The opening day of the hearing lasted less than an hour as counsel assisting the coroner, Senior Sergeant Duane Carey, outlined the purpose of the inquest and how it would proceed over the next two weeks.
He also tendered documents from the police investigation, including forensic reports and the police brief of evidence – four large containers containing folders of information gathered during the 12-year investigation.
The statement of the police officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Senior Constable Tony King, was also tendered.
Det King was sworn in yesterday, but did not give any evidence before the court was adjourned for the day.
In his opening statement Sgt Carey said the purpose of the investigation was to identify the deceased, establish where she was killed and arrive at a cause of death.
He said the evidence would show that the deceased was Lee Ellen Stace and that she died at Red Cliff several hours after she went missing after leaving work at Yamba around 2.30pm on Tuesday, September 2, 1997.
The choice of evidence and the order it falls would mirror Lee’s life and the stages of it.
He said the evidence gathered from interviews with hundreds of people would attempt to show the movements of Lee Stace from Yamba to Red Cliff on that afternoon.
Sgt Carey said Det King’s evidence would also include police opinions on what might have happened.
He said that among the 50-plus witnesses would be campers who were staying at Red Cliff around the time of the murder.
“There are many possible versions of what happened,” Sgt Carey said.
“Hopefully we can cut together her movements from Yamba to Red Cliff.
“We may be unable to determine the cause and reason for her death but we’ll have a clearer picture of what happened on that ill-fated afternoon.”
The Stace family – father Peter, mother Robyn and sister Kylie with partner Nigel Hicks – were in court yesterday, sitting in the jury box.
Another group of friends sat in the court gallery to lend the family support.
Det King is expected to give evidence throughout the day tomorrow.
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- Key suspects in Stace murder
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- Court hunts Lee Ellen's killer
- Remembering Lee Ellen
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