Father of Elly Warren blasts government, police in his search for answers

The heartbroken father of Melbourne woman Elly Warren has blasted the Australian government and the Australian Federal Police for what he sees as a lack of support in his family’s search for “justice and answers” following her shocking death in Mozambique in 2016.

Ms Warren was found dead by a toilet block on Tofo Beach in the early hours of November 9, but her final moments are still a mystery.

Three autopsies were conducted on her body and there are conflicting conclusions on her cause of death, with Mozambique authorities initially declaring her death a homicide.

An autopsy conducted in Australia by Dr Matthew Lynch did not reach a clear conclusion.

Appearing at a coronial inquest into her death led by State Coroner John Cain, Ms Warren’s father Paul said his family had “struggled desperately” for justice and had received little support in their harrowing search for the truth.

Camera Icon20-year-old Elly Warren loved to go diving. Supplied Credit: Supplied

“Since she was taken from us, over seven years ago, the family has felt we have had our backs against the wall,” he said.

“We have felt we have had little support from the Australian government and the AFP.”

Mr Warren said Mozambique, as a developing nation, lacked the capabilities to properly investigate his daughter’s death and the AFP should have provided their technical skills to uplift the investigation.

He said this could have been achieved through a “mutual assistance agreement”, which would have allowed AFP officers entry into Mozambique to run a criminal investigation.

“This should have been done in 2016,” he said.

“It was always possible to ask for a mutual assistance agreement.”

Mr Warren also criticised the failure to forensically test trace evidence.

The Tofo marketplace in Mozambique where Ms Warren died.
Camera IconThe Tofo marketplace in Mozambique where Ms Warren died. Credit: Supplied

He ended by warning other Australian families that they were “on their own” if their loved ones perished abroad.

“Elly was a proud young Australian citizen,” he said.

“She deserved a far more diligent and professional level of commitment.”

AFP Commander International Engagement Andrew Smith, appearing as a witness after Mr Warren, said the policing body had made “numerous” offers to assist Mozambique authorities in their investigation, but these request had not been responded to.

The inquest drilled into the issue of mutual assistance requests and why the AFP had not offered one in this case.

Commander Smith said he did not know the specifics of the decision-making process in the months following Ms Warren’s death but stressed a mutual assistance request was only made by the AFP when it launched an active criminal investigation, and it had not done so in Ms Warren’s case.

Paul Warren in Tofo, Mozambique.
Camera IconPaul Warren in Tofo, Mozambique. Credit: Supplied

Commander Smith also stressed that “where a crime has been committed is where it should be investigated”.

The inquest was told that on November 17-18, 2016, DFAT and AFP officers travelled to the scene of Ms Warren’s death and by February 20, 2017, an AFP representative had in their possession the autopsy results ruling the death a homicide.

A lawyer representing Mr Warren asked Commander Smith if that result would have altered the AFP’s assessment of Ms Warren’s case and Commander Smith said “it would be a factor”.

But he emphasised Australia did not have consistent cross-border police-to-police relationships with Mozambique and without co-operation between law enforcement, the role the AFP could play was “very limited”.

Ms Warren’s family hired private investigators to drill into her death, with Mr Warren travelling to Mozambique in person in 2018.

It is thought Victor’s bar, near the Tofo marketplace and public toilets, is the last place Ms Warren was seen alive.

Elly and Paul Warren. Supplied
Camera IconElly and Paul Warren. Supplied Credit: Supplied

Ms Warren’s friend Jade O’Shea testified at the inquest on Tuesday and said she last saw her friend at the bar about 11pm on November 8.

A fisherman discovered her lifeless body at 5am, sprawled, face down in the sand behind the locked marketplace toilet.

Forensic examinations revealed that Ms Warren died from asphyxia after inhaling sand into her lower airways and her bladder was still full when she died.

Abrasions were found on her neck and also bruising on her mouth and in the muscles on the left-hand side of her neck, but there were no clear signs of a struggle, attack or sexual assault.

Mr Warren believes she was murdered at the beach and then moved to the toilet block, noting in his evidence the sand at the toilet block was “rocky” and it “wasn’t very deep”.

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