Eileen Stewart cold case: Sixty years on, Tasmanian mother’s disappearance remains a mystery
A coronial review into the disappearance of a mother of four from a Hobart cottage 60 years ago has failed to shed any light on the mystery.
Eileen Adeline Stewart left her Mount Nelson home on November 7, 1958, telling her husband she was going into town shopping and never returned.
The family, originally from Britain, lived at the Signal Station cottage with the father Charles operating the nearby semaphore.
On the same day his wife disappeared, Charles put their four children, all aged under 9, into two separate orphanages.
He then contacted police to report her missing.
In the weeks and months that followed, searches of Mount Nelson and beyond proved fruitless.
Police contacted relatives in the United Kingdom where the family was originally from.
At the time, Mrs Stewart’s mother told London police she believed “her daughter deliberately left her husband because of his treatment of her”.
The investigation was re-opened in 2014 as part of a coronial review of long-term missing persons cases.
DNA testing was conducted on unidentified bones found on Mount Wellington in the early 1970s that had been kept in storage.
Police and forensics further searched the area around the Stewart family cottage and excavated what was thought to potentially be a grave.
But coroner Simon Cooper, who investigated Mrs Stewart’s death, said “none of these enquiries revealed any information to assist in the investigation”.
On the day Eileen disappeared, Charles sent his four children to two different orphanages. (Supplied: News Limited)
Children return to Tasmania searching for answers
Family members in the UK were contacted and it was ascertained Mrs Stewart’s husband was long since dead.
In 1960, two years after his wife disappeared, Charles Stewart took his four children back to the United Kingdom.
In 2016, three of the Stewart children returned to Tasmania in a bid to find out what really happened to their mother.
At the time it was reported the father was the prime suspect.
Yesterday Coroner Simon Cooper returned an open finding in the case.
The coroner said he was satisfied based on the evidence that Eileen Stewart was dead but was unable to determine the cause of death or location.
He said he considered it “a certainty that had she [Mrs Stewart] been alive at any time after her disappearance she would have made contact with her mother, her children or one of her siblings”.
“What became of her after her disappearance from the family cottage on Mount Nelson that morning approaching 60 years ago, is a question that cannot be answered,” he said.