Coroner: Rachel Antonio died after "violent" fight

Rachel Antonio.
Rachel Antonio.

A CORONIAL inquest into the disappearance of Bowen teenager Rachel Antonio has implicated her Surf Life Saving captain Robert Hytch in her death.

Delivering his findings at Bowen Courthouse today, Coroner David O'Connell concluded that Robert Hytch met the missing schoolgirl on the night of Anzac Day 1998.

He found that a "violent" altercation took place between them that was likely to have caused a fatal injury.

Mr Hytch had given evidence to the Coronial inquest, which concluded in October last year, that he'd left his brother's18th birthday party just before 7o'clock on the night of April 25 to rent a video.

He had said that his car had broken down both on the way to and from the video shop, which is why his trip took 45 minutes.

Mr O'Connell concluded that was a lie, and there had been no mechanical problems with the car.

"I find that a meeting between the two of them occurred on that evening at a little after 7pm and that shortly after that time Mr Hytch has caused a fatal injury to Rachel and thereby caused her death," Mr O'Connell said.

"Mr Hytch has then secreted her body at a location, and then likely realising he would be missed by his absence from the party, continued with his errands and driven to the video store."

Mr O'Connell said on the evening in question, Mr Hytch had been wearing a pair of reef sandals, which were later examined by police to have droplets of Rachel's blood on them.

Mr O'Connell also concluded that Rachel Antonio and Robert Hytch, who was 25 at the time of the disappearance, had been in a secret, sexual relationship, despite Mr Hytch having repeatedly denied any such relationship.

He said evidence had been presented that Mr Hytch had met a young lady from Western Australia during a Surf Life Saving conference. Mr O'Connell concluded that Mr Hytch had told Rachel the girl was pregnant.

"No doubt this information would be a crushing revelation to a young, 'relationship-naive', 15-year-old girl," he said.

Mr O'Connell said Rachel had then schemed to fake her own pregnancy because "perhaps she thought this would then lead Mr Hytch to decide between the two girls".

He said in the week leading up to her disappearance, Rachel had told friends she would meet Mr Hytch on the evening of Anzac Day, possibly to admit to faking the pregnancy.

"If she was going to talk to him about the alleged pregnancy, and then admit to faking that pregnancy... that those circumstances, to a much older man, derived by a mere schoolgirl, when he was then in another relationship, could well provide a very fertile group for strong emotions to occur," Mr O'Connell said.

Mr Hytch was initially charged with Rachel's murder following her 1998 disappearance. He was convicted of manslaughter in 1999. The sentence was overturned on appeal and he was acquitted in 2001.

During his findings, Mr O'Connell ruled out possibilities that Rachel had run away or committed suicide.

Mr O'Connell has referred Mr Hytch to the Department of Public Prosecutions to investigate a charge of perjury.


Topics:  bowen crime editors picks mackay police rachel antonio

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