Woman denies involvement in disappearance of Robert Mansell on Flinders Island fishing trip
A woman has denied rumours that she and a person of interest in the coronial inquiry into the disappearance of Flinders Island man Robert Mansell had pushed him into the sea.
- Stephanie Riggall gave evidence on the second day of the inquest into Robert Mansell’s disappearance
- She suggested Mr Mansell go fishing with Joshua Kennedy, despite him not going fishing often
- Ms Riggall was told that Mr Mansell had slipped and fallen into the water
“Robbie” Mansell, 42, was reported missing by Joshua Kennedy after he fell into the water during a fishing trip on the island in 2015.
His body was never found and Mr Kennedy has been named as a person of interest in the inquest.
Stephanie Riggall gave evidence on the second day of the hearing into Mr Mansell’s disappearance in Hobart.
She said that she, Mr Mansell, and Mr Kennedy were “the black sheep” of the island, and were such close friends they were “like brothers and sister”.
The inquest has previously heard evidence that the relationship between the two men was toxic, and their fights often got physical.
There had also been a suggestion to a witness of a “twisted love triangle” involving Mr Kennedy, Ms Riggall, and Mr Mansell.
Ms Riggall told the inquest after Mr Mansell’s disappearance, his brothers had arrived on her doorstep, accusing her of being involved in the disappearance.
“They just demanded to know what happened with Robbie, and suggested that I wasn’t telling the truth,” Ms Riggall said.
“They weren’t very happy about it. Of course I wouldn’t be either.
“They heard rumours about what happened … that Josh [Kennedy] and I had pushed him [Mr Mansell] in.
“They suggested that I was there, and they believed that Josh had pushed him in or didn’t try to help him at all.”
Woman suggested fishing trip to recent returnee
Robert Mansell had only just returned to Flinders Island before his disappearance. (Rose Grant)
The inquest heard that Mr Mansell had been off the island for between four and six weeks, but despite telling the inquest she did not know what plane he was returning on, Ms Riggall and Mr Kennedy had been there to meet him.
Ms Riggall told the inquest she suggested the three go fishing and have a beer the next day, because Robbie “was a mess”.
“He was so glad to be home,” she said.
“He was just exhausted, he’d had a big few weeks away. He wasn’t upset, he was just exhausted.”
The inquest heard that Ms Riggall had suggested the trip, despite Mr Mansell not owning any fishing gear, rarely fishing, and not being able to swim.
Coroner Olivia McTaggart was told that Mr Mansell was petrified of sharks, and would only go into the water up to his knees.
Woman says she was told ‘Robbie had slipped’
The inquest heard that phone records showed a three-second call from Mr Kennedy to Ms Riggall’s phone about 8:45am on the day of his disappearance, and then she had called him back at 10:25am.
Ms Riggall said it was in that 65-second call that he told her Mr Mansell was missing.
“I could hear in his voice that he was upset, that something wasn’t right,” she said.
“I asked what was wrong, and he said that Robbie had slipped.”
She said when she got to the fishing site, Mr Kennedy was crying and told her he had jumped in to try and save Mr Mansell.
“He said that he’d never forget that moment that he glanced down at Robbie, and he was going under,” Ms Riggall said.
“And that he stripped down to his boxers and jumped in.
“[He said] he was there and then he just vanished and was gone.”
Ms Riggall said Mr Kennedy had told him that a large graze on his back had been caused by the waves pushing him against the rocks.
The inquest was told Mr Kennedy had said Mr Mansell had been trying to retrieve a stuck lure when he slipped into the water.
Ms Riggall admitted that Mr Mansell had joined them on trips to drink, but rarely fished with them, and never in that area and he had never helped retrieve a lure before.
‘On the island they gossip’: Ms Riggall
Ms Riggall’s mother Kellie gave evidence yesterday, saying her daughter had called her from the scene of the disappearance and said that “Robbie disappeared in the waves, but Josh never went into the water to save him”.
Ms Riggall told the inquest she had no idea why her mother would have said that, and denied ever saying it.
She also described as “bullshit” the statement by another witness that she had heard Ms Riggall say to Mr Kennedy “are you going to push me off the rock too?”
“On the island they gossip,” Ms Riggall said.
“And anything they don’t know they make up over there. I didn’t make that comment.”
‘No love triangle’ despite ‘crush’
Ms Riggall admitted she knew that Mr Kennedy had formed “a crush” on her within weeks of her arriving on the island but denied assertions by Counsel Assisting the Coroner Jane Ansell, that she had used Mr Kennedy and his feelings for her for companionship, child minding and money.
It was also put to Ms Riggall that she was involved in a love triangle with Mr Mansell and Mr Kennedy at the time.
“It couldn’t be further from the truth,” Ms Riggall said.
“There is no love triangle whatsoever at all.”