A man whose body was found in a Tasmanian river more than six years after he went missing most likely drowned, but just how he ended up in the water may never be known.
Dale Nicholson, 61, was last seen leaving his home at New Norfolk, about 35km northwest of Hobart, on the morning of December 10, 2016.
He was driving his 1993 blue Ford Fairmont sedan.
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More than six years later, in January 2023, divers found Nicholson’s body inside his sedan submerged in the River Derwent, less than 2km from his home.
Coroner Simon Cooper on Thursday said there were no suspicious circumstances around Nicholson’s death.
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But Cooper — who in 2021 ruled Nicholson had died before reopening the investigation on the basis of new evidence — was unable to determine the exact cause of death.
Cooper said the circumstances in which Nicholson’s body was found suggested he probably drowned — but why was another matter.
“The evidence does not allow me to conclude that Nicholson caused his vehicle to enter the water with the intention of taking his own life,” Cooper said.
“It is equally possible to my mind that Nicholson lost control of his vehicle and entered the river by accident and was unable to extricate himself.”
A fishing rod, glasses, coins, a cigarette lighter, keys and clothing were found in the car.
Dale Nicholson was found by divers more than seven years after he went missing. Credit: Tasmania Police/AAP
Cooper thanked Adventures With Purpose, the diving group that found Nicholson’s body.
In a social media video, divers involved said the car had been protected from underwater debris by a large tree.
They found the car in a section of the river near a swimming pool carpark.
Nicholson was reported missing by his family on December 11, 2016, sparking an extensive search in the surrounding Derwent Valley and further afield.
Nicholson had a “good circle” of friends who found his disappearance out of character, according to the national missing persons register.
Cooper conveyed his condolences to Nicholson’s loved ones and hoped the discovery of his body and the coronial finding would bring some measure of closure.
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