The “violent” death of a young Australian volunteer in Mozambique has been ruled a homicide by police in the African nation — seven years after her body was found.
Melbourne woman Elly Warren, 20, was found dead by fishermen behind a toilet block in the coastal town of Tofo on November 9, 2016. She was face-down in the sand, with her underwear around her knees.
For years Elly’s family has been calling for a probe into her death, with her father Paul Warren, from Mordialloc in Melbourne, travelling to Mozambique to conduct his own investigation.
With a three-day coronial inquest set to begin on Tuesday, Mr Warren has welcomed the overdue finding by local police and hopes the Australian inquest will deliver the same outcome.
“We‘re hopeful now, we’re probably more hopeful than we’ve ever been that somebody might be charged, ” he told Nine News on Sunday. “They have some suspects.”
Mr Warren said he had received confirmation of the Mozambican authorities’ homicide investigation after Australian Federal Police travelled there at the request of the coroner.
On the night before her body was found, Elly — who had hoped to become a marine biologist — had been out with friends from Casa Barry Beach Lodge and was dancing in the street.
Sometime after 2am, a man watched her walk from the Pariango Beach Motel towards the Tofo De Mar Hotel and a street clustered with snack bars.
Three hours later, a fisherman found Elly’s body near the toilet block — the location of the town’s only public freshwater taps where fishermen went daily to prime their boats.
Multiple forensic examinations revealed the fit and healthy young woman died from asphyxia, after inhaling sand into her lower airways, and had no drugs in her system.
It would prove, however, the sand was a golden yellow, the kind found at the beach, and not the black sand around the toilet block.
Elly’s body appeared to have been moved. The fisherman who found her had taken a clear photo which indicated a struggle.
From Tuesday, the Victorian Coroner will hear three days of evidence from Elly’s loved ones, medical experts and investigators.
Elly’s family had initially been promised that the inquest would be launched by mid-2021 but Mr Warren said earlier this year that the case had continued to “drag on”.
He told Nine News on Sunday he hoped this week’s hearings would lead to an official request from Australia for Mozambique to hand over the case file.
“If there’s any chance of us finding the perpetrators that has murdered my daughter, then that would be closure in a way,” he said.
“It’s important that I do this for her because I know damn well that she would do it for me.”