A coroner has heard two police officers linked to early investigations into Jackson Stacker’s death are on extended sick leave and a third has left the force and refused to give evidence to an inquest examining how the Melbourne man died.
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Mr Stacker, 25, was estimated to have been dead for about month when his badly decomposed body was discovered in a paddock near the Sleepy Hollow rest area on the Pacific Highway in northern New South Wales in August 2021.
A NSW Coroner’s Court hearing in Lismore on Monday heard he was face down, wearing his favourite fur coat and had a 30cm hunting knife embedded in his chest.
His upper scalp and dreadlocks were found 14 metres away.
Scattered further away were his unzipped boots.
Police also found a container of oil, matches, a lighter, a beanie, a roll of duct tape and a blueberry vape.
A police line search later recovered three finger bones and a number of Mr Stacker’s teeth.
His family were in court for Monday’s opening to the inquest.
Search for answers
Counsel Assisting the Coroner, Kirsten Edwards, said the inquest aimed to shed light on whether Mr Stacker had taken his own life or met with foul play.
“There is a puzzle about this death but this is not a who-done-it mystery, at the heart of this is a much-loved son,” she said.
Mr Stacker’s family has maintained he was not capable of suicide.
His parents, grandparents, uncle and aunt were in court to hear their description of him read aloud: kind, gentle, free-spirited and bubbly.
The court heard he had a history of mental health issues.
Mr Stacker had been travelling throughout Queensland and northern NSW in his much-loved van since 2020.
The last confirmed contact anyone had with him was on July 22, 2021.
His mother, Sandey MacFarlane, had reported there was nothing to raise concern when she spoke with him on the phone that day.
But his friend Callum Whitehead reported he was acting erratically and had angrily thrown a bicycle in the Main Beach car park at Byron Bay before crying.
Mr Stacker’s family reported him missing on August 23, 2021, after being contacted by someone wanting to buy a van abandoned for weeks at the Sleepy Hollow rest area north of Byron Bay.
Two days later police discovered Mr Stacker’s body under a tree in a nearby field.
The inquest heard no unaccounted-for DNA was found at the scene or around Mr Stacker’s van, though items including a laptop and SLR camera were missing.
Mr Stacker’s friend Mia Kidis travelled from Sydney to assist the inquest.
She gave evidence about his state of mind during her travels with him in 2020, including the effects of cannabis and LSD on him.
“I know he knew it didn’t react well with him,” she said.
Mr Stacker’s family has raised questions about the adequacy of the investigation, and early assumptions the death was self-inflicted.
The inquest is due to continue until Wednesday.
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