Deputy state coroner Elaine Truscott has delivered an open finding at the inquest into the death of Matthew (Matt) Leveson.
Leveson, 20, went missing in 2007 and was last seen leaving ARQ nightclub in Sydney with his boyfriend, then 45-year-old Michael Atkins.
Matt’s parents, Mark and Faye Leveson, who the inquest was told believe Atkins murdered their son, were emotional as the coroner said it had been her privilege to “be Matt’s coroner”.
Atkins had been recorded on CCTV buying a mattock and duct tape later on the day when Matt died despite initially claiming he had not left the Cronulla unit where the couple lived.
A jury found Atkins not guilty of murder or manslaughter in a 2009 trial in which part of his defence was that Matt could still be alive.
He had denied, through his lawyer, that Matt could have died of an overdose but he told police earlier this year in a statement that he had buried his body after Matt died of an accidental drug overdose.
Earlier this year Atkins led police to the spot in the Royal National Park south of Sydney where he buried his body following a series of legal agreements that he would not be prosecuted for lying to the inquest if he revealed where the body was.
Ms Truscott said in her findings that Atkins was not a truthful person.
“Ultimately, the lies that Mr Atkins told during the course of his evidence to the inquest, as with other lies he had told to a range of people, including the police, since Matt’s disappearance, give rise to a considerable degree of suspicion that Mr Atkins had some connection with Matt’s death apart from the fact he buried Matt’s body,” she said.
“However, it does not follow … from that degree of suspicion that I can find that Mr Atkins was involved in any acts which were causative to Matt’s death.”
Detective Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin, who oversaw the search for the body and the current police investigation, said that without his family driving and pushing police he doubted the matter “would have got as far as it has”.
“It’s a testament to how much that they loved Matt. They’re not going to find relief from it.”
Ms Truscott recommended Mr and Mrs Leveson receive an official commendation from the police for the assistance they had given, never resting in their fight for justice.
Atkins sold his Brisbane unit during the inquest and has reportedly gone into hiding.