31 January 2024

Coen man charged with murder over Ms Bernard disappearance

| Cape York Weekly

Police announced on 31 January that a 62-year-old Coen man had been charged with the murder of Ms Bernard. Photo: Supplied.

UPDATE – Wednesday, 31 January 5:30 pm: An updated version of this story is now live. Read the updated story here.

BREAKING UPDATE – Wednesday, 31 January, 2024 (7:15 am)

Police have charged the man assisting in the investigation into the 2013 disappearance of Ms Bernard with murder.

On Tuesday, they announced that the 62-year-old was helping investigators with their inquiries, but were quick to add that they had not laid charges.

In a media update on Wednesday morning, they advised that detectives had charged a 62-year-old Coen man with one count of murder on 30 January, 2024.

The man is due to appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court later today, 31 January, 2024.

Ms Bernard was last seen at Archer River quarry on 10 February 2013, at about 11 pm.

READ ALSO Police out to save face in search for Ms Bernard

She had been seen at the Exchange Hotel in Coen earlier that evening, and was expected to travel to Kowanyama, but never arrived.

A large-scale search of the area was undertaken at the time of Ms Bernard’s disappearance, and a 2022 Cairns inquest was told the last person to see her alive was quarry caretaker Thomas Byrnes, who denied any involvement.

Further searches were undertaken around Coen in late 2022 but nothing to advance the investigation, which has been heavily criticised.

In April 2023, police announced a $500,000 reward for information leading to the circumstances surrounding Ms Bernard’s disappearance, or leading to her being located.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The family of Ms Bernard has requested that she only be referred to as such for cultural reasons.

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