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Mine worker testifies about coworker whose body was too decayed to identify

Cloudbreak Iron Ore Mine
Cloudbreak Iron Ore Mine

A metal mine employee who was the last person to see his colleague before he died five years ago in a Western Australian tunnel finally broke his silence on January 15.

Former Fortescue Metals Group employee Graham Milne described his deceased colleagues Raymond Kehlet and wife Jennie as “good friends” and “two peas in a pod” who were always honest with each other. They all worked at the Cloudbreak Iron Ore Mine at Mulga Downs, 450km southeast of Port Hedland.

‘Secret squirrel’

Milne said the couple kept their abseiling plans secret from others.

“Ray wanted to keep it, as he called it, secret squirrel … he did not want anyone to know,” he told the WA Coroner’s Court according to the Australian Associated Press (AAP).

He also revealed the trio had intended to abseil down mine shafts during a trip to Mount Palmer but the couple changed their mind after a family member became ill. Milne had to make the trip alone.

No plans to abseil

He did not believe the couple planned to do any abseiling in Sandstone where the 47-year-old husband’s body was eventually discovered so badly decomposed a month later that authorities could not determine the cause of death. The 49-year-old wife is still missing and believed to be dead.

Milne said if he knew the couple were unprepared he would not let them begin their descent.

“I would not allow anyone else to go down a mine shaft without proper gear,” he said.

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Milne’s lawyer, Glenn Cridland, explained his client initially did not want to speak about the incident because his answers “may have the tendency to incriminate him”.

“One can see where the police case is going,” Cridland said according to AAP.

However, the lawyer representing the police said she had no intention of charging Milne. Coroner Ros Fogliani also offered the witness a section 47 certificate, preventing his evidence at the inquest from being used in any future criminal proceedings against him if his testimony is believed to be truthful.

The inquest continues.

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