Lerderderg Gorge dying man did not suffer long: Coroner

A photo of Matthew Williams with his partner Sara Okerstrom before he disappeared
A photo of Matthew Williams with his partner Sara Okerstrom before he disappeared

The death of a Blackwood prospector whose body was found in the Lerderderg Gorge State Park cannot be contributed to an inadequate search by police, a coroners inquest has found.

Coroner Rosemary Carlin this month released her findings into the death of Matthew Williams, 37, who was found in bushland near Blackwood six days after he left home to go gold prospecting in December, 2014.

The parameters of the search, as well as the medical cause of death, formed part of the inquest after a number of issues were raised by Williams' family.

Mr Williams' brother, Andrew, told the Victoria County Court during a public hearing in September "police made their mistakes" in what he believed was an inadequate search which contributed to his brother's death.

The court heard Mr Williams' family were particularly concerned he may have been alive for sometime and that his death could have been prevented by a timely rescue.

Mr Williams left his Blackwood home and told family he was going gold prospecting on December 21, 2014.

But the father-of-one never returned home to take his son swimming as promised.

A coordinated search on foot and by air was conducted of the areas he had previously searched for gold, but neither Mr Williams or his red car were found.

Six days after his disappearance a group of men who were out four wheel driving along the disused and overgrown Old Bee Track discovered Mr Williams lying face down next to his car.

In her findings, Ms Carlin said there was nothing to suggest a "prolonged survival" or that Mr Williams would have survived beyond midday of December 22 based on the evidence of Head of Forensic Pathology at the Victoria Institute of Forensic Medicine, Dr Lles.

"Dr Lles considered that the circumstantial evidence combined with the medical evidence pointed to 'a rapid, sudden event'," the inquest read.

"She considered the three most likely causes of Matthew's collapse were a sudden cardiac event, snake bite and anaphylaxis, for example from an allergic reaction to an insect bite.

"In short 'there are no features to suggest that Matthew was lying unconscious for a prolonged period of time."

But despite the possible causes of sudden death, Ms Carlin said she could not decide between the cardiac event or snake bite and subsequently formally found the cause of death to be 'unascertained'.

She also noted she was satisfied at all times police were motivated by a genuine desire to find Mr Williams, but were hampered by a lack of information.