted by Ms Jennifer Boatwright, an acquaintance and neighbour of Mr Smith’s, with concerns about his welfare. Ms Boatwright told police that Mr Smith had last been seen in his dinghy around midnight the night before (that is to say, 14 July 2012) on the Blythe River. Another witness spoken to by police, Reinhard Heidenreich, also an acquaintance and neighbour of Mr Smith, confirmed that he had seen and spoken to Mr Smith in his dinghy on the river around midnight the night before. Uniform police immediately conducted searches of the immediate river area at Blythe Heads and its shoreline. Foot searches were conducted at the Heybridge boat ramp and shore area. Searchers located a vehicle and boat trailer belonging to Mr Smith at 40 Crown Circuit Road, near the boat ramp on that property’s front lawn. Various enquiries were continued in the area to try and locate Mr Smith. When these enquiries proved fruitless marine police were notified and tasked to assist in relation to the search.

Mr Smith’s residence at Chasm Creek was entered by police. It was noted to be externally secure. A small quantity of cannabis was located on the kitchen bench and a large candle was located on the hearth of the lounge room wood heater. The candle was extinguished by police. Nothing causing any suspicion was identified and nothing located which suggests any intention on the part of Mr Smith not to return. Foot searches were also continued on the shoreline of Chasm Creek. The area where the dilapidated dinghy was believed to have been located (and later confirmed to be the site) was identified because drag marks were evident through pebbles on the beach and paint marks were located on rocks. However the dinghy itself was not there. An officer from Forensics Services attended that area and photographed the scene at about 10.00pm. SES members joined the foot search at about this time.

The next morning, 16 July 2012, searching recommenced. The search involved uniform police, SES volunteers, as well as the Tamar sea rescue helicopter crew and boat crews. Extensive land and sea searches were then conducted throughout the rest of the day with numerous SES police and civilian vessels conducting the searches. The sea search was extended to the waters of Bass Straight. Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft were also involved. At around 11.00am on 16 July the police rescue helicopter located what was thought to be an orange lifejacket floating in the water. At 12.15pm a police vessel was deployed to the area where the orange lifejacket had been seen. Although unable to locate the orange lifejacket crew members located and retrieved a black lifejacket with the name “Lori’ painted on the back of it. The significance of this is that during a trip to Mexico in 2009 Mr Smith had apparently attempted to start a boat charter business. The business was unsuccessful and Mr Smith brought various items back to Tasmania from that unsuccessful venture. Those items included lifejackets which bore the name “Lori”. An oar was located floating in the water near the lifejacket. Around this time the water temperature in the general search area was measured as being 13.3 degrees Celsius. In such conditions a person immersed had little or no hope of survival for more than a few hours.

Searching continued on 17 July 2012. During 17 July an orange lifejacket, possibly the same one that had been seen from the police rescue helicopter the previous day, was located on the shore at the eastern end of Bakers Beach, over 50km away. During the same day Mr Smith’s parents arrived. They stayed at Mr Smith’s residence at Chasm Creek. A number of items belonging to him were found by them including his wallet and passport – items which again support the conclusion that he had no intention to stay away from his property. Searching continued until a decision was made on 20 July 2012 to suspend it. The searching involved members of the police dive squad searching the areas of Blythe River, the Blythe River mouth, and the beach off the mouth of the river. The decision to suspend the search on 20 July 2012 was influenced in part by worsening weather conditions. It was also by then certain that if Mr Smith had entered the water there was no hope that he could by then possibly be alive. The decision to suspend the search was in my view entirely appropriate. It did not mean the end of all search efforts - further aerial searching was conducted after weather conditions improved and parts of islands in the Furneaux Group were searched by local SES members. Sadly no trace of Mr Smith was ever found.

Subsequent investigation carried out into Mr Smith’s disappearance showed neither his mobile telephone nor his Commonwealth Bank account were used after he was last seen alive. Checks were made with airlines and the TT line. No record of any booking on airlines or the TT line after Mr Smith’s disappearance was found. Immigration checks indicate that there is no evidence that Mr Smith has left the country (it is also noted that his passport was located at his home). No member of Mr Smith’s family has heard from him since his disappearance. At my request, enquiries were made by police investigators with Centrelink, Medicare, all State and Territory police information bureaus, interstate and local correctional facilities, and hospitals. No trace of Mr Smith has been able to be found as a result of those enquiries.

In all of the circumstances I am satisfied that Kimberley Dale Smith is dead. I am satisfied that he likely died shortly after midnight on 15 July 2012 in the waters at or near Blythe River on the North West Coast of Tasmania. I cannot say whether his death was due to drowning or hypothermia or some other cause. I cannot say, although I consider it highly unlikely, that any other person contributed to the cause of Mr Smith’s death. Although there is a medical history of treatment for depression there is no evidence that would allow me to be satisfied that Mr Smith’s disappearance and death was a deliberate act on his part to end his own life. It seems to me that it is most likely he met his death by accident when attempting to retrieve the dilapidated dinghy he had pointed out to acquaintances and his mother in the period leading up to his death.

Comments and Recommendations: Because I cannot reach an affirmative view as to the cause of Mr Kimberley Dale Smith’s death I am not in a position to make any recommendations or comments pursuant to section 28 of the Coroners Act 1995.

In conclusion I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the family of Mr Smith.

Dated: 1 July 2015

at Hobart in the state of Tasmania

Simon Cooper


Parents confident missing man made it to land

JULY 19 2012

THE parents of missing Chasm Creek man Kim Smith are confident their son has made it to land and will be found.

Dale and Kathy Smith arrived in Tasmania from Western Australia on Monday night.


Police divers yesterday searched the water between the Blythe River, where the 37-year-old was last seen about midnight on Saturday, and Titan Point.


"We hope we see him soon,'' Mr Smith said.

Mr and Mrs Smith spoke with The Advocate yesterday, saying they were humbled by all who had so far assisted in the search for their son and the generosity of the people Kim came to know and love.

"Our son Kim is a fine man who has grown up with a passion for the water. He has developed a deep love for both your island and its people,'' Mr Smith said.

"The community support that has been given to my wife and myself, while our much-loved son, Kimberly, remains missing is overwhelming.''


Mr Smith said his son had been in Tasmania on and off for the past decade, combining his time on the Coast with Western Australia, overseas travel and


"He's a very fit guy,'' Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith said his son, a marine biologist and PhD graduate, studied deep water sea crabs in Western Australia, a bi-catch of the cray fishing industry.

"He wanted to know if deep sea crab fishing could be viable in its own right,'' Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith said for a time his son operated a tourist boat business in Mexico.

"The local operators didn't like that very much. His apartment kept getting broken into and things kept getting stolen. Kathy went over there to help him pack up,'' he said.

Mr Smith sent life jackets from Mexico to his father in Western Australia when the business finished up.

On the back was written Il Lori and police found life jackets on Monday and Tuesday matching those sent to Mr Smith.

"They don't have a code on them, so I said to Kathy they're no good here. They ended up back here (in Tasmania),'' he said.

Mr and Mrs Smith spent three weeks with their son in Tasmania for his birthday, only leaving the state last Friday.

"We got a bit of bad news with the life jacket on Monday and Kathy booked some flights,'' Mr Smith said.

"It's was hard to come back so soon.''

In Mr Smith's spare time he had volunteered with Produce to the People, assisting to deliver vegetables to those in need and was fixing up his Chasm Creek home, completing a rock wall and planting a garden of spring bulbs.

"If you ask him I think he'd like to be known for that, rather than being the first Smith to get a PhD,'' Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith said his son made friends where ever he went and they had been inundated with phone calls of support from across the world, but the support on the Coast had the most profound effect.

He thanked Burnie police Inspector Kim Steven and his team for their assistance and paid tribute to Surf Life Saving Tasmania, volunteers and staff of State Emergency Services, together with the volunteers' employers who allowed them time off.

Mr Smith also made mention of the Parks and Wildlife Service, Maritime Safety Authority, including aircraft and crew, the various Tasmanian media organisations, Westpac helicopter and crew and the many members of the

Coastal community.

"They're wonderful people the Tasmanian people,'' Mr Smith said.

From the captain who helped Mr Smith find his mobile phone, lost on the plane shortly after landing in Burnie, to the taxi driver who switched the meter off when he realised who his passengers were, Mr Smith said he has been humbled.

"We've had volunteers climbing over rocks, eight people hanging out of a helicopter. It's been very humbling,'' he said.

"We went to the police station on Monday night when we arrived. The inspector came out and said you'll need this to get you going in the morning. In his hand was a pint of milk,'' Mr Smith said.

"Kathy and I are extremely grateful for the skill, dedication and caring shown by many groups and individuals. We have appreciated the privacy extended to us since our return to Tasmania,'' he said.

"My wife and I are confident that our son has made it to land and will soon be found.''


Missing man's parents thank community

JULY 19 2012  the Examiner

Police divers are continuing the search for a missing North-West man on the day his parents released a statement thanking the community for the support they have received.

Kim Smith, 37, of Chasm Creek, was last seen at midnight on Saturday in his dinghy on the Blythe River, near Heybridge.

On Monday, police found a life jacket and two oars they believe belong to the former marine biologist in the area of the Port Sorell estuary.

A day later, they found a second life jacket belonging to Mr Smith.


The letter, which was released by Tasmania Police today, was written by Mr Smith's parents Dale and Kathy Smith.

In the letter, Dale Smith said that he and his wife were extremely grateful for the skill, dedication and caring shown by many groups and individuals.

"We have appreciated the privacy extended to us since our return to Tasmania," the letter reads.

"The coordination of these groups by Tasmania Police, led by Inspector Kim Steven has been extraordinary, as had been the achievement of these dedicated people.

Mr Smith was last seen by a family friend on Saturday in his 3.8-metre, white fibreglass dinghy on the Blythe River near Heybridge.

The friend reported Mr Smith missing to police on Sunday afternoon after noticing his car and trailer adjacent to the river.

Police said early investigations suggested Mr Smith was intending to row to the area of Titan Point about one kilometre west of the Blythe River.

Police believe Mr Smith may have been trying to locate a small dinghy he had noticed when he was walking in the area earlier in the week with his parents.