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27 Oct 2021 7:24
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  •   Home > News > International

    Coroner names Darlene Geertsema's ex-partner as person of interest in upcoming inquest

    The former partner of a Tasmanian woman who went missing more than 40 years ago was in court as it is announced he is a person of interest in her disappearance for the upcoming inquest.


    The former partner of a Tasmanian woman who went missing more than 40 years ago is being considered a person of interest in her disappearance, a coroner's court has heard.

    Darlene Avis Geertsema, of Devonport, was last seen on October 23, 1978.

    Her red Holden Sunbird car was found close to the Devonport Oval the day after she disappeared, but there had been no trace of her since.

    She was 30 years old, a divorcee and a mother of six children.

    Almost 43 years on, a coronial inquest will in December examine how she disappeared and consider whether "she was murdered".

    "[There's] no evidence to find Ms Geertsema had left the state, had committed suicide or drowned in Devonport," counsel assisting the Coroner Madeleine Wilson SC told a case management conference in the coroner's court in Launceston on Thursday.

    "Her body was never found." 

    Ms Wilson told the court that Ms Geertsema's former partner, John Shepherd, was considered a "person of interest" in her disappearance, but no charges had been laid.

    Mr Shepherd, who now lives in Westbury and has been married for 30 years to another woman, sat at the back of the court with his wife during the hearing.

    Ms Wilson said Ms Geertsema and Mr Shepherd met in 1971 and started dating.

    "It was not an exclusive relationship," Ms Wilson told the court.

    The court heard Ms Geertsema was also having a relationship with a man called Micky Rowe, who lived in Westbury, and whom she intended to marry.

    "She was leaving John Shepherd and going to live with Micky Rowe," Ms Wilson told the court.

    The court heard on the night she disappeared, Ms Geertsema told Mr Shepherd she was going to visit a friend in Parkham, in the state's north-west, but she never arrived.

    Ms Wilson told the court it was Mr Shepherd who reported Ms Geertsema missing to police.

    The court heard Mr Shepherd told police that Ms Geertsema was in "a very distressed state" before she went missing and that she'd told him that she was pregnant and had cancer.

    However, Ms Wilson said the missing woman had visited a GP the morning of her disappearance, and that the doctor had reported she was "in good spirits, was not pregnant and did not have cancer".

    Inquest to examine relationships

    The inquest into Ms Geertsema's disappearance has been set for December 13, 14 and 15 and will be heard in Launceston.

    The court heard the scope of the inquest is still being determined but it will likely cover:

    • If Ms Geertsema was murdered;
    • History of the relationship between Ms Geertsema and Mr Shepherd and episodes of family violence;
    • History of the relationship between Ms Geertsema and Mr Rowe, and;
    • History of the relationship between Mr Shepherd and his other partners.

    The court heard he will give evidence during the coronial inquest and he is in the process of getting legal representation.

    The inquest is expected to hear from 13 witnesses. 


    ABC




    © 2021 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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