No ruling at inquest

A CORONER on Wednesday agreed it was most likely a Koorawatha farmer took his own life by shooting himself in the head, but said available evidence did not allow him to make that formal finding.

The skeletal remains of 51-year-old Bernard Wayne Cooke, known as Wayne Cooke, was found on his former property on July 25, 2010, almost nine years after he went missing.

An inquest into Mr Cooke’s disappearance conducted by then state coroner John Abernethy in 2006 found that Mr Cooke had committed suicide, based on his depressed state at the time he went missing.

But the investigation was thrown open four years later when new owners of Mr Cooke’s Pipe Clay Road property Wonky Acres stumbled across his body in a dry creek bed about 1.5 kilometres from the homestead.

The inquest was re-opened and in Wagga yesterday deputy state coroner Hugh Dillon heard bizarre details about Mr Cooke’s remains and the discovery of a .22 Mohawk brand rifle that prompted police to look at all possibilities, including murder.

They included that a bullet wound was to the back of Mr Cooke’s head, the rifle was found wedged barrel first between rocks about 20 metres away from the remains and the rifle’s bolt had been pulled back to eject a spent cartridge.

Detective Sergeant Damian Nott of Young police said the only scenario that fitted was that Mr Cooke shot himself and survived long enough to eject the spent shell and then put the rifle between the rocks.

He said it was highly unlikely a murderer would leave the weapon behind and he also ruled out misadventure while hunting because Mr Cooke did not hunt.

Mr Cooke’s former wife, Margaret O’Brien, told Mr Dillon she thought suicide was feasible because of his pessimistic nature.

She said he had been a good farmer, husband and friend but she had left him because he had not been able to deal with her multiple sclerosis.

“No one deserved to die the way he did, it was a sad end to a life,” she said as she cried.

Wayne Cooke

Wayne Cooke

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