The family of young mum Charlene Warrior have revealed the last message she sent before she was mysteriously found hanging in a tiny South Australian town almost two years ago.
Charlene Warrior, who was 21 when she died, had gone to Bute – about 90 minutes north of Adelaide – to pick up her one-year-old daughter from the home of her ex-partner when she vanished about eight days into the trip.
Her family say police waited nine crucial days before acting on their missing persons report – nine days they believe could have saved her life.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this story contains images and voices of people who have died.
DYING ROSE: LISTEN TO EPISODES 1 & 2
The youngest of Alma Warrior and Kent Newchurch’s six children, Charlene was incredibly close with her sister, Theresa Warrior.
On September 18, 2021, Theresa received a call from Charlene, who had travelled from the family home in Adelaide’s western suburbs to pick up her daughter.
Charlene was on a park bench, somewhere in the town.
“The last phone call that we had was of her crying in tears,” Theresa said.
“That’s how I knew something was wrong, because she was crying in tears and she was saying ‘I need to get back to Adelaide’.”
Later that night, Charlene messaged her sister to say “I hate this, literally the saddest shit ever”.
Theresa did not hear from her again.
“The next day, I thought something was wrong because she never got back to me. I kept calling and calling her but she never got back,” she said.
“I messaged her ex-partner but he never got back to me and then he messaged me the day after and got back to me and said that he woke up and Charlene was gone.”
The SA coroner said Charlene was not reported missing to police until September 29, 2021 — 11 days after she disappeared and nine days after her sister, Theresa, said she made the initial report.
Theresa, who adamantly refutes that timeline, has provided messages sent before September 29 which state a report had already been made.
Police and the family agree that the co-ordinated SA Police search for Charlene began on October 1.
Her body was found by a local man walking in the area about 6pm on October 3 – 15 days after she was last heard from.
She was hanging in a tree at the edge of a paddock on Martin St, about 200m and within eyeline of where the search had been based and 100m from the house where she had been staying.
By the following morning, police had published a statement the death “appears to be non-suspicious” – meaning Charlene had died by suicide.
But Charlene’s family feels like she was let down by police.
“Even with the police, I just reckon that they failed that case miserably. I would tell them to this day too. They know how I feel about it,” Teresa said.
“It just went unheard to them. It wasn’t important enough. I felt like she wasn’t important enough for the police for them to find her, for her to be there for two whole weeks.”
Charlene’s ex-partner was unavailable when The Advertiser knocked on his door at Bute this month, but his dad answered.
He said Charlene took her own life and his family has been unfairly targeted ever since.
Police declined a request for interview but in a statement described the coronial investigation as “very thorough”.
“SAPOL have listened to Ms Warrior’s family and appreciate and understand their concerns about the circumstances surrounding Ms Warrior’s tragic death,” a spokeswoman said.
“In circumstances such as this, investigators are always alert to any possibility of foul play.
“Investigators, including support from SAPOL’s Major Crime Investigation Branch, are confident that Ms Warrior’s death is not suspicious.”
A subsequent statement from Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the coroner was satisfied with the evidence presented and has found Charlene’s death was as a result of suicide.
The Coroner’s Court declined to release files on Charlene’s death on the basis that the matter was not heard at inquest.
Originally published as Young mum Charlene Warrior’s final text before being found dead 15 days later