The heartbroken parents of murdered Melbourne woman Elly Warren have blasted the Australian government and the Australian Federal Police for what they see as a lack of support in their search for “justice and answers” following her shocking death in Mozambique in 2016.
Ms Warren was found dead near 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.
“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 told the inquest 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.
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 requests 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.
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 probe her death and Mr Warren traveled to Mozambique in person in 2018.
In February this year, a Victorian coroner told the AFP to “move heaven and earth” to find answers on Elly’s death, which has now been ruled a homicide.
The inquest heard Mozambique investigators had prepared a brief of evidence to an instructing judge.
It is thought Victor’s Bar, near the Tofo marketplace and public toilets, is the last place Ms Warren was seen alive.
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 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”.
Ms Warren’s mother, Nicole Cafarella, told the inquest she thought about her daughter every day.
“I miss her today, tomorrow and I’ll miss her for the rest of her life,” she said.
Ms Cafarella said she should not have had to hire a private investigator to uncover more details about her daughter’s murder.
Ms Cafarella spoke about Ms Warren’s loving spirit, her love of travel and Africa, her love for animals and her plan to begin studies at university on her return home.
“She had so much more to give,” she said.