Prabhdeep "Prabh" SRAWN





                Missing bushwalker Prabhdeep Srawn was a reservist in the Canadian military.


Photo - courtesy Westpac Rescue Helicopter


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Inquest: Inquest into the disappearance and suspected death of Prabhdeep SRAWN

Hearing dates: 26-28 May 2015

Cooma Local Court

Date of findings: June 26 2015

Place of findings: State Coroners Court, Glebe

Findings of: Magistrate Harriet Grahame, Coroner

File number: 2014/104412 Representation: Sgt Paul Bush – Coronial Law Advocate – Advocate assisting the Coroner Mr McDonald, solicitor- Representing the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service


 On the balance of probabilities, I find that Prabhdeep Srawn is dead. He died on or in the days shortly after 14 May 2013 .

 I am unable to determine the exact place of his death, however it occurred in the area of Kosciuszko National Park.

 The exact cause of death remains unknown. However, on the balance, it appears that Prabhdeep’s death occurred by misadventure of some kind.


 That the National Parks and Wildlife Service consider implementing better systems so that its website can be updated and corrected in a timely manner.

 That the National Parks and Wildlife Service consider reviewing and expanding its educational material aimed at bushwalkers, both on its website and more broadly, especially in relation to the potential dangers found in the Australian Alpine conditions.

 That the National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Police immediately investigate and consider implementing a web based trip intention lodgement system.

 That the National Parks and Wildlife Service consider ways of expanding and publicising its PLB loan system in the Kosciuszko National Park. This decision has been prepared without the benefit of a transcript.





1. This inquest concerns the disappearance and suspected death of Prabhdeep SRAWN Introduction

2. Prabhdeep Srawn was born on 31 August 1987 in Toronto, Canada. He came to Australia in May 2011 to complete a law degree at Bond University on the Queensland Gold Coast. He was known as Prabh to his family and friends.

3. Prabh visited Canada in April 2013. He left Toronto in early May 2013 to return to Australia so that he could complete a couple of outstanding course requirements. At that time he told his family that he planned to travel to the Blue Mountains and then to the Mount Kosciuszko area before recommencing University.1

4. Prabh came from a close and supportive family. He was fit, reliable and natureloving. He enjoyed a physical challenge. 2 Shortly after arriving back in Australia, Prabh flew to Sydney and stayed for a couple of nights with his friend Carl Mannix.3 Carl dropped Prabh at Padstow Railway station on the morning of Sunday 12 May 2013 and he apparently caught a train to the Blue Mountains. According to Mr Mannix, Prabh was in good spirits and looking forward to the trip. They spoke about his plans to finish University and about his job prospects when he eventually returned to Canada. 4

5. On Monday 13 May 2013 Prabh hired a van from Jucy Rentals in Botany, Sydney. The van was to be returned to the Jucy Office in Melbourne by 2pm Wednesday 15 May 20135 . The evidence suggests that Prabh headed out of Sydney, stopping for supplies at Sutton Forrest and Jindabyne along the way. He bought $80 worth of fuel and some chips from the Shell Service Station at the Snowline Caravan Park and purchased a Duck Laksa about 5.30pm from the Maya Asian Cuisine Restaurant nearby.6

6. At around 5.47pm Prabh arrived at the National Parks and Wildlife Service entry station at Sawpit Creek. Sarah Ritzen7 gave evidence that she saw Prabh in his van and she remembered him buying a one day vehicle pass. She spoke to him briefly and he told her that he was planning to stay at the Kosciuszko Mountain Retreat that night. She warned him that there was weather approaching and that he may need chains to drive out of the area in the morning.

7. Prabhdeep Srawn has not been seen again. His family and friends have had no contact with him, none of the personal items he wore or is likely to have had with him as he commenced his walk have ever been recovered.

The role of the Coroner

8. The role of the Coroner in a case such as this is to make findings firstly as to whether the nominated missing person is actually dead, and if that can be established to make further findings as to the date and place of death and in relation to the manner and cause of death.8

When was Prabhdeep’s disappearance first reported?

9. Given the circumstances, it is not surprising that Prabh’s disappearance took some days to come to the attention of authorities. He had only just returned from Canada and both his family and the friends with whom he lived in Queensland were aware that he was going on a short holiday. They would not necessarily have expected to hear from him. It appears that he did not leave a detailed itinerary with either family or friends, who were only aware of his plans in a most general sense.

10. The hired van was to be returned to Melbourne by Wednesday 15 May 2013. When the vehicle was not returned on 15 or 16 May, someone from the Jucy Company, which is based in New Zealand, apparently tried to contact Prabh using the mobile telephone number left on file. There was no answer.

11. It was not until Michael Hopkins, a caretaker at Charlotte Pass Ski Resort noticed the Jucy van in the car park near the staff quarters and thought something might be wrong that police were alerted.

12. Mr Hopkins first saw the van on Tuesday 14 May 2015 but thought little of it, given that it was not unusual for people to park in the village and go bushwalking. Over the next few days there was heavy snowfall. Mr Hopkins later noticed that there were no footprints or signs of activity near the van. When he looked more closely he saw there was no condensation on the windows which might indicate that someone had been sleeping inside. By Saturday 18 May 2013, the weather was slightly better and Mr Hopkins went to have a closer look. He noticed that there was a National Parks permit displayed on the van which was valid for one day only. Mr Hopkins became concerned and called the Jucy Company. On being told that the van was already overdue and that the company had been unable to contact the driver, Mr Hopkins immediately contacted Police using triple “0”.

13. Senior Constable Ziesig received the job about 1.30pm on Saturday afternoon and immediately commenced investigation. Unfortunately his attempts to contact Jucy were thwarted as the Company’s head office is in New Zealand and the time difference meant that he was only able to leave a message. Jucy’s Australian booking office was apparently unable to give any details to police in relation to the vehicle that day

14. The investigation continued first thing on Sunday morning. By then it was clear that there was nobody inside the van and Prabh had been identified as the hirer. Police began to piece together information about Prabh’s plans and movements prior to arriving in the Snowy Mountains area. Plans for a search commenced and Prabh’s next of kin in Canada were notified. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) was alerted and an initial search between Charlotte Pass Village and Mount Kosciuszko was conducted that afternoon, without success.12 Two NPWS rangers had been in the Main Range area and they were immediately tasked to attend Seamans Hut and search generally around the Mount Kosciusko area.

What was the initial police response ?

15. A full scale co-ordinated search commenced on Monday 20 May 2013, almost a week after Prabh had been seen at the Sawpit Creek entrance. There is little doubt that the poor weather hampered search efforts to some extent that first day. A Police Helicopter was made available at Jindabyne but due to poor weather conditions it remained on the ground. 14 Police and NPWS personnel also had to abandon land searching early that day due to the inclement weather and serious lack of visibility.

16. Nevertheless, a Command Post was set up at Jindabyne Police station and planning for the search continued. The Command Post was later moved to the Kosciuszko National Parks and Wildlife Office in Jindabyne.

17. By Tuesday 21 May 2013 the search was in full swing.

18. The search involved police officers from NSW, Victoria and the Australian Federal Police, many of whom were especially trained in Alpine conditions. Over 34 National Parks and Wildlife Service staff from the Southern Ranges region were involved in the search operations or in support, management or technical roles. State Emergency Services and Wilderness Rescue (VRA) were also involved. The air search involved police helicopters (NSW Polair and an AFP contracted helicopter), Southcare, Lifesaver 3 and a private contractor from Jindabyne. Land searching involved searchers on foot, and on skis and skidoos.

19. The National Park and Wildlife Service supported the search in various ways, including with the provision of geographic information analysis and mapping support.17 Technical Officers from NPWS collected extensive data and produced maps to assist with the search planning and tasking. They also compiled records of all the areas already searched. All air search flights were logged, as were the land searches in snow mobiles, and on foot and skis. The detailed maps produced have been carefully examined during the Inquest process.

What was the potential search area?

20. Given that nobody knew exactly where Prabh had been headed, the potential search area was initially very large. Robert Gibbs from the National Parks and Wildlife Service estimated it to be in excess of 100 square Kilometres18. The area included extremely rough, diverse and challenging terrain encompassing both alpine and sub alpine environments. In parts the area consisted of exposed alpine ridges, in others forested areas with extremely dense undergrowth. There are numerous natural obstacles such as alpine streams and lakes, extensive boulder fields, deep cracks and crevices, outcrops and small cliffs. The danger of these natural hazards and obstacles was further exacerbated by the onset of snow and ice in the area.

21. As part of the inquest process, a helicopter view of the area was undertaken. The dense undergrowth appeared quite impenetrable in places. Cracks and dangerous crevices were common. It was easy to understand the dangerous and varied conditions faced by searchers across that wide area when it was viewed from the air.

22. Mr Robert Gibbs, an extremely experienced employee of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) who acted as NPWS Liaison Officer and NPWS Ski Search Team leader during the search for Prabh told the Inquest that it was easy for those without experience in Kosciuszko National Park to underestimate the difficulty of the terrain and conditions around the Main Range walking track area.19 From the eastern side the mountains do not look very steep and it is difficult for those new to the area to understand how varied and difficult the terrain can be.

23. Early in the search police had checked whether Prabh had lodged a trip intention form at the National Parks Visitors Centre or rented a personal locator beacon (PLB), but he had not. 20The fact that there was limited reliable information as to where Prabh had been headed was identified by Senior Constable Downes21, one of the Search Co-ordinators, as the biggest single difficulty of the search. He described the need to “get inside Prabh’s mind” utilizing all the evidence they found during the investigation as well as trying to predict his behaviour using appropriate search and rescue research which outlines the likely probabilities according to the known behaviours of different categories of missing persons. 22

What were the weather conditions?

24. There is no doubt that the weather experienced in the potential search area over the period of time since it is thought Prabh left his van at Charlotte Pass and when the search was suspended in June varied greatly and was at times extreme.

25. Robert Gibbs of NPWS gave evidence that outsiders may not always understand the extreme changeability of the weather in the Park. What begins as benign weather can turn to severe conditions very quickly.23

26. At the Inquest, he gave the following evidence in relation to the five day period after Prabh entered the Park, “Records from the Thredbo and Perisher Valley weather stations, anecdotal reports and on ground conditions showed that significant rain in excess of 50 cms and snow in excess 50cms in some areas drifting to 80cms depth had occurred. Winds in excess of 90-100km/h and sub zero temperatures with wind chills of below -15C had been experienced over that 5 day period as a series of cold fronts with associated north-west, west and south west winds had crossed the mountains and potential search area.” 

27. This was consistent with the evidence of Michael Hopkins, the caretaker at Charlotte Pass and himself a local of some 30 seasons and an experienced local snow boarder. He spoke of the intense winds and limited visibility that would be experienced in such a snow event.25

28. Michael Batty26 also gave evidence at the Inquest. He was an experienced bushwalker who set out on the morning of 14 May 2013 from Charlotte Pass with two friends for an overnight trip. They had checked the weather and were not expecting anything significant27. By morning tea there was a substantial amount of snow falling and the temperature had dropped so dramatically that extra layers of snow clothing were needed. Mr Batty estimated the winds that day were at times 20 knots and gusting up to 30. By midday it was difficult to walk in a straight line. Visibility was greatly reduced and at times it was no longer possible to see the walking track. Mr Batty and his friends were walking with the assistance of a GPS, paper map and compass and even so, given the extreme weather and lack of visibility they could not see Lake Albina or Mount Townsend. At times they had trouble seeing the track and they were briefly confused and disoriented near Carruthers about which way to go.

29. He stated “By the time we got to Rawson’s Pass we could only see one snow pole at a time along Kosciuszko Road, due to visibility. The wind was at an average speed of 30kph by then, but still gusting higher”.28 Mr Batty and his group knew they would not be able to pitch the tent they had expected to sleep in and so they pushed on to Seamen’s hut for the night, arriving about 5pm. In his view the weather “kept on the same, all night”

30. Mr Batty gave strong evidence of the difficulties he and his friends faced due to the weather they experienced in the area on 14 May 2013. His account of the extreme weather was well illustrated by the Go Pro footage he took on the journey.29 The footage shows a dramatic change in the weather over a short period of time. At times there is extremely limited visibility, wind gusting and considerable snow just as he described.

31. Police also spoke with Winston Kousal30 and others who they identified as having been in the area around the time Prabh disappeared. Mr Kousal had set off from Charlotte Pass around 8.30am on 14 May 2013 and walked with his brother in law along the Main Range Trail. They had considerably more equipment than Prabh including a GPS, a stove, wet weather gear and walking poles.

32. Mr Kousal gave evidence at the Inquest that he saw a single set of footprints on the Main Range Trail. He estimated that the foot size was similar to his own. He also thought he saw a set of prints belonging to a dog at that time. Unfortunately, searchers were unable to gain anything further from this information.

33. Mr Kousal also confirmed the very poor visibility on the Trail at the time.

How was the search conducted?

34. Senior Constable Downes31 and others gave detailed evidence of the command structure in place once the full search commenced. I was impressed with each of the officers who gave evidence and accepted that the search was conducted in a systematic way which remained responsive to new leads as they arose.

35. It is also clear, reviewing the training and background of the police involved, the search was conducted by trained professionals who were guided by appropriate search and rescue protocols.

36. I have had the opportunity to review the detailed logs of all the actions taken32 . From this and from Senior Constable Downes’s evidence I was able to understand in some detail how the search progressed on land and from the air on a day-to-day basis. I do not intend to restate the detail of the evidence here. Information was processed at a central point and there appears to have been significant input from all agencies involved. I have reviewed the maps placed before the inquest33 and have been able to follow the GPS tracking lines to view the search taskings. These are important documents which give great insight into the huge area covered by the various search parties34 . I am satisfied the search was being constantly reviewed given the command structure adopted, the regular change-over of personnel and the hand-over systems in place.

37. It is clear that even after the initial search was suspended at the end of May, further operations took place. There was significant searching on 5 June 2013 where areas that had previously been under snow were searched. Other smaller scale searches continued over the following weeks and months35 Superintendent Smith gave further evidence of ongoing search efforts36 including the use of cadaver dogs in February 2014 and more recently the use of police divers at Blue Lake.

38. I am also aware that there was considerable searching organised by the Srawn family after the initial official search was suspended. Robert Gibbs from NPWS was tasked with liaising with the family and he gave evidence at the Inquest about some of those efforts. I have also taken into account the evidence of experts engaged by the family, Mr Hugh Dougher37and Mr Colwell. 38 Mr Batty who participated as a volunteer searcher39during the private search also told the Inquest of his experiences.

39. Taking all the evidence into account, I am of the view that the search was comprehensive and well-targeted, given the constraints the searchers were dealing with. Unfortunately, given the size of the search area, the weather and the rugged terrain the search was ultimately unsuccessful. What information was gathered to narrow the search area or focus the search?

40. While air and foot searches were being carried out in the field, information was also being gathered elsewhere. This information helped to guide and focus the search priorities.  Information from the Prabh’s laptop.

41. Entry to the vehicle was not given priority by Police on 19 May 2015.40 A physical search was commenced and other investigations took place.

42. On 20 May 2015 Senior Constable Ziesig, Sergeant Forster, Senior Constable Hancock and Senior Constable Jacobs returned to the Charlotte Pass car park and gained access to the Jucy vehicle41

43. On 21 May 2013 information from Prabh’s laptop indicated that he had researched the Main Range walk, looking at both Mt Kosciuszko and the Mount Townsend walks.

44. Senior Constable Hopkins gave evidence at the Inquest that no record of the exact searches made was retained by police before the computer was returned to Prabh’s family so that they could make their own interrogations. However it was Senior Constable Hopkin’s memory that internet searches were conducted on the Main Range walking track and the Mount Kosciuszko Summit walk on the NPWS website and that there was a Wikipedia search of Mount Townsend42 .

45. It is clear that this information focussed considerable search energy around the Main Range Trail.  Information that a voice had been heard near the Opera House Hut

46. An important piece of information came to the attention of the search team on Wednesday 22 May 2013 when they received a report that employees of the National Parks and Wildlife Service had heard a voice while doing asset protection work in the Opera House Hut area on Lady Northcote Creek.

47. Mark Mitchell and his fellow workers were having a short break when Mark heard something. He told police it “sounded like a human voice call out. The call was faint and I could not make out any words but I am certain it was a human voice. The day was still and I heard it above the sound of the creek”43 When questioned about the sound at the Inquest Mr Mitchell remained convinced it was a distinctly human sound. Mr Mitchell explained that he was an experienced hunter and was familiar with the sounds made by animals in the bush. He asked his work mates if they could hear the sound and they could. Mr Mitchell described the voice as faint and a long way off but he could still hear it distinctly above the sound of the creek. He formed the view that the sound was coming from the south east.

48. Mr Bulger who also gave evidence at the Inquest, confirmed that he too heard the noise. He described it as a funny sound that he had not heard before. He was certain it was not a dog howling.44 Mr Bulger described the local searching the workmen did while waiting for the helicopter, “The four of us started walking along a one lane service track through the bush. The track goes about a kilometre along through the bush, the track runs around the hill that the noise came from, or from where we thought the noise came from. We walked up and back down the track yelling out and whistling. We walked the track about 10 or 11 times. We heard the noise once or twice again but it sounded in the distance. When we heard the noise it was not consistent constant (sic). While we were walking we did not see any footprints or any bags lying around. We walked up and down the trail for about four hours before the Westpac helicopter started to search the area”45 The workmen never heard anything they identified as a direct response to their calling.

49. Mr Mitchell was aware that there was a search going on for a missing bushwalker. He called Tim Grenville who he knew to be involved in the search and arrangements were subsequently made for a helicopter to be diverted to the area. While waiting for the helicopter, Mr Mitchell continued to hear calling. It was Mr Mitchell’s evidence that “the helicopter spotted me and I indicated with my hands the direction we thought the voice was coming from. I got back on the radio to Tim who spoke to police at Perisher Valley and they told the helicopter to fly low and sweep the area between us and Intake 18”46

50. Mr Mitchell told the Inquest that he watched the helicopter make a number of sweeps directly over the area where he thought the voice was coming from. He refused an offer to go up in the helicopter himself as he felt they had already covered the area he had identified. The helicopter had infra-red equipment47but it did not appear to assist.

51. It is clear that this report was taken seriously by the Search Team and informed decisions made the following day when further aerial and ground searching occurred in the area.48 It was also crucial in prompting Detective Inspector Box to request Dr Luckin be approached for a new survivability timeline, based on the fact that a human voice may have been heard from below the snow line.49

52. It is noted that the workmen, who gave evidence at the Inquest remained convinced that they heard a human voice. Its origin remains unknown.

 Information from Telecommunication experts

53. Police were aware that it was extremely important to trace Prabh’s mobile phone. Inspector Rooney was given Prabh’s mobile phone number on the Sunday morning, 19 May 2013, after inquiries had been made with the Jucy Company as to the identity of the hirer of the van that had been located at Charlotte Pass.

54. Inspector Rooney contacted the Duty Operations Inspector (DOI) at 10.37am that morning and requested an immediate triangulation be commenced in an attempt to find a location for that telephone.50 Unfortunately Police were informed that the triangulation was not successful as the phone had not been on the Vodafone grid for over three days. Later, according to Inspector Rooney information was received from Vodafone that the phone was last on their grid at 3.11pm on 13 May 2013.

55. At police request Vodafone sent two technicians to the area on 25 May 2013. They brought two repeater stations to make further attempts to locate Prabh’s telephone. They were tasked to set them up at the Charlotte Pass turning circle and on the peak of Mt Kosciuszko.51

56. Sergeant Rooney states that on May 30 2013 “information was received from Vodafone that after plotting pings from missing persons phone, determining the altitude of the relevant towers and with knowledge of the area the missing person was in, they believed the missing person may have ended up to the North West of Mt Townsend. Information was later received from Vodafone that based on signals and logs the missing person was walking quickly, and they believed the missing person had been at last point, deemed to be North West of Mt Townsend before the signal was lost. This timeframe was between 13:00 and 15:00 hrs on 14th May”52

57. Police and telecommunications experts53 worked carefully with the telephone data and topographical information to try to recreate a path that may have been taken by Prabh. One expert was of the view that the available information was consistent with Prabh walking along the Main Range Trail (via Blue Lake) and then heading in a westerly direction towards the Mount Townsend area. The fact that the later “pings” shifted from the Wodonga tower to the Holbrook tower may indicate Prabh moved from a higher location to a slightly lower one. The Inquest carefully examined the maps produced and possible explanations given, however it is important to understand that these are theories only and the numerous variables make it difficult to rely on these possible movements with anything approaching certainty. I am confident the information was taken into account by the search team in an appropriate way.

 Other leads and search directions

58. Many other leads and directions were canvassed throughout the search and are recorded in the logs provided to the inquest. A rock pile pointing to a rock shelter was seen near the Blue Lake and Hedley Tarn areas but its relevance was later discounted54. A water bottle with a Queensland label was found but further investigations revealed that it was not linked to Prabh. 55 A bad odour was reported and the area searched with no result.

 59. The search team considered various avenues which were not pursued at the time, including using the Police Dog Unit in the snow and calling on army assistance. I am satisfied that the decisions made in this regard were appropriate.

60. It is also important to note that a real and constant concern for the search team command was to make sure that the safety and welfare of those searching could be guaranteed, particularly when the weather was very bad in the early days of the search.

Is Prabh dead?

61. Prabh was last seen by on 13 May 2013. The last call on his telephone appears to have been at 3.11 pm on 13 May 2013, when a short call was made to Kosciuszko Mountain Retreat. While his telephone appears active throughout some of 14 May 2013, the last “ping” detected was at around 3.06pm.

62. No physical evidence has been found in the area it is believed Prabh was bushwalking in despite an extensive land and air search.

63. Extensive inquiries made by police56 indicate that there has been no subsequent administrative activity which might indicate Prabh is still alive. There is for example no recorded movement out of the country, no relevant bank activity, no traffic or police records or anything of that nature. There have been no credible sightings.

64. More importantly, Prabh’s family and friends have had no contact. Given the close relationships he had, it is inconceivable that he would not have contacted his loved ones, if he were able to.

65. It should be stated, there is certainly no evidence to suggest that Prabh may have committed suicide. He had no history of depression or mental health issues. He had no known medical problems. 57He was actively making plans for his future, paying his University fees and planning a trip to Adelaide.58 His flatmates were expecting to hear from him shortly to collect him from the airport so that that he could commence the next University term. At the Inquest, his friend Carl Mannix, described Prabh as friendly and positive. He seemed in good spirits and was happy and looking towards the future. There is just no evidence to suggest a self-inflicted death. In my view, suicide can be safely ruled out.

66. There is also no evidence that Prabh’s disappearance was suspicious or that he may have met with random foul play.

67. Equally, there is nothing to even hint at the possibility of a planned disappearance, rather all the available evidence points to a tragic encounter with bad weather and rugged terrain.

68. As part of the search process, police contacted Dr Paul Luckin59. Dr Luckin is a recognised specialist in the area of survivability and has provided expert evidence on issues of survivability on numerous occasions to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and to Police Search and Rescue Teams throughout Australia. His CV is extensive.

69. Dr Luckin was initially contacted by Police on 22 May 2013. On the information then available, Dr Luckin did not consider it possible that Prabh could still be lost and yet alive. Dr Luckin took into account that there had been a number of sunny days during the 8-9 days that had elapsed during which it may have been possible for Prabh, if uninjured, to emerge, possibly use his telephone or be seen by other walkers. He was particularly concerned by the length of Prabh’s absence, the lack of available shelter, the absence of any contact, the lack of sightings, the low temperatures, high winds and blizzard conditions.

70. Dr Luckin considered the possibility that Prabh had either been seriously injured in the rugged terrain or suffered some catastrophic medical incident such as a cardiac arrest, stroke or epileptic seizure. Dr Luckin was of the view that if really serious injury or medical catastrophe hampered Prabh from continuing, he would be even less able to take effective measures to ensure his own survival. For all of these reasons, Dr Luckin was of the view that Prabh could not possibly be alive by 22 May 2013 in the conditions described.

71. Senior Constable Downes gave evidence at the Inquest that the first oral advice from Dr Luckin was that if Prabh was lost above the snowline, he would not survive past seven days.

72. Nevertheless, the search continued after Dr Luckin’s initial advice and on the basis that some workers heard a voice from below the tree line in the area of the Opera House Hut on 22 May 201361 a further opinion was sought on 23 May 2013. At that time Dr Luckin also had further information regarding the weather conditions. Taking into account Prabh’s body type and level of fitness, the possibility of finding or making shelter, and access to drinking water Dr Luckin revised his view to a best-case possibility of 14 days. Beyond that, Dr Luckin thought survival was “highly improbable”. Dr Luckin was especially concerned about the possibility of Prabh having developed hypothermia and the consequent progressive loss of mental function and ability to utilise survival training that would have occurred.

73. While his revised opinion put possible survivability at 14 days, he was of the view that it was likely Prabh actually died within a short period after starting his walk on 13 or 14 May 2013. Dr Luckin stated “I have no doubt that Mr Srawn was already deceased before it was known that he was missing.”

74. Detective Inspector Shane Box, the Search Controller received Dr Luckin’s advice on 27 May 2013 and was later responsible for making the decision to scale down and finally suspend the search. It was undoubtedly a difficult decision. He took into account the expert advice and utilised the guidelines for the conclusion of a search and rescue operation as outlined in Chapter Seven of the National Land Search Operations Manual63 . I accept that he also fully briefed the Srawn family on his decision and the information on which it was based at this time. 64Detective Inspector Box gave impressive evidence at the Inquest that it was also his personal view, knowing the area and weather conditions that there was no chance that Prabh had survived, notwithstanding the huge effort of all agencies involved in the search. This view appears to be shared by all those who gave evidence at the Inquest.

75. Mr Batty for example who was in the area at the time we assume Prabh was outside, volunteered that without proper equipment and clothing, the prospects of survival appeared to him to be hopeless.

76. On the other hand it is important to note, Prabh’s family were of the view that the search should not have been suspended. They were disappointed and angry that the search did not continue at full strength past the end of May. Prabh’s family continued looking for some considerable time after the official police search was suspended, using both volunteers and professional searchers. One expert Mr Hugh Dougher65, contracted by the family was an experienced American search and rescue specialist. He arrived in Australia on 29 June 2013 and reviewed what had taken place. It is in my view most telling that while he was critical of some of the private searching that had taken place, he was of the view that the official search had been “major and intense”. He believed it had covered the same areas he would have covered had he been directing the search from the start and he saw no purpose in continuing the search in June 2013, until the weather had improved and the thaw of snow begun.

77. Superintendent Smith gave evidence at the Inquest67that he had maintained contact with the Srawn family from his arrival in the local area up until today. They had been aware of the Inquest date since at least October 2014, but had made a decision not to attend.68It appears that unfortunately they had little trust in the process.

78. However, I understand from a short submission made to the Inquest from the Srawn family that at least some members of the family still believe Prabh may be alive. They do not appear to accept that Prabh has perished even now, two years after his disappearance, stating “Nobody has evidence to proof (sic) that our beloved Prabh is not alive but we are aware that there is a massive area not explored so far. Our belief and conviction are that Prabh is right there. Miracles do happen”69 Unfortunately, the family did not attend the Inquest and so their participation was limited. However, I have considered their written submission carefully and while I find their obvious love for Prabh and their absolute commitment to finding him most admirable, I am unable, on the evidence presented to share their view that Prabh could now be found alive.

79. Given the seriousness and finality of finding that a person is dead, proof of this issue “must be clear, cogent and exact” before a finding can be made70. The evidence in Prabh’s case reaches this threshold. While heartbreaking for his family, I am satisfied to the requisite standard that Prabh has perished somewhere in the Kosciuszko National Park. While his body has never been located, I am of the view, on the balance of probabilities that it is comfortably established that Prabhdeep Srawn is indeed dead.

80. It appears clear to this Court that if Prabh could have returned, he would have. If injury or illness hampered him to such a degree that he has not been able to make contact over the last two years, those same injuries will have prevented him surviving in the rugged terrain and bad weather, with limited or no sustenance.

When did Prabhdeep die?

81. There is really no way of knowing with any certainty when Prabh died.

82. It was Dr Luckin’s opinion that it was likely Prabh died even before the search commenced.71 This may be the case, but given all the evidence I am unable to accept this view with any real certainty. However, on the balance of probabilities, I accept his evidence that by end of May 2013, Prabh had surely perished.

What was the cause and manner of Prabh’s death?

Where did he die?

83. Without his body or any direct evidence of his death it is impossible to determine exactly what caused Prabh’s death or to determine how he died. However, given that we are able to safely exclude suicide and foul play and we know that Prabh was in apparent good health, I am satisfied, on the balance, that his death may be classed as misadventure or accident. I note that Dr Luckin suggests that the most probable cause of death was hypothermia caused by exposure to very low temperatures, wind and snow.

84. I am unable to determine the exact place of Prabh’s death, however it occurred in the area of Kosciuszko National Park.

Was the search carried out in an appropriate way and in accordance with accepted Search and Rescue Protocols?

85. Given that Prabh may have been injured or trapped by bad weather for some period of time, it is essential to evaluate the official search. It is clearly established that in harsh terrain and bad weather speed is of the essence in search and rescue operations of this sort.

86. The Search Co-ordinators were faced with a number of difficulties. In dangerous conditions there is a need to safeguard the safety of the search team and balance this with the need to find the missing person. Unfortunately, there were times during the search for Prabh when injuries to searchers occurred and times when teams needed to be removed from search areas and re-tasked due to the dangerous weather conditions experienced.73 Senior Constable Downes spoke of other safety restrictions such as the fact that searching could not occur at night.

87. I have considered the matter carefully and reviewed the daily search logs in some detail. I have considered the way the search was conducted and reviewed its coordination. I have looked at the National Land Search Operations Manual provided to the Inquest. I have looked at the resources available to search co-ordinators and other staff and have examined their qualifications and experience. At the end of the day, I am of the firm view that the search was properly planned and executed skillfully. I was impressed by the dedication shown by all those involved.

88. It is interesting to note that neither Mr Dougher nor Mr Colwell, experts secured privately by the Srawn family appear critical of the official search. On the contrary, Senior Constable Downes gave evidence at the Inquest74that Mr Colwell told him he was impressed by the search that had already been conducted. Was Prabhdeep adequately prepared for the conditions?

89. Nobody saw Prabh set off, however it is likely that he was underprepared for the extreme wind and snow conditions he encountered.

90. Prabh had no prior experience in Australian Alpine conditions and he was travelling alone. His family believed that he may have had some expertise in survival from his military training. However Detective Senior Constable Hopkin made inquiries about the level of training Prabh may have received in the Canadian Army reserve 75and found that it was only “basic fieldcraft training” rather than a formal Survival Training Course. He set off then, like many tourists do with little experience for the variable conditions he might face.

91. Prabh’s family believe he had purchased a “Frogg Toggs” jacket to wear on the trip but this has not been confirmed. He apparently bought a jacket of some kind from High Country Outfitters76. However, it is likely that Prabh was not adequately clothed for the conditions he encountered. Given the evidence of eyewitnesses, what he was seen wearing in the CCTV footage prior to his walk and what clothing was still in his van, it appears likely Prabh was wearing jeans, a t-shirt and fleece jacket. He may also have had a light ski type jacket for warmth. There is no evidence that he was carrying spare cold weather clothing or waterproof pants.77 There is no evidence that he had a tent or snow sleeping bag. Given what he purchased at the Supermarket before leaving, it appears likely that he had minimal food.

92. Robert Gibbs, NPWS liaison officer was of the view that for the time of year, setting off with just jeans and a pullover of some kind, with limited food and water would place someone in the “ill-prepared” category. Certainly when one compares Prabh’s likely attire and equipment with what Mr Batty found necessary on that same day, he appears to have been ill-equipped for the conditions he ended up facing.

93. There is no evidence that Prabh was carrying navigation equipment or any kind of emergency beacon. The inquest was informed that there are now a number of different devices available to improve the safety of bushwalkers and National Park visitors. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) are used by some bushwalkers, as are Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs).

94. PLBs are generally small devices, around the size of a mobile telephone designed specifically for bushwalkers and other outdoor adventurers. They cost between $250-$400 and are readily available. Once purchased they are registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). When activated the device can be detected by satellite technology. This can be of great assistance if a search and rescue operation is called for.78 There is really no doubt their use has the capacity to save lives and to significantly reduce the time and subsequent cost of locating people who are lost or injured.

95. PLBs are available for hire at a nominal fee from the NPWS Snowy Region Visitors Centre79. It is also clear that many experienced bushwalkers bring their own to the Park when commencing a trip80 especially during winter or if they expect to be out overnight.

96. Given that Prabh was expected in Melbourne on 15 May 2013 to return the hire van, we can assume he expected a relatively short walk. Given that no trip intention form was lodged and nobody appears to have been informed exactly where he was going, it is however impossible to know with any certainty exactly how long he expected to be outside.

97. Matt McClelland an experienced bushwalker, author and founder of the popular Wildwalks website contacted the Inquest with concerns that the NPWS website had previously contained some significant inaccuracies which remained even after they were brought to the attention of the Service. 81 Mr McClelland was an impressive witness who appeared knowledgeable and most anxious to assist improving the safety of Park users.

98. While we cannot now be precisely sure what information Prabh examined when planning his trip, it is likely he looked at the NPWS website.

99. One of the inaccuracies that Mr McClelland had previously identified was with the stated length of the Main Range Trail as stated on the NPWS website. The walk was apparently described as a 12.5 km walk, 4.5 hour walk when it is actually a 22 km, 8-9 hour walk. Unfortunately, despite Mr McClelland’s numerous requests for the information to be changed, it was not corrected for some years.

100. The information has now been corrected. However, it is not at all clear whether it was wrong at the time Prabh may have viewed it. Mr McClelland told the Inquest that the NPWS sign at the entrance point to the walk was correct, but he was concerned that the website might encourage walkers to make inadequate preparations before arriving at the Park.

101. While it is now impossible to know if this mistake had any direct impact on Prabh’s preparations, it is disappointing that the NPWS website has not been more responsive to corrections in the past.

102. Mr McClelland acknowledged that the NPWS website has numerous functions, however, he was of the view that it would be appropriate if more educational and walk preparation information was included given the NPWS’s trusted position in the field. He also suggested that there could be better links to weather information.

What can we learn?

103. It appears that there was a good working relationship between NPWS and the NSW Police Force at the time of the search. Resources and expertise were well shared and communication was strong. The search was able to scale up quickly. 82Neither NPWS nor the NSW Police gave evidence that they were hampered by a lack of resources once the search commenced.

104. If there are lessons to be learnt from Prabh’s disappearance, it is likely they lie in prevention rather than anything which occurred during the duration of the search.

105. In considering all the material, three issues emerged as areas where new measures could be considered to help prevent a future tragedy of this sort.

 Education

106. Many who walk in the Kosciuszko National Park are experienced bush walkers with ready access to information. However, many arrive at the Park with little or no experience of Alpine conditions. Robert Gibbs gave evidence that NPWS staff frequently see crowds of visitors setting off without adequate clothing or supplies of food and water.83 Given the number of visitors to the Park, perhaps there needs to be some further resourcing of educational campaigns which would give those visiting the Snowy Mountain region of Australia relevant information about the necessary preparations to make and the conditions to expect.

107. The Inquest received information about the Think Before You Trek (TBYT) initiative 84 which was jointly launched by the NSW Police Force and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. The main objective of the initiative is to promote awareness and safety for persons undertaking recreational activities in remote environments. Originally trialled in the Blue Mountains the TBYT initiative was expanded to the Snowy Mountains in 2013, with an Alpine themed backcountry poster being produced.85

108. There is always room for the provision of more information for the general public, particularly in relation to making adequate preparations and discouraging people from bushwalking alone, especially without a PLB or other device.

 Trip Intention Systems

109. One of the biggest problems confronted by the search team was not knowing exactly when Prabh had left or where he was going. Prabh, like many walkers did not lodge a trip intention form with the NPWS. At present Park users may lodge a paper trip intention form. However, these forms are only consulted once a person is reported missing to Police or the NPWS.

110. The inquest received information about the possibility of developing a web based trip intention system. This would allow each user to research the route they were planning to take and lodge details with a third party, who would immediately notify authorities if the walker was overdue.86

111. Some devices available to walkers already incorporate this kind of technology.87 A centralised system has also been developed in New Zealand by the AdventureSmart organization.88 A web-based trip intention lodgement system would be a positive expansion of the current TBYT initiative. It could be advertised widely and has the capacity to help save lives.

 Personal Locator Beacons

112. There is little doubt that educating the public on the importance of PLBs also has the capacity to save lives. For this reason the Inquest considered the possibility of making the use of devices of this kind mandatory.

113. There are however considerable practical challenges in making such a recommendation in relation to the Kosciuszko National Park. The sheer number of tourists using the Park makes it impossible. Thousands of visitors walk on the Main Range Trail every year, entering and exiting the Park from a variety of points.89 Some are experienced walkers with their own devices, some come for the shortest of walks and photographic opportunities. Staffing the hire/loan facility 24 hours a day would create an impossible demand on NPWS and the issues involved with policing a mandatory requirement such as this are also significant.

114. Having considered the views of local police and the NPWS, I am of the view it would be more effective to provide more education to the public about the use of PLBs and increase the numbers currently available for loan or hire from the NPWS in the Kosciuszko National Park, but to fall short of recommending any mandatory requirements.


115. On the balance of probabilities, I find that Prabhdeep Srawn is dead. He died on or in the days shortly after 14 May 2013 .

116. I am unable to determine the exact place of Prabhdeep’s death, however it occurred in the area of Kosciuszko National Park.

117. The cause of death is remains unknown. However, on the balance it appears that Prabhdeep’s death occurred by misadventure of some kind.


118. That the National Parks and Wildlife Service consider implementing better systems so that its website can be updated and corrected in a timely manner.

119. That the National Parks and Wildlife Service consider reviewing and expanding its educational material aimed at bushwalkers, both on its website and more broadly, especially in relation to the potential dangers found in the Australian Alpine conditions.

120. That the National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Police immediately investigate and consider implementing a web based trip intention lodgement system.

121. That the National Parks and Wildlife Service consider ways of expanding and publicising its PLB loan system in the Kosciuszko National Park.

122. Finally, I offer Prabhdeep’s family my sincere and heartfelt condolences.

Harriet Grahame


26 June 2015


Canadian bushwalker missing in Snowy Mountains

12:29 Monday, 20 May 2013 - ABC
Police and National Parks volunteers are searching for a Canadian tourist who has gone missing in the Snowy Mountains, in southern New South Wales.

The 25-year-old man has been studying in Brisbane and had gone to the Snowy Mountains a week ago to bushwalk to the peak of Mount Koscuiszko.

His rental car was due back five days ago and has since been found in Charlotte's Pass Village.

Inspector Chris Varley of Queanbeyan Police says the alarm was raised yesterday.

"At this stage there has not been a sighting of the gentleman," he said.

"We currently have about twelve alpine trained specialist police out in the high country looking for this gentleman."

A police helicopter is also assisting the search.

Temperatures at Charlottes Pass are predicted to fall as low as -4 degrees Celsius overnight.


Search resumes for missing man in Snowy Mountains

Posted Tue 21 May 2013, 7:18am AEST - ABC

Police say there has been little progress in the search for a missing bushwalker in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains.

The 25 year-old Canadian man set off to bushwalk alone to the peak of Mount Kosciuszko from Charlotte Pass village over a week ago and has not been heard from since.

His hire car was found parked at Charlotte Pass Village two days ago.

Rescue crews have spent the night camping in emergency huts, and will continue their search this morning.

Jindabyne Police Inspector Peter Rooney says the conditions have been poor.

“There are alpine huts around the area for emergency use.
“However, the conditions have been really poor for most of the week and we don't know the level of equipment or experience that this person has,” Insp. Rooney said.


Search for Canadian student missing in Snowy Mountains suspended for the night

By Clare Atkinson - ABC

Updated Tue 21 May 2013, 6:03pm AEST

The search for a Canadian bushwalker missing in the Snowy Mountains has been suspended for the night and will resume tomorrow morning.

Crews have now searched 110 square kilometres, looking for 25-year-old Prabhdeep Srawn.

The 25-year-old set off to bushwalk alone to the peak of Mount Kosciuszko from Charlotte Pass Village over a week ago and has not been heard from since.

Police say they are concerned for his safety with overnight temperatures in the mountains dropping to as low as -2 degrees.

His family arrived in Australia earlier today and are now in Jindabyne where they are being updated on the search.

About 20 personnel were out on the ground today, assisted by two helicopters.

The weather in the Snowy Mountains has been clear and sunny today but the past few days brought snow and police do not know what supplies the Canadian student might have taken with him.

Jindabyne Police Inspector, Peter Rooney says rescue teams took advantage of today's clear weather, but the possible search area is huge.

About 20 officers have been involved in the search, with the help of two helicopters.

Search called off for Canadian bushwalker missing in Snowy Mountains

Updated Tue 21 May 2013, 5:22am AEST - ABC

The search for a 25-year-old Canadian man missing in the Snowy Mountains has been called off due to poor visibility.

Police say snow has been falling all day and visibility has been between zero and 10 metres.

The man set off to bushwalk alone to the peak of Mount Kosciuszko a week ago and has not been heard from since.

His car was found parked at Charlotte Pass Village yesterday.

Inspector Peter Rooney from Jindabyne Police says alpine trained specialists searched the region today.

"The police searched an area using snow shoes and snow mobiles today from Charlotte Pass along the main walking track up towards Mount Kosciuszko, including Seaman's Hut," he said.

"The police involved in the search will camp out at Seaman's Hut in the field overnight and the helicopter will remain in Jindabyne ready to deploy in the morning if there's a break in the weather."

Inspector Chris Varley of Queanbeyan Police says the alarm was raised yesterday.

"I have been informed that the man does have some bushwalking or trekking background, so I can only assume that he may well have had some reasonable equipment and/or rations with him," he said.

"However, even based on his own planning, he's well overdue at this point."

Temperatures at Charlotte Pass are predicted to fall as low as -4 degrees Celsius overnight.

Search for missing Canadian bushwalker continues

Updated Wed 22 May 2013, 5:20pm AEST - ABC

Rescuers still have not found any sign of a Canadian bushwalker missing in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains.

Authorities narrowed their search for Prabhdeep Srawn, 25, after reports of someone yelling at the Opera House Hut.

Extra resources, including a medical rescue helicopter, were called to the area but a search of the hut failed to find him.

Mr Srawn began walking from Charlotte Pass Village to Mount Kosciusko more than a week ago and has not been seen since.

Hopes of finding Mr Srawn alive have been fading, with overnight temperatures in the mountains dropping as low as -2 degrees Celsius.

His family arrived in Australia on Tuesday.

Authorities have widened their search to include Seamen's Hut.

Renewed hope in search for missing Canadian bushwalker

Updated Wed 22 May 2013, 2:06pm AEST - ABC

Yelling has reportedly been heard from a hut in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains where rescuers are searching for a Canadian bushwalker.

Prabhdeep Srawn began walking from Charlotte Pass Village to Mount Kosciusko more than a week ago and has not been seen since.

An air search for the 25-year-old is now focussed on a specific location within the Kosciuszko National Park where a voice has been heard.

The SouthCare rescue helicopter has also been tasked to the Opera House Hut area, but it is not yet confirmed if Mr Srawn has been found.

Hopes of finding the 25-year-old alive had been fading, with overnight temperatures in the mountains dropping as low as -2 degrees Celsius.

His family arrived in Australia on Tuesday.


How does a bushwalker go missing, never to be found?

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How does a bushwalker go missing, never to be found?

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How does a bushwalker go missing, never to be found?

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Family of Ontario man missing in Australia pleads for army help

Prabhdeep Srawn of Brampton last heard from on May 13

The Canadian Press Posted: May 23, 2013 7:16 AM ET Last Updated: May 23, 2013 5:01 PM ET

The family and friends of a Canadian missing in Australia's Snowy Mountains region for more than a week are calling for additional manpower to search for the hiker.

The calls came as hopes briefly rose Wednesday of finding Prabhdeep Srawn when "voices" were heard in the search area in the Kosciuszko National Park.

But reports from the site in New South Wales say that poor weather is restricting search teams to the ground.

The 25-year-old Brampton, Ont., man hasn't been heard from since parking his rental car May 13 in a village near the park.

The Canberra Times reported Thursday that Srawn's family is frustrated that there is a lack of manpower but accepts that the authorities know what they are doing.

Meanwhile, friends of the family took to social media, urging the Australian military to join the search.

"We need military assistance to further search efforts and save Prabh Srawn who's been missing for 10 days," one wrote in a message addressed to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

"Please send in the army to help find Prabh Srawn. Rescuers are in need of assistance," another tweeted.

By early Thursday, nearly 3,000 people had joined a Facebook page dedicated to finding the law student.

Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell said in a message posted on the page that she had sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seeking additional support.

"Help find Prabh Srawn... he is a Bramptonian," Fennell wrote.

The family believes Srawn's chances of survival are a bit higher than a normal hiker because he has had extensive survival training as a reservist in both the Canadian and Australian military.

His cousin Tej Sahota told the Times that Srawn had extensive cold-weather camping experience from the Canadian army and may have taken shelter in areas of bush or a gully.

Search for missing Canadian bushwalker halted

Updated Fri 24 May 2013, 5:43pm AEST - ABC

Rescue teams have found no trace of a missing Canadian bushwalker after searching the Mount Kosciusko and Charlotte Pass area in New South Wales.

Prabhdeep Srawn, 25, set out on a mountain walk on Monday last week but has not been seen since.

A rescue helicopter took off just before 7am and used a thermal camera to search areas around Perisher and Kosciuszko.

The search has been suspended and resume at 7:30am tomorrow.


Search for missing Canadian bushwalker continues

Updated Mon 27 May 2013, 12:42am AEST - ABC

The search continues for a Canadian bushwalker who went missing in the Koscuiszko National Park in NSW almost two weeks ago.

Prabhdeep Srawn, 25, was last seen 12 days ago when he left Charlottes Pass village for a bushwalk.

He was discovered missing when his rental car was not returned on May 15.

Specialist alpine trained police, the SES and park rangers have been scouring the region by air and ground since the alarm was raised.

Today's search efforts are focusing on the north-western side of the main range, including Hennels Ridge, Mount Townsend and the Snowy River towards Guthega.

A $15,000 reward offered by Mr Srawn's family to find him has since been withdrawn to discourage amateur hikers from joining the dangerous search.

Missing Canadian hiker Prabhdeep Srawn's cousin says 'he's tough enough to still be alive'

  • Search continues for missing Canadian student
  • Prabhdeep Srawn set off on May 13
  • Cousin says he will still be alive
DESPERATE relatives of a Canadian hiker who went missing in the NSW Snowy Mountains two weeks ago are clinging to the hope that his experience in the outdoors will see him through the ordeal.

Prabhdeep Srawn, a 25-year-old Canadian student at Bond University on the Gold Coast, set off on May 13 from Charlotte Pass, a small ski resort just 8km east of Australia's highest peak Mt Kosciuszko.

The weather that week was mostly fine in the mountains. But on the afternoon of May 13, the first significant cold front of the season approached. Official Bureau of Meteorology data for the nearby top station at Thredbo show that 30mm of rain fell with 70 km/h wind gusts.

The next day, 30cm of snow fell. That's the classic Snowy Mountains one-two punch. Drenching rain which chills you to the bone, then fog which disorientates and snow which changes the look of the landscape so it's impossible to retrace your steps.

It's a trap which is particularly lethal for northern hemisphere visitors, who often wrongly assume the Australian alpine landscape can't hurt them. The road from Charlotte Pass to the Kosciuszko summit is so wide that tourist buses used to run on it. It's a landscape that can feel benign... and then suddenly turn so brutal.

Yet Dr Tej Sahota, a cousin of Prabhdeep Srawn, remains hopeful his cousin – a former military reservist – is tough enough to still be alive.

"He was a Master Corporal in the Canadian army. He was in charge of his own regiment and they sustained long-term campouts and hikes in minus 25.

"I go to the gym six days a week but my cousin still lifts more than I do. This is a healthy kid.

"He is smart too. I can tell you from speaking to other people who have travelled with him that packs a lot of high calorie foods like peanuts and almonds that don't take up a lot of space. He was wearing a winter parka and had recently purchased well-equipped hiking boots."

Dr Sahota made headlines this weekend with his offer to pay $15,000 to any hiker who found his cousin. He has since rescinded the offer after advice from Australian authorities that the offer could encourage inexperienced bushwalkers to risk their own safety.

Dr Sahota is eager to defuse the suggestion that his cousin may have deliberately gone missing.

"Prabh was up in Canada about a month ago. We played two games of chess and I beat him both times. He was telling me that this would be his last semester in Australia and he wanted to see a couple more parts of the country.

"He had had a really great time in Australia, he looked healthy, he looked strong. He didn't look sad or depressed or like he wanted to get away from it all. His roommate said he was in great spirits."

Up to 30 searchers from six state and federal agencies, plus two aircraft, are today continuing their search in a rugged area of peaks and ridges to the west of Mt Kosciuszko.

The fact they are searching there suggests that Mr Srawn may have summited Kosciuszko, then sought shelter beyond it after the worst of the weather arrived.

Dr Sahota has previously expressed anger on Twitter and Facebook at what he perceived to be an inadequate search measures. Today he clarified that statement to

"I trust the people that are out there. God bless those guys. They are probably taking time away from their own families. I hear they're up at 6.30 or 7 and don't get back to 5 o'clock. I don't think they're incompetent, they just need more eyeballs, more of them are needed."

NSW Police today issued a statement describing Mr Srawn as being of Indian appearance with a tanned complexion, medium build and short dark hair.

He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans. Police also believe he may be wearing a red and black "Frogg Toggs" ski jacket. The body of the jacket is described as being red with a black hood and shoulder section.


Australia urged not to scale back search for Canadian hiker

Prabhdeep Srawn was last seen May 13

By Adam Carter , CBC News Posted: May 29, 2013 8:55 AM ET Last Updated: May 29, 2013 3:40 PM ET

Canada's minister of state for consular affairs says she has asked Australian police to not scale back the search for a Canadian hiker who has been missing for more than two weeks, but opposition parties say it's too little, too late.

Diane Ablonczy said she has spoken with Australia's high commissioner to Canada and requested that the search for Prabhdeep Srawn not be reduced at this time.

"Canada has been actively working with Australian authorities to discuss the search mission and to convey the family's concerns," Ablonczy said.

"Our engagement at all levels will continue."

The 25-year-old from Hamilton, Ont., went missing in Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales. Srawn was a Canadian Forces reservist from 2005 to 2011, belonging to the 31 Service Battalion's Hamilton Company. His immediate family moved to Brampton in 2012 after he left for Australia.

Srawn was last seen May 13 when he drove to a village in the park where he intended to go for a bushwalk. A search operation began on May 20 when it was discovered the Canadian military reservist was missing.

Government too slow to react, family says

Srawn's family has criticized Australian authorities and the Canadian government for not making the search a priority.

Srawn's cousin, Ruby Singh-Sahota, told CBC News that Canadian officials at Foreign Affairs and International Trade have been little help to the family.

"The information we get is a lot quicker than they do," she said. "It's not too useful."

The ministry was initially slow to release any information on the search for Srawn, citing "privacy concerns." But the family said they aren't worried about privacy — they just want to find him. "The family has no concern of privacy in this matter," Singh-Sahota said.

Helene Laverdiere, the NDP critic for consular affairs, told the House of Commons during question period Tuesday that the government was doing "too little, too late," to find Srawn.

"When his family reached out for help, the government ignored them," Laverdiere said. "Mr. Srawn proudly served our country. Now our country should be doing more for him. Why won't the Conservatives listen to the concerns of his family?"

Srawn's cousin, Tej Sahota, tweeted late Monday that the family is offering a $15,000 reward if Srawn is found safe.

Scaling back the search

Police in New South Wales announced Monday that they would scale back the search — even as Srawn's family and friends continued to plead for an expanded one.

Authorities in New South Wales said they decided to scale down the operation after consulting medical experts and examining the conditions and weather forecasts for the area.

Australian police told CBC News that the last full day of searching was dampened by bad weather. It is winter in Australia, so it is wet, rainy and foggy.

The search will resume at 7 a.m. Australian time, police said. It is being scaled back from 15 people to eight people. More bad weather is in the forecast, so the use of a helicopter will depend on the weather.

Search wraps up for missing Canadian hiker

Updated Fri 31 May 2013, 9:13am AEST  - ABC

Police have formally closed a search command post at Charlotte Pass Village as they wind up the search for a missing Canadian bushwalker.

Prabhdeep Srawn, 25, was last seen at Charlotte Pass Village on May 13 where he parked his rental car before heading off on a bushwalk to Mt Kosciuszko and then onto another unknown mountain nearby.

Mr Srawn has not been seen or heard of since.

National police involvement has ceased but Jindabyne police and relatives of Mr Srawn say they will continue to search for the missing hiker.

Missing Canadian tourist Prabhdeep Srawn's family still hopeful despite search being called off

FOR five days Prabhdeep Srawn's rented "Juicy" van sat as a silent, ominous warning that the 25-year-old Canadian's life was in danger.

Under one of the seats inside the van, popular with backpackers, was a laptop containing Google Maps and Wikipedia searches - vital clues indicating his planned route that could have gone a long way to narrowing his position had they been discovered earlier.

There were also more than 30 pages of military lecture notes on "winter warfare" and alpine survival techniques.

Parked near the Charlotte Pass lookout, the van was exactly the sort of vehicle fellow tourists expected to see. For five days, no one noticed.

It was the first in a series of circumstances that would conspire against the Bond University law student.

A reservist in the Canadian army, Mr Srawn parked his van on May 13 with plans to hike the Main Range Walking Track in reverse, aiming to reach Mt Kosciuszko via Carruthers Peak and Mt Townsend.

While it was clear and sunny when he set off, the season's first bitter change swept through, soaking him with 30mm of rain before freezing him under 30cm of snow.

A hiker would tell police the following day he was relieved to see footprints in the snow "because it is always nice to know someone is ahead of you".

No one will ever know how close he had come to Mr Srawn.

By the time police became aware of the "abandoned vehicle" and began the initial steps of tracking down Mr Srawn's identity through the rental company, which led them to the Gold Coast and his roommate, the hiker had been missing for seven nights in temperatures as low as -4.8C.

His parents, Major and Devinder Srawn, his sister Mandeep and cousin Raj Srawn, left Brampton, Ontario, and boarded the first available flight.

They arrived on May 21 when the search was in full swing, involving NSW, Victorian and federal police, helicopters, State Emergency Service volunteers and National Parks and Wildlife Service personnel.

The following day rescuers reported hearing a male voice, possibly calling "help" in the vicinity of Lady Northcote's Canyon. A drink bottle from a scuba dive operator in Cairns, who Mr Srawn had dived with earlier in the year, was found near Blue Lake.

Police had searched the van but it wasn't until Mr Srawn's family insisted they look again that officers found his laptop.

By that stage Mr Srawn had been missing for 10 days.

As the search continued, pressure in the form of a social media campaign to "Help, Find Prabh Srawn" mounted.

While the search was called off on Thursday his family refuses to give up hope, posting a $15,000 reward for anyone who can bring him home alive.


Caution urged over reward for missing bushwalker

Updated Fri 7 Jun 2013, 7:19am AEST

Police have issued a stern warning to anyone wanting to launch their own search for missing Canadian bushwalker Prabhdeep Srawn.

The family of Mr Srawn has issued an emotional plea for help, increasing a reward for anyone who finds him from $15,000 to $50,000.

Mr Srawn has been missing in the Snowy Mountains for three-and-a-half weeks and the search has now been underway for two-and-a-half weeks, although it has been scaled back in recent days.

His cousin-in-law Tej Sahota says the family is only seeking help from people with hiking or mountain climbing experience.

“We encourage all safety precautions and making sure that all protocols [are] followed,” he said.

“The family is in desperate need of help right now."

Police are warning people to think carefully before venturing into rough mountain terrain but Monaro Commander Shane Box says police are not able to stop the family offering a reward.

“I know a lot of people want to help but I have serious concerns for the safety and welfare of people (who) want to conduct their own searches,” he said.

“If you are going to come to the area to search, people need to be appropriately trained and skilled.

“They also need to be fully equipped."

Commander Box says people should lodge a trip intention form with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and ensure they carry an EPIRB personal locator beacon.


Reward for Canadian missing in Australia doubled to $100K

Prabhdeep Srawn missing since May 13

The Canadian Press Posted: Jun 09, 2013 1:08 PM ET Last Updated: Jun 09, 2013 1:07 PM ET

The family of a Hamilton man missing in Australia for nearly a month has doubled the reward for finding him.

Prabhdeep Srawn disappeared May 13 during a bushwalk in the Snowy Mountains southwest of the capital Canberra.

Police scaled back their search in late May due to poor weather, prompting Srawn's family to offer first $15,000, then $50,000 to anyone who "rescues or recovers" him.

Dr. Tej Sahota, whose wife is Srawn's cousin, says the reward has now been increased to $100,000.

The official search for the 25-year-old, who was a military reservist in Hamilton before moving to Australia, wound up last weekend.

Officials have said the chances of finding Srawn alive have decreased but his family has said it won't give up its efforts.

'Cold-weather training' offers hope

Wednesday will mark one month since Srawn went missing.

Srawn's family and supporters still believe he could be found alive because he had extensive survivor training and hiking experience, Sahota told CBC News in an interview earlier this week, before the reward had been doubled.

Srawn was a Canadian Forces reservist from 2005 to 2011, belonging to the 31 Service Battalion's Hamilton Company. Sahota told CBC Hamilton that Srawn had risen to the rank of master corporal and was responsible for his own unit.

That unit did forced marches and cold weather training in northern Ontario, Sahota said.

"They would do sustained cold weather training, with like two or three weeks of being in the middle of the forest with minimal equipment as part of their training. His report indicates that he did all of that with flying colours," he said.

The unit would often train in temperatures as low as –25 C, Sahota added.

With files from Adam Carter


New clue in search for missing Snowy Mountains bushwalker Prabhdeep Srawn

Updated Tue 11 Jun 2013, 2:41pm AEST - ABC

The family of a Canadian man missing in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains says there is a new clue about where he disappeared.

Prabhdeep Srawn, 25, was last seen on May 13 when he left Charlotte Pass Village on a walk to Mount Kosciuszko.

Extensive land and aerial searches have failed to find any trace of him, and a police search operation has been scaled back.

Now the fiance of Mr Srawn's sister, Karndeep Sandhu, says there is new information about where his phone last sent a signal.

He says Mr Srawn's mobile-service provider has found the last signal was sent from the west face of Mount Townsend.

The location has a 2 kilometre radius of accuracy.

Mr Sandhu says the area identified is where his family believes Mr Srawn went missing.

Family offers $100k reward to find missing Snowy Mountains bushwalker Prabhdeep Srawn

Updated Tue 11 Jun 2013, 8:20am AEST - ABC

The family of a man who has been missing in the NSW Snowy Mountains for almost a month has doubled the reward for anyone who finds him, after searchers decided to stop using drone aircraft to look for him.

Authorities say 25-year-old Prabhdeep Srawn drove to Charlotte Pass Village to go bushwalking to Mount Kosciuszko on May 13.

A Perth-based company lent a radio-controlled aircraft equipped with cameras over the weekend to those still looking for the Canadian hiker.

However, heavy winds at the summit of Mount Kosciuszko have made the drones difficult to control while thick cloud means it has been impossible to take pictures of the terrain.

Family member Tej Sahota says $100,000 is now on offer for anyone who finds Mr Srawn, after posting a $50,000 reward last week.

"We figured that that would maybe entice a lot more people and since then, in just 24 hours, I've had maybe five or six different climbers or hikers reach out to me and try and figure out a way that they could be helpful," he said.

The police search operation has been scaled back but Mr Sahota says the family has not given up hope of finding Mr Srawn.

"We maintain some evidence has to turn up. He just can't disappear into thin air. That's physically impossible," he said.

"There has to be some evidence of him on that mountain. Our conviction tells us that he's going to be alive, but we're looking for some sort of evidence ... until we get that evidence, we're not going to quit on this."

However, Mr Sahota says only experienced hikers should take-up the reward offer.

"We've always maintained nobody should put Prabh ahead of their personal safety," he said.

"We don't want any other family in Australia to go through what we've been going through, so we want to make sure that only experienced hikers are going up there."

Police say they cannot stop the family offering a reward and are urging anyone who takes up the offer to be careful.


Giving up search would be "inhumane"

Posted Thu 13 Jun 2013, 10:46am AEST

The family of a bushwalker missing in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains have been told by the Australian High Commissioner in Canada they are "acting out of desperation" by continuing their search.

Prabhdeep Srawn has not been seen since he left for a trek to Mount Kosciuszko a month ago.

The official search has been called off but Mr Srawn's family is continuing to look for the 25-year-old.

The family's spokesman Tej Sahota says they approached the High Commissioner to speed up a request to get approval to land helicopters in the search area.

Doctor Sahota says giving up their search would be "inhumane".

"The meeting really wasn't deemed a success.

“We got only advice to basically stay in contact with the NSW Police.

“This is the only approach left to us,” Dr Sahota said.

“But we need to get drones, get helicopters out there; I don't see any other way of doing this.

“We are not going to abandon it, that would be, quite frankly, that would be inhumane,” he said.

Dr Sahota says they are disappointed not to get assistance from the Australian High Commissioner in Canada.

"I think everybody would appreciate that you would not leave family a member abandoned and until we have proof one way or the other whether he's met his demise or whether he's still alive we need to know one way or the other.

“So this is the only way for us to approach it.

“We're asking people for help, we're asking for assistance,” Dr Sahota said.

“We're offering awards, we're paying stipends and no other better answer was provided for us by today's meeting."

Canadian army members to join search for missing bushwalker Prahdeep Srawn

Updated Fri 14 Jun 2013, 4:21pm AEST - ABC

A dozen full-time members of the Canadian army will join the search for a Canadian man missing in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains.

Prabhdeep Srawn, 25, was last seen on May 13 when he left Charlotte Pass Village on a walk to Mount Kosciuszko.

Extensive land and aerial searches have failed to find any trace of him, and a police search operation has been scaled back.

Now, 12 off-duty Canadian army personnel will join the search on Sunday. They will be in Australia for about two weeks.

Mr Srawn's sister, Mandeep Srawn, says the men will be equipped with snow and climbing gear and plan to camp in the mountains during the search.

"I think they are expecting it to be colder than it is though. It's not as cold as it gets in Canada," she said.

Mr Srawn's family has offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who finds him.

"These men that are coming from overseas aren't looking after that. They just want to find their fellow soldier," Ms Srawn said.


Canadian soldiers join search in Snowy Mountains for missing bushwalker Prahbdeep Srawn

Updated Mon 17 Jun 2013, 4:51pm AEST  - ABC

Canadian soldiers have joined the search for a bushwalker missing in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains for more than a month.

Prahbdeep Srawn, 25, was last seen on May 13 when he left Charlotte Pass Village on a walk to Mount Kosciuszko.

Mr Srawn's sister, Mandeep, says 11 off-duty Canadian soldiers will set up camp in the mountains for three days as they begin a fortnight's search for their colleague.

"They'll let us know if they need to come back ... [or] just re-think their strategy and go into a different area," she said.

"We've looked into helicopter companies to send them so they don't need to do this whole-day commute."

Mr Srawn was a reservist in the Canadian military.

His family says it would be inhumane to give up their search.

They have offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who finds Mr Srawn, but police have warned against inexperienced hikers attempting the search in the rough mountain terrain.

Extensive land and aerial searches have failed to locate him.

The family says Mr Srawn's mobile service provider found the last signal from his phone was sent from the west face of Mount Townsend.


Footprints possibly of missing Canadian hiker found, says family

By Matt Moir , CBC News Posted: Jun 21, 2013 11:53 AM ET Last Updated: Jun 21, 2013 1:42 PM ET

 A family member of the Hamilton man missing in Australia has told the CBC that volunteer rescuers may have found footprints that belong to Prabhdeep Srawn.

Srawn went missing on May 13 during a bushwalk in the Snowy Mountains near the Australian capital of Canberra.  Since then, volunteers have been scouring the area to find the former Canadian Forces reservist.

In an email to the CBC, Dr. Tej Sahota, husband of Srawn's cousin, wrote that there are "10 soldiers from Canadian army, 5 Australian volunteers, 2 people with their rescue dog, 6 other Canadian volunteers and a few members of the local national parks" searching the Lady Northcote Canyon area and surrounding basin, and that "there was a chance they found old footprints near the canyon…where the voice was initially heard."

On May 22, volunteers reported possibly hearing a voice calling for ‘help’ in the vicinity of the remote Lady Northcote area of the Snowy Mountains.

Srawn's family has offered a $100,000 reward for finding the 25-year-old hiker.


Family outrage as search in Snowy Mountains for missing Canadian Prabhdeep Srawn is called off

THE family of Gold Coast student Prabhdeep Srawn has slammed as "disgusting and inhumane" the decision to end the official search for him in the NSW Snowy Mountains and launched their own expensive and extensive search.

Canadian soldiers have been flown in to search for the Canadian national, a drone has been used and Mr Srawn's family has posted a $100,000 reward to anyone who finds him alive or dead.

They are also offering to pay volunteer searchers $250 a day.

Mr Srawn, a Canadian Army reservist who was studying law at the Gold Coast's Bond University, went missing on May 13 when he left Charlotte Pass Village to walk to Mt Kosciuszko.

The official search was called off on May 30 but his family are still holding out hope the experienced bushwalker will be found.

Mr Srawn's sister Mandeep, who was involved in the private search, said the decision to call off the official search was "absolutely ridiculous".

"It's almost disgusting, it's inhumane that you have no compassion for human life that's out there," she told ABC Radio this week.

Ms Srawn said the arrival this week of more than a dozen Canadian soldiers to help in the private search had lifted the family's spirits.

She said they were searching from dawn until dark in areas they believe were overlooked in the official search.

"It crushes you to think that he has to spend another night out there, alone, cold, in the dark,'' Ms Srawn said.

"It's really tough. Every time we're out there we feel like we're going to find him. We're still not losing hope.''

Ms Srawn said her brother was "very strong and incredibly smart".

"If miracles happen, it could easily happen to him,'' she said.


How does a bushwalker go missing, never to be found?

- See more at:

'We need a miracle': search continues for Prabh Srawn

Canberra Times

Nearly two months after 25-year-old Canadian Prabhdeep Srawn went missing in the Kosciuszko National Park, his family have spent more than $50,000 on a private search operation in snow and rugged terrain.

Acknowledging only a miracle could see the law student found alive, Mr Srawn's parents plan to remain in Australia until his body is located and are continuing to recruit volunteers for the search.

We're praying for a miracle but either way, we want something. Whether it's a body or if he is alive, we want something because we need closure. 

The Bond University student and army reservist was last seen on May 13 when he parked a rental car in the Charlotte Pass Village before setting out in fine conditions to hike near the highest peaks on the Australian continent.

New South Wales police and the State Emergency Service coordinated a large air and land search over two weeks, before calling the operation off on June 1.

After criticising the decision, Mr Srawn's family launched a privately funded search which has so far cost in excess of $50,000 and involves a four-man Canadian search and rescue team.

Family spokesperson Tej Sahota said volunteers and professionals would use cross-country skis to continue on Tuesday.

Dr Sahota, who arrived in Australia from the US last week, acknowledged there was little likelihood his wife's cousin would be found alive.

"If I told you anything different I would be lying," he said speaking via phone from the search command post in a hotel in Jindabyne.

"We're praying for a miracle but either way, we want something. Whether it's a body or if he is alive, we want something because we need closure.

"If I told you I expected [him] to walk in or I could guarantee 100 per cent that he's alive, I am not being a realist."

He said Mr Srawn's parents and siblings have remained close to the search area since arriving from Canada and would continue to fund the costly private search, which also involves serving and retired members of the Canadian Army.

"This money isn't money which was just lying around. Credit lines, second mortgages, bank loans – this money is being scrambled together in any way possible so it's even more of an effort," he said.

"People back home in Canada are constantly trying to utilise financial resources."

As many as 12 people are expected to use cross-country skiing equipment to go into the remote Lady Northcote canyon area on Tuesday with air searches to also re-examine the Carruthers Peak.

Searches of hikers huts near the Geehi River and the Alpine Highway showed no sign of Mr Srawn last during the weekend.

A $100,000 reward for Mr Srawn's return dead or alive remains in place, with the family offering a $250 stipend to volunteers in the search.

A sustained social media campaign to drawn attention to Mr Srawn's plight remains at full strength, with more than 6,600 people reading regular updates around the world.

In recent weeks, supporters have been buoyed by the discovery of Mr Srawn's laptop and hiking plans, receipts for food and a winter jacket as well as calls from Canadian politicians for intervention by the Australian Defence Force.

Volunteers from the Australian Swiss Search Dog Association were forced to leave the search last week as snow fell in the area.

Night time lows near Mt Kosciuszko have reached minus 8 degrees this week.


Family of missing Canadian hiker returns from Australia

Prabhdeep Srawn missing in Snowy Mountain region since May

By Adam Carter , CBC News Posted: Aug 02, 2013 11:28 AM ET Last Updated: Aug 02, 2013 11:27 AM ET

The family of Prabhdeep Srawn, an Ontario man who went missing in Australia, has returned to Canada because of visa restrictions.

"The family is only back because of visa restrictions," tweeted Dr. Tej Sahota, who is married to Srawn's cousin. "They have not given up hope or the search."

Srawn, a Hamilton native whose family now lives in Brampton, went missing on May 13 during a bushwalk in the Snowy Mountains near the Australian capital of Canberra. Since then, volunteers have been scouring the area to find the former Canadian Forces reservist.

"Once visa issues are resolved and weather allows, several members plan to head back to Jindabyne and continue," Sahota said.

"Many of the hikers and rescue workers, upwards of 30, have indicated that once the winter passes, they will help out and rejoin the search." The family has been holding out hope that he could be found alive because of special cold weather military training.

The missing man's family has been critical of how local police handled the search. The operation was scaled back in late May due to poor weather, prompting Srawn's family to offer first $100,000 to anyone who "rescues or recovers" him.

Sahota says the family hopes that once weather allows, local police will start searching again in "an official manner."

"There are no plans for a memorial, or for a service or anything of that nature," he said. "The search will continue as it had been, and we will deal with outcomes in real time. [There is] no use in pre-planning for potential outcomes."

In June, search teams found footprints in the region that Srawn disappeared that they thought may belong to him. On May 22, volunteers reported possibly hearing a voice calling for 'help' in the vicinity of the remote Lady Northcote area of the Snowy Mountains.

Lost Canadian hiker's family stop search due to 'visa restrictions'


The family of a Canadian hiker who went missing in the Snowy Mountains in May have left Australia, citing visa restrictions, after spending more than two months searching without success.

Canadian student and army reservist Prabh Srawn was last seen on May 13, when he parked his rental car at Charlotte Pass and began a hike towards Australia’s highest peaks, hours before a blizzard hit the area.

NSW Police and the National Parks and Wildlife Service began a search for Mr Srawn a week later, but wound the search down at the beginning of June as winter set in.

Mr Srawn’s family, including sister Mandeep, cousin Rajveer, and his parents, decried the police decision to end the operation, and mounted a private search using local and national experts, hikers, and aerial support. Off-duty Canadian soldiers also joined the search.

By early July, the family had spent in excess of $50,000 of their own money looking for their lost son, and offered a $100,000 reward for his return, but had found no sign of him.

A cousin of the family, Dr Tej Sahota, said on Twitter on Friday the family had been forced to return to Canada due to “visa restrictions”.

“The family is only back because of visa restrictions ... they have not given up hope or the search for #PrabhSrawn,” he said on the social media network.

“Once visa issues are resolved and weather allows, several members plan to head back to Jindabyne and continue.

“Many of the hikers and rescue workers, upwards of 30, have indicated that once the winter passes, they will help out and rejoin the search.”

Dr Sahota said the family were hopeful NSW Police might officially “re-engage” the search “once the weather allows”.

He also said there were no plans for a memorial service for the lost hiker, and said the nightly public prayers held for Mr Srawn over the past two and a half months would no longer be held, as the family wanted to pray at home.

Mr Srawn’s family had retained hope throughout the search, and were buoyed by the discovery of lecture notes on winter survival, as well as receipts for food and a winter jacket in Mr Srawn’s car.

But Dr Sahota also told The Canberra Times early in July that it would take a miracle to find Mr Srawn alive.

"If I told you anything different I would be lying," he said.

"We're praying for a miracle but either way, we want something. Whether it's a body or if he is alive, we want something because we need closure.”

Dr Sahota thanked supporters on Twitter, and said the family vowed to “pay it forward” and would contribute their knowledge, equipment, and search and rescue contacts to any search efforts in the future.

“The family will definitely use its resources to help any family that may encounter something similar to this,” he said. “And simultaneously I pray, that God let no family know the pain of ‘something like this’.”

How does a bushwalker go missing, never to be found?

LILLY Pilly Gully. Its bouncy, child-like syllables paint a fairytale-like picture and there's an element of truth to the imagery. Craggy peaks encircle a bowl-shaped forest of eucalypts and ferns, through which a gentle walking track leads you in a loop.

It's a peaceful place in Victoria's Wilsons Promontory, ideal for family walks, a back-before-lunch kind of stroll. I walked this path earlier this year with my family. Not far into the walk I came across a rock which bears a simple, bronze inscription. It was a memorial to a nine-year-old boy named Patrick (Paddy) Hildebrand, who on this spot in 1987 left the track and walked into the woods.

Young Paddy had gone on ahead of his family about 10 minutes into the walk. The scene: a mother, calling out for her son to wait. No reply. Louder calls. Running, shouting, rising panic, retracing steps to the car park, and finally a sprint to the nearby ranger station for help. A massive search was assembled. A hat believed to belong to Paddy was found, as well as a bed of ferns, but after a week of combing the area Christine Hildebrand drove away without her son. No trace of Paddy was ever found. He had vanished into the woods.

"He must be there," says Shane Cunningham,* a senior volunteer searcher with more than 25 years' experience. "We searched so hard and for so long. People put so much effort into it. We were loaded into helicopters, winched down onto the top of the ridge, marched down and then winched back up into the helicopter to do it all again. The vegetation was incredibly thick, but by the fifth day the entire area was completely trampled. We didn't know what more we could do."

Some couldn't accept that the search was unsuccessful. "One of the senior sergeants at the time had a son about the same age as Paddy, and used to go down there for years after the search finished and just tramp around in his own time. He had a bit of a breakdown because he couldn't believe that with all those resources Paddy couldn't be found." A mother broken, searchers disbelieving, and a scenario played out all too often in the Australian bush. People who go for a walk or a hike and get lost. Some will never return.

Searches fall under the jurisdiction of the state police, supported by volunteer-dependent organisations such as the SES and in some states specialist volunteer squads, such as Victoria's Bush Search and Rescue (BSAR) and NSW's Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad. BSAR's records show that, in the group's 64-year history, they've returned empty-handed 15 times out of 104 searches. Some searchers are particularly unlucky. Cunningham says, "I can't remember being on any searches where we've actually found anyone."

So how is it that people can so frequently vanish? Sergeant James Bate is a senior member of Victoria Police's Search and Rescue Squad, whose experience dates back to the Hildebrand case. A key problem, he says, is figuring out how much search area to cover. "The best-case scenario is they'll leave their intentions with someone and we'll know exactly what track they were walking or where exactly they were intending to go in the bush." The biggest challenge is conducting what Bate refers to as "rest of the world" searches. A case in point is the 2011 mystery of David Prideaux, the boss of maximum security Barwon Prison who went missing while hunting near Tomahawk Hut in Victoria's High Country. "There's no clue of what direction he may have gone," Bate says. "We know where he started from, but we don't know his direction of travel. We thoroughly searched the area, working outwards, and we found absolutely nothing: no footprints, no dropped equipment, no clothing." In the early stage of a search, Bate says, it's hoped the person is conscious and responsive; the main technique used by search parties is to walk along and call out, hoping the lost person will respond. "In the Prideaux case we were searching up to 15km out with helicopters and teams on ridges, but if he's unresponsive the probability of detection is extremely low."

Cunningham agrees. "There are just so many areas you can miss, and unfortunately bodies give no feedback. A lot of the time it's impossible to say, hand on heart, that you've searched every square inch, because you just can't." Searchers, though, still face failure-related anxieties. "We dread turning on the news and hearing that the person has been found in an area we've already searched. It's our worst nightmare."

How, then, do they decide when to call off a search, to admit defeat? "We take into account what the person was wearing, any medical conditions, what the weather's been like, what equipment they have and make a decision whether or not to continue the search," Bate says. How do the families feel when a search is called off? "We keep the families constantly updated. We make it plain as the case goes on if we think they haven't survived. There comes a point where you're well past the likely time-frame for survival according to the medical experts and there's no intelligence to indicate we're in the right area. They [the families] would be well informed that we're getting to the end." Bate says it's always a difficult time. "Even if in their own mind they've accepted that their loved one is dead, we're only human and we like to have something to bury."

Still with no body to bury, at the time of going to press, is the family of 23-year-old Gary Tweddle, who vanished into the bush in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney one night in July this year, after a work conference. A huge search involving police and hundreds of volunteers was launched, but after 10 days the decision was made to scale it back. Gary's father, David, tearfully acknowledged that his son wasn't coming home and praised the searchers for their efforts. "They could do no more," he said.

Sometimes, though, families believe the police and searchers could do a lot more.

In June this year NSW police called off their search after weeks of scouring the freezing, bleak Snowy Mountains for 25-year-old Prabhdeep Srawn, who'd gone missing on May 13. Srawn, a Canadian who was studying at Bond University on the Gold Coast, left his rental car in Charlotte Pass Village and set off to hike to Mount Kosciuszko. Whether he made it or not we may never know. Srawn was only noticed missing a week later, when his car wasn't returned. On hearing the news from police his family immediately flew out from Canada.

Straight away the searchers faced two very real problems: they had no clear idea of which part of the range Srawn may be on; and it was likely he was already dead. A blizzard hit not long after Srawn set out, and night-time temperatures plunged. Vague clues in the first few days of the search gave some hope. A hiker said he saw footprints in the snow; a drink bottle was found; there were reports of a voice. Police searching Srawn's rental car initially missed finding his laptop, which upon later inspection was found to contain maps of the area. Srawn's family would never forgive the police for this mistake. After searching for a little over a week, police began to scale back the effort and delivered the news to Srawn's family that they believed he was dead. Superintendent Shane Box said, "We have conducted extensive searches over some of the hardest and most remote and unforgiving terrain, in freezing temperatures. Sadly, there has not been any sign of Prabhdeep."

Srawn's family refused to believe he was dead. His military survival training - he was a Canadian Army reservist - would keep him alive, they claimed. He would eat caterpillars, ants, anything it took. The word "impossible", they said, was not in his vocabulary. They lashed out at the decision by the NSW Police to call off the search and launched a social media campaign to get it resumed. Emails were sent to the Australian High Commission requesting intervention. More emails ricocheted around government departments, here and in Canada, going all the way to the office of the Canadian Prime Minister. Srawn's sister, Mandeep, and other family members wrote impassioned pleas to various authorities, going over the search in minute detail, accusing NSW Police of incompetence at best, heartless apathy at worst.

When the lobbying failed to rouse a second official search, the family took matters into their own hands. They assembled their own private search team and flew in volunteers from the Canadian army. Another week of searching failed to find any trace. Things were looking drastic, so the family tried a different tack. Prabhdeep would get a price on his head.

A reward was posted: $50,000 to anyone who found him, dead or alive - a figure that was doubled days later. Box feared it would lead untrained people to put themselves at risk, but he wasn't in a position to prevent it. "This is an emotional time for people," he told a news conference, with heavy understatement.

The deeply religious Srawn family and supporters from the Sikh community maintained that a miracle was not out of the question. Supporters and well-wishers instructed the family, via a Facebook page, not to give up searching, and that God would keep Prabhdeep safe. "We believe he's OK," his sister Mandeep told ABC news on June 18, more than a month after he was last seen.

The family perhaps drew hope from the survival story of Jamie Neale, the British backpacker who was lost in the Blue Mountains south of Katoomba for 12 days in the winter of 2009, before he stumbled upon a couple of bushwalkers on a fire trail. Neale did everything wrong before going on his hike, including leaving his phone behind and not telling anyone of his intentions, but he had enough bush-nous and plain good luck to get out of the situation alive. Post-rescue, Neale's relationship with searchers and his family also went off the track. He sold his story to 60 Minutes for a reported $200,000 and then squabbled with his father over the proceeds. Some people raised questions about the authenticity of his tale, and how much money he should donate towards those involved in the rescue attempt. The 12 days he spent lost almost became an afterthought: whilst Neale's survival was remarkable, the public relations fallout was a nightmare.

Srawn's family have their own PR problems, but that's of little of concern to them as they continue to battle the authorities and pray for a miracle. On July 29, two and a half months after he disappeared, they announced they were leaving and would return to search in November.

Snow hides everything. It's a blanket that brings cold, hypothermia and death; a blanket that can't be tossed off. It's nature's temporary eraser, wiping out all evidence until the time is right to reveal a landscape's true form. It washes away footprints as thoroughly as any ocean wave on the sand, and paints everything it touches in a harsh, disorienting, deathly white. In summer, the Kosciuszko area is full of defined landmarks, deep valleys and peaks, vegetation, rocks, well-worn tracks, roads and boardwalks to guide a weary hiker home. In winter, it may as well be a different planet.

"One mound looks the same as another," says Shane Cunningham. "The valleys fill up with snow; you just find yourself going over little dips where a giant gully should be. All you can see is white. We checked the GPS one day and found we were several kilometres from where we thought we were. And we were the searchers, in beautiful, sunny conditions." Cunningham is referring to the 1999 search for four young snowboarders, whose tale bears sad similarities to Srawn's. Tim Friend, Dean Pincini, and brothers Scott and Paul Beardsmore, all in their mid-20s, set off from Thredbo one afternoon in August for a three-day back-country snowboarding adventure. When they failed to return, their families reported them missing.

Cunningham got the call in Melbourne at 6pm and by midnight was boarding a police bus with a Victorian search and rescue team, heading for Jindabyne. Despite a huge search, no sign of the men was found. Two weeks after they were last seen, the search was called off. The family of Dean Pincini accepted his fate and sent a note, with a photo of Dean, to those who'd helped in the search. "Your care, dedication and professionalism will never be forgotten," it said. "Thank you."

The tale of the lost snowboarders would, however, provide one final twist. November brought spring to the hills. The snow thawed, forcing the mountain range to give up its grim secrets. A passing helicopter spotted ski poles poking out of the last remaining snow drift of the season, on the Ramshead Range, in the middle of the search area. In it lay the bodies of the missing snowboarders, huddled in a snow cave they'd dug after the weather closed in. The men had suffocated, probably in their sleep, after the entrance to the snow cave was buried by one of the biggest overnight snow dumps ever recorded.

Cunningham remembers hearing the news that the bodies had been discovered. "You look at the area [where they were discovered] and it was just bare earth, and one little piece of snow, and there they were, inside it. I've still got the maps and the GPS route we took on the search, and we actually walked right over the guys, but they were under many metres of snow. There's no way we would have known they were there."

In 1985 Stephen Crean, brother of federal politician Simon, famously went missing while cross-country skiing in the same area. Intensive searching followed. His body wasn't discovered for a year and a half, accidentally, by a traveller who stumbled upon a human skull. There have been others.

Seaman's Hut is a stately stone shelter built near Mount Kosciuszko as a memorial to Laurie Seaman, who along with Evan Hayes died in a blizzard while skiing in 1928. Seaman's body was discovered a month later, near the site of the hut which bears his name, but Hayes' body lay undiscovered for 18 months.

Klaus Hueneke, renowned for his books and photographs of the Australian Alps, led a successful search in 1988 to rediscover the site where Hayes' body had been found. I ask him about the Srawn case. He explains: "Finding a cairn or a body in that landscape is like finding a contact lens on the bottom of a swimming pool. Between Mount Townsend [where Srawn's last mobile transmission came from] and the Alpine Way is one of the most rugged valleys in Australia. It's cold, wet, treacherously steep, full of fallen trees, difficult rivers to cross, almost as tough as temperate rainforest in Tasmania. His body may never be found, irrespective of the size of the reward. I don't think he wanted to vanish, but if he did it was a good place to do it."

Cunningham says that the public often read more into disappearances than they need to. Unfounded insinuations of criminal activity pop up and family members are often suspected of wrongdoing, which contributes to unwarranted grief for both the families and the searchers. Searchers are under constant scrutiny from the families of the missing, something that only intensifies as the search nears its end.

"It can be demoralising because the families are so distraught and they give you this look ... " He pauses. "It's like they're trying to look into your soul, trying to read your mind; a look you don't normally get from people, you know? In their mind while there are searchers there is still hope. But once people stop searching it's as if their loved one has been written off, like they've been declared dead."

He still remembers the expression on the face of Christine Hildebrand, the mother of little Paddy. "Every day we would go back to the search base and see these imploring eyes from his mother. Her face would search our faces, the way we searched for her son, trying to read our expressions; hoping for something, anything."

People volunteer for various reasons: some have spare time and want to learn new skills, others want to meet people and have fun, some like to get qualifications and certificates for their CVs, some have a desire to teach and share experiences. What does Cunningham believe motivates search and rescue volunteers? He looks at me like I've just asked a stupid question, shrugs his shoulders and simply replies, "The hope that one day you might find someone." For the families of those such as Prabhdeep Srawn and Gary Tweddle that day can't come soon enough.

* Name has been changed.


Missing hiker Prabh Srawn's $100K reward withdrawn as search resumes

ACT News NSW - Canberra Times

The family of missing bushwalker Prabh Srawn has withdrawn the reward offered for finding the Canadian student, but remain determined to continue searching.

His disappearance in May sparked months of extensive searches throughout the Kosciuszko National Park, attracting volunteers from across the world to help find the 25-year-old.

A $50,000 reward was issued in June, but Mr Srawn’s sister Mandeep told Fairfax Media it was withdrawn on Tuesday following discussions with those involved in the search efforts.


“They’ve all indicated that they’re not interested in the reward,” she said.

Ms Srawn said the family had already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, including the cost of flying volunteers in from Canada.

She said search efforts had been hindered by poor weather over recent weeks, but were expected to strengthen in the near future.


The reward for finding Prabh Srawn had increased to $100,000 at the height of the search - but this has since been withdrawn.

“We haven’t had very many people go up with the weather being bad,” she said.

“Sometimes there are only two people. This week there should be five.”

Despite the sub zero temperatures in the Snowy Mountains since his disappearance on May 13, Ms Srawn the family held out hope of a positive result.

“We come from strong faith,” she said.

“Until we have something negative to cry about, we want to remain positive.”

The family returned to Canada last month, but Ms Srawn said she not sure if they’d return to Australia.

Facilitators of the official Facebook page, titled ''Help Find Prabh Srawn - Missing Bushwalker'', also posted a message from the hiker’s friends and family on Tuesday.

“We cannot thank enough all the brave men and woman that have helped in the search effort thus far,” it read.

“As we are approaching a melt down in the alpine region of Kosciuszko National Park, we would once again request that all those that are interested in volunteering their time to assist in the continued search efforts please inbox message us for further details.”

Mr Srawn was last seen when he parked his car at Charlotte Pass Village on May 13.

Canadian hiker Prabhdeep Srawn still missing a year after Kosciuszko disappearance

By Scott Hannaford The Age

At Charlotte Pass the grass crunches underfoot from a heavy frost and the icy cap of the first snowfall of the season glistens off the main range like a mirrored dome under the bright May sky. Ice crystals clink like wind chimes in the frozen leaves of the snow gums and patches of white linger in the shadows. All around are signs that winter is near.

The missing persons sign that hung for nearly a year in the window of the emergency shelter has been taken down and police have also stopped handing out flyers to bushwalkers and skiers as they enter the national park in the desperate hope than one of them, somewhere, may stumble upon an overlooked clue to one of the biggest mysteries ever played out in the high country.

It is almost a year to the day that Canadian hiker Prabhdeep Srawn parked his rented Jucy camper van in the village below the car park, stashed his laptop under the car seat, grabbed the $45 jacket he had bought in Jindabyne on his way through and set off on the popular Main Range Walk towards Australia’s highest peaks. He was never seen again.

By the weekend of May 18-19 a staff member at the resort had noticed the abandoned vehicle with a 24-hour park entry pass on its windscreen, which had not moved since its arrival the previous Monday, and alerted police.

What followed was a massive four-week search involving up to 40 people at a time, three helicopters, some of which were equiped with infra-red sensors, police dog squads, survivalist experts and an international contingent of volunteer and professional alpine rescue personnel.


As the weather deteriorated, dumping snow and whiting out the peaks, search crews scoured the mountains on foot and from the air, at times in foul weather, with their patterns recorded on GPS receivers and plotted into a colour-coded map showing who had been where, allowing those in the Jindabyne coordination centre to identify any uncovered ground.

Not since the disappearance of four snowboarders in 1999 in a nearby area of Kosciuszko National Park had a search of such magnitude been undertaken, and never with the same level of technology and high-tech equipment. But despite all the sensors, experts, data analysis and subsequent repeated searches, no trace of the 25-year-old Bond University law student has been found.

After the failure of the initial search, there had been high hopes that his remains or some clue would be revealed when the snow melted, as was the case with the missing snowboarders whose bodies were discovered in a snow cave in the spring. Two major searches for Srawn were conducted during November and February, while smaller individual trips to check remaining areas were also conducted.

But as the winter fronts approach, preparing to cast a thick white cloak over the alps, those hopes of answers to what happened to the young man known to his family as Prabh appear set to once again disappear under the falling snow.

In his upstairs office at the imposing concrete bunker of Queanbeyan Police Station, Superintendent Rod Smith is collating a file on the search for Srawn. Having spent months poring over the evidence, false leads, and reems of data from the multiple state and federal agencies involved in the search, the file will soon be handed to the NSW Coroner, even though no body or any of Srawn’s possessions have been found beyond the camper.


When I ask him if he thinks it unusual that no single item of the missing man’s equipment was found in the grid-like combing of the search area he shakes his head.

“I’ve been up there myself, I’ve seen it and I was blown away by how treacherous it is when the weather comes in. If you fell off one of those rock faces it’s a long way down and underneath it’s very thick scrub. On top of that it’s a massive search area.”

But not everyone in Jindabyne is convinced the story is a simple case of an ill-prepared hiker becoming lost in poor weather.

Mountain guide Bruce Easton has operated his specialist backcountry ski shop in Jindabyne for 25 years. He was involved in supplying equipment and expertise in the search for both the snowboarders in 1999 and Srawn. He does not believe the young man would have gone over the edge of the range into the wild and jagged valleys of the Western Fall Wilderness Area where much of the search was concentrated.

“People don’t understand how rough the terrain is out there [west of the main trail], it’s scary. People who don’t have experience take one look and go the other way, and people who do know what it’s like know better than to go down there.”


During the initial search, rescuers dropped into the area had to be pulled out a short time later by helicopters because they were unable to make any progress through the steep, boulder strewn scrub and cliffs.

“The fact that they didn’t find a single item of clothing, not a backpack, not so much as a scrap of toilet paper out there doesn’t add up. I understand people want resolution, but given how many people go through that area, why didn’t they find anything in summer?”

In the warmer months the 18-kilometre-long lakes walk loop on the main range and side trip to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko is one of the most popular trails in Australia. According to the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service, 8000 to 10,000 people hike the lakes walk or walk to Blue Lake and return each summer.

One of the strongest arguments against the theory that he disappeared deliberately are the pings recorded from Srawn’s mobile phone. As his phone checked in with the surrounding towers, it left a digital breadcrumb trail that police were later able to triangulate to determine his approximate position and time.

“All the information from the phone indicated that he had gone out on the Main Range Trail in an anticlockwise direction from Charlotte Pass and it pretty much finishes around the Mount Townsend area at the time the storm came in,” Superintendent Smith says.


Police also received GoPro video footage of the storm front coming in and reports of footprints in the snow from other hikers in the area. Following the search, Srawn’s family also hired a private detective who concluded that the young army reservist had not staged his disappearance.

Srawn was due to return to Canada a few weeks after his trip to the mountains. One of his closest friends, John Hagg, who had asked Srawn to be a groomsman at his wedding on his return, has another theory about what could have happened to his friend.

“It seems so bizarre to believe some of the suspicions that people have about Prabh trying to disappear himself. You’d think people might get the impression that was his plan, but I got no indication from any of the interactions I had with Prabh that there was anything weird going on.

“I would almost lean towards him being kidnapped or something crazy like that. He went to New Zealand by himself and made a million friends and travelled around with them. He randomly bumped into people and became friends.

“I don’t see it as too far-fetched that he bumped into someone and was hanging out with them and it turned out that they were not a nice person. I don’t want to think about that, but I can’t imagine he straight up disappeared on his own and left everyone in the lurch.”


Jindabyne local and experienced backcountry skier Andrew Barnes has spent years exploring the main range and the area where Srawn is believed to have gone missing.

I contact him to ask him about the terrain, and the likelihood of anyone going into the western falls area by accident while hiking on the main trail when he says something that stops me in my tracks.

“You know, I was skiing the weekend after that guy went missing [but before he was reported as lost] and got whited out down the bottom of Little Austria [a steep area off the main range trail favoured by backcountry skiers]. I could have sworn I heard someone calling out way away. I’ve always wondered if it was him.”

It wasn’t until weeks later that Barnes learned of the man’s disappearance through media reports. Several days after that experience and with the search now underway, three Snowy Hydro staff searching the nearby Opera House hut area also reported hearing calls for help about four to five kilometres from where Barnes had been skiing. Helicopters and extra searchers were sent to the area, but nothing was found.

I mention Barnes’s story to Superintendent Smith, and ask if he thinks it’s related to the separate report from the helicopter crew, and if it’s possible it may have been the missing man.


“We’ve also spoken to people who have a strong affiliation with that area who say that the wind - and this sounds bizarre - but the wind in the trees down there can make a sound like someone yelling out, a kind of howling sound. We’ve had people say to us that they’ve heard before what sounds like someone yelling when in fact it was just the wind through the trees and the branches rubbing together.”

With a forecast of several days of fine weather and emergency equipment packed, I ask Barnes to take me out and show me the area where he thought he heard the voice, and the area police believe Srawn may have taken a wrong turn.

We climb out of the Snowy River towards the ridge above Little Austria and snow drifts and patches of ice obscure small sections of the path. As we stand on the exposed ridge and look over the edge into the Western Fall Wilderness and Victoria beyond, I ask Barnes if it could have been the wind he heard.

“It could have been,” he shrugs. “It was one of those moments where you’re on your own and there’s no one around and you hear something once like someone calling out that makes you stop. I didn’t hear it again.”

As we head back down from the exposed ridge towards Charlotte Pass, we come across a pair of French tourists traipsing through the snow. Neither appears to have weatherproof clothing or substantial packs. With the afternoon starting to get late, we turn them around and implore them not to continue any further before the sun sets.


Days after the search for Srawn began, desperate family members left their southern Ontario home of Brampton in Canada for Australia. As they reached out for help from the local community, offering rewards of up to $100,000 for anyone who found the missing man, Jindabyne ski instructor Shawn Joynt answered the call.

Joynt, herself a Canadian expat, offered her home at no cost to the family for as long as they needed it, and says they arrived with hope and confidence, and left shattered.

The case of the missing man had struck a chord with Joynt, who 20 years earlier had experienced a similar ordeal.

Backpacking through Australia as teenagers with a couple of girlfriends, Cherie Guthrie and Nicole Verge, a loose end saw the trio headed for the mountains where they were taken in by entrepreneur and adventurer Dick Smith and wife Pip.

After months traveling with the Smiths and hiking and camping through some of the wildest areas of Kosciuszko, Joynt returned to Canada only to be met at the airport by her ashen-faced father with the news that one of her friends had drowned in the Snowy River.


Cherie and Nicole had been exploring a section of the river below Guthega Dam when heavy rain set in. As the waters began to rise and flood over the dam, the pair was trapped on a large rock in the raging torrent.

Nicole, the stronger of the two, managed to make it across the water, and headed through the bush searching for help. Hypothermic and delirious, she emerged from the scrub six hours later onto the Guthega road where she was found by searchers. Cherie’s body was not found until a day later, downstream near the Guthega Power station.

Turning around at the airport and heading straight back to Jindabyne, Joynt says it was a confronting and confusing time, where few people were willing to reach out to help. She recognised the same sense of dismay in the Srawn family.

“Australia just doesn’t have the same sense of community that you find in Canada. I found out that this family lived just a few streets away from my father in Bampton, so I knew I had to help.”

When the family called in an 18-member team of rescue experts to assist the Australian authorities, she recalls them arriving full of bravado.


“They kind of came in with the attitude of, ‘this is Australia, not Canada, how hard can it be?’. But I remember those same guys a few days later sprawled out on the lawn here, totally spent. They just didn’t get how extreme the terrain out there is.”

Joynt, too, has heard the conspiracy theories around town that perhaps the young man staged his disappearance, explaining why no trace of him has been found.

But having been lost in the same area herself while on the Hannel’s Spur Track, stumbling on a road shivering, miles from her intended route and sobbing with exhaustion, she doesn’t believe Prabh’s whereabouts were part of a set-up.

“The country out there is just horrendous and the scrub is just phenomenal. If it could happen to me, it could easily happen to someone with less experience, and finding him out there would be like finding a needle in a hay stack.

“The sad truth is that when searches like this start, people almost never come back alive. Look at the snow boarders, look at what happened to Simon Crean’s brother.”


In August 1985, Stephen Crean, brother of the former Labor leader Simon and son of former Treasurer Frank Crean, disappeared during a blizzard when setting off on a ski trip from Charlotte Pass. After two years of searching, police at Khancoban received a package in the post containing the missing man’s wallet and identity cards and a birth certificate.

Investigations led them to Shepparton in Victoria where they arrested 26-year-old New Zealand fruit picker Stephen James Forsythe, who had stumbled upon a skeleton while walking in Kosciuszko and had reportedly removed the skull.

Police later told the Cooma local court Forsythe had deliberately tried to mislead them as to the location of the skeleton because he intended to return and collect the rest of the bones to take back to New Zealand.

Kosciuszko Huts Association member Peter Hosking was another who answered the Srawns’ call for help. He led the family on a search of the rugged Hannel’s Spur Track area, but was turned back by the rough conditions. He believes it is quite possible the young man may have headed into the area, and says despite the thick vegetation it is likely someone will stumble upon evidence of what happened to him.

“It makes sense that if the weather is really bad, the natural thing to do is head downhill to get away from the conditions, especially if you have survival training, like he did. There was a lot of pressure from different people at the time, and that’s understandable because they were frustrated at the lack of results, but I think the chances are good that one day someone will find him.”


Throughout the ordeal family members refused to give up hope of finding Srawn, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money paying rescuers to continue searching. Six months after her son went missing, Devinder Srawn told Canadian news organisation CanIndia she would never to give up.

“I won’t be at peace and neither will I rest until we find out what happened to my son. Every time the phone rings or someone comes to the door, my heart pounds.”

When contacted by Fairfax Media, the family declines to comment any further, saying they are in the grieving process and don’t think talking to the media will be helpful for their situation.

Back in Queanbeyan, Superintendent Smith says there have been no new leads, but police will not close the book on the matter.

But for now their immediate concern is ensuring there is not a repeat this winter, warning all those headed into the area not to go alone, to take suitable clothing and emergency beacons and other equipment, and to notify authorities of their trip intentions at the Parks office in Jindabyne.


“[We] threw everything we had at it; everyone who’s looked at it says we did everything the right way, and we used the right people. We went well above and beyond what our survival expert says was possible.

“There won’t be any more dedicated searches towards this matter, however we have a number of alpine operators within this command that are well aware of it. I’m hopeful one day someone will find him.”

- Additional reporting by Tom McIlroy