Date for inquest on Charlotte mystery

A MONTH has been set aside next year to try to unravel the mystery death of Wodonga baby Charlotte Keen.

Up to 39 witnesses will be called to give evidence when a coroner’s inquest finally starts in Wodonga in August.

That will be almost eight years after Charlotte died, just three days shy of her first birthday.

She died in the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne on December 17, 2004, from what were described as terrible injuries she suffered at her Phefley Court home.

Charlotte was being cared for by a friend of her family.

Yesterday coroner Jacinta Heffey told a direction hearing in Melbourne the inquest was an extremely important step in trying to find out how Charlotte died.

“It’s very sad that this case has taken so long, since 2004,” she said.

Aside from court staff the only people to turn up for the hearing were Charlotte’s paternal grandparents, Lesley and Bob Keen, who watched the largely informal proceedings via videolink from Wodonga Court.

Ms Heffey made the comment that no one else, including Charlotte’s mother, Renee Jones, had “bothered” to turn up.

“We don’t know whether the mother is going to be legally represented,” she said.

But she noted that Detective Sgt Adam Forehan had been able to contact Ms Jones to let her know she would be called as a witness.

At least half a dozen witnesses have not been found, despite extensive searches throughout Victoria and Australia.

“The paediatrician (for Charlotte) is overseas but he will be back for the inquest,” Ms Heffey said.

But Dr Matthew Ho who first treated Charlotte at Wodonga hospital — before she was transferred to Albury hospital and then the Royal Children’s — has not yet been found.

“No doubt we’ll find him, unless he’s overseas,” Ms Heffey said.

Thirty-one witnesses have so far been found including Ms Jones, who has previously told of her heartache at Charlotte’s death and the innuendo she had to suffer that suggested she was somehow responsible.

Ms Heffey said it was possible that some witnesses could decline to give evidence on the grounds that might incriminate themselves.

In August Ms Heffey held what she said was a “very lengthy meeting” to go through the witness list to try to work out who was required.

The inquest is set to start on August 19, and run until September 20.

“Whether we will need all that time we don’t know, but we have been allocated that time” Ms Heffey said.

Witnesses required for the inquest will have subpoena letters sent to them on June 1 next year.

Ms Heffey praised the efforts of Sgt Forehan for his unrelenting hard work on the case.

She expressed relief that another hurdle had been cleared to get the inquest under way.

“At least we’re moving, it’s moving along,” Ms Heffey said.