‘I’m still completely lost’: Probe into mystery Ocean Grove dune death reopened

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The sister of a man whose body was found near a Bellarine Peninsula beach says she is elated Victoria’s coroner has ordered police to re-examine his unexplained death, describing the initial probe as a superficial “injustice”.

Police are reinvestigating Simon Gaskill’s death after a teenager found the 51-year-old’s badly decomposed body in the dunes near a popular Ocean Grove beach in April last year.

Simon Gaskill’s body was found in Ocean Grove’s dunes last year, but the coroner couldn’t determine how he died.

His sister, Amanda Gaskill, said the initial police probe – which found the death was non-suspicious – didn’t include interviews with her brother’s friends and family, leaving it to the coroner to determine a cause of death, which she could not. She believes foul play is a possibility because her family has been left without answers despite persistent enquiries.

“[Closure] has been our motivation, apart for the feeling of, I guess, the injustice of the investigation and the lack of questions surrounding what happened to him,” she said.

“Our whole motivation is about also … being able to move forward not having those questions in your head constantly.”

Gaskill, an avid surfer who had been living in a tent in the scrub near Ocean Grove beach, was found laying face down in the sand with his backpack still strapped to his back, according to reports by The Australian. His mobile phone was missing, but his sister said police also didn’t thoroughly investigate its disappearance.

Simon Gaskill, an avid surfer, has been remembered as a kind, loving and loyal friend, brother, uncle and son.

“We just feel it was looked at as this homeless person was found dead, and nobody really cares that he died, and why he died, and what was circumstances were,” his sister said.

“I just think he [doesn’t] deserve that. Nobody should die under those sorts of circumstances … no family would be okay with that.”

The discovery of Gaskill’s body went largely unreported. Deputy state coroner Jacqui Hawkins ruled his death was “unascertained”.

However, Hawkins resolved to reopen the case this week on the basis that media reporting and a Gaskill family application to have the matter reinvestigated had brought new facts to light.

The Coroners Court of Victoria can reopen an investigation and set aside previous findings if it is satisfied there are new facts and circumstances relating to the case.

“Having reviewed the application, [Hawkins] has determined that it is appropriate to reopen the investigation and has subsequently directed Victoria Police to compile a brief of evidence,” a court spokeswoman said.

“As this is an open investigation, no further comment can be made.”

Simon Gaskill’s sister Amanda has sought answers about his unexplained Ocean Grove death.

Gaskill’s sister said she was “absolutely elated” the investigation has been reopened weeks after her family applied for a re-examination. She lost her only sibling when Gaskill died and said her tight-knit family, who grew up in Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road, were now without a kind and loyal friend.

“He was a very easygoing, laid-back person. He was a ‘surfer dude’ as he was growing up,” she said.

“He was very kind, had a really infectious laugh and a great sense of humour – just a really decent bloke.”

Gaskill’s friends from his Apollo Bay upbringing have also helped the family seek answers, his sister said.

“I’m still completely lost,” his sister said.

Simon Gaskill’s body was found near Ocean Grove’s main beach.Credit: Scott McNaughton

“I’ve had many visions in my head, but because of the lack of information, you might think of something as a possibility, but then there are other possibilities … there’s not even any sort of information where we can narrow it down.”

Victoria Police confirmed it would continue investigating the circumstances of Gaskill’s death, but would not provide further comment as the case was considered to be before the court.

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