Elly Warren’s father, still grieving, wonders if his daughter will ever get justice

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Over the past seven years, three autopsies, countless police hours, several private investigations and a coronial inquest have attempted to understand Elly Warren’s final moments out the back of a toilet block in remote Mozambique as her lungs filled with sand.

Elly Warren.

Her father Paul travelled to the town of Tofo Beach himself in search of answers about what happened to his 20-year-old daughter when she left friends to buy a drink at a local bar and did not return. She was later found dead with her pants around her knees and abrasions on her body.

After all those inquiries, the most Victorian Coroner John Cain could assert on Friday is that Warren’s death was caused by a large amount of sand that had entered her lungs, and that another person was possibly involved.

“I’m disappointed with the coroner,” Paul told this masthead on Friday afternoon.

He always thought Elly had been murdered, and hoped a similar finding from Cain would prompt the Mozambique authorities to continue their investigation, which appeared to have stalled.

“I feel there’s overwhelming evidence to suggest it’s foul play, he’s just gone and said that it’s a possibility that other people were involved with her death

“I think that’s a bit of a cop out.”

The cause of Warren’s death was suffocation due to aspiration of sand. She was not intoxicated, and did not have any illicit substances in her system. Authorities later said an autopsy found Warren died of asphyxiation. She was also found with bruising and abrasions to parts of her body.

Elly’s behaviour before her death is now well documented on the public record. She had originally travelled to Tofo to volunteer with Underwater Africa on a marine conservation project to gain experience before starting a course in marine biology in Australia.

Paul Warren, Elly’s father, on Friday morning.Credit: Joe Armao

On November 8, 2016, Warren checked into the Pariango Beach Motel, dropping her belongings on a bed in a women’s dorm around 6.30pm before heading out to a local bar and then to a friend’s house in town. She left the house and returned to the bar, where she was last seen by friends around 11pm.

A few hours later, four days before her scheduled return to Australia, Warren was discovered by local fishermen face down in the sand at the back of a toilet block. The last person to see her alive was a security guard, at about 2.30am on November 9.

The inquest was called to determine the medical cause of Warren’s death and the circumstances of how it occurred. Whether another person was involved in her death, and their role in it, remains a mystery.

Cain told the court on Friday that without the brief compiled by local authorities he could not consider the status of their investigation, and could not determine if Warren was the victim of homicide.

“Without knowing what is held by the instructing judge and the investigating police in Mozambique, I do not know if there is an identified person or persons of interest, an active investigation underway, or whether all possible leads have been pursued and the investigation is stalled,” he said.

“As we pass the seventh anniversary of Elly’s death, there is a strong desire to conclude the matter to provide some closure to Elly’s family.

“I make no criticism of the instructing judge in … Mozambique, I only urge upon him the strong desire in the family to reach some conclusion of this investigation as soon as possible.”

No charges have been laid and the Mozambique police investigation is ongoing.

Cain also acknowledged that Warren’s family, who still don’t know what happened to her, would be frustrated by the fact that there is no further information.

“Elly’s family have expressed their considerable frustration in waiting nearly seven years and that there is no further information or answers as to the circumstances of Elly’s death,” he said.

“It is possible that the Mozambique authorities do have information that is relevant to this investigation, but I do accept that release of any material held by the Mozambique authorities is a matter entirely in their discretion.”

“By doing so, that release of any material held by most big attorneys isn’t a matter entirely in their discretion.”

For Paul, that’s not enough.

“All I can do now is wait for the Mozambique authorities to come up with what they’re going to do and I feel that, unfortunately, the coroner’s decision today has let the family down in that regard,” he said.

“If today’s finding had have been ‘Elly was murdered’, or that ‘there’s a high probability that Elly was murdered’ … that would impact Mozambique authorities over there to actually maybe do more, and find who did this.

“But with the finding being ‘possibly’, I don’t think it’s probably gonna be enough for them to actually want spending resources on trying to find that person who murdered my daughter.”

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