Inquest shines light on ex-husband

A COLD case inquest into the disappearance of Bellingen’s Susan Maree Kiely has heard her former husband had a motive to kill her.

The Coffs Harbour Coroner’s Court was also told yesterday there had been speculation at the time Ms Kiely had died from a drug overdose and the people with her had hidden or buried her body.

Ms Kiely was 33 when she went missing from Bellingen on December 1, 1989. Her body has never been found and the cause of her death is unknown.

Her former husband, Valla’s Robert Smith, is in court for the three-day hearing, as are their two daughters, Bianca and Heidi, and Ms Kiely’s brother, Gary.

Detective Senior Constable Kelly French told the inquest police suspected Mr Smith’s responsibility for Ms Kiely’s disappearance and death.

“Smith above all others had a motive. He was to have to sell his home, a house that he himself built and would have to provide his ex-wife with a substantial amount of money, about $35,000,” Const. French said.

“Kiely was also seeking full-time custody of both her children and history suggests that in most cases the mother would receive full custody of her children in a dispute.

“Smith had been violent to Kiely in the past and had made verbal threats against her life.

“My only concern with Smith’s involvement is that Heidi was left alone. If Smith was responsible for the disappearance of Kiely I find it hard to believe that he would have made no attempt to establish Heidi’s whereabouts and welfare after having not heard from her for a week.”

The court heard after the pair separated, Ms Kiely took her youngest daughter Heidi to live with her and Bianca remained in the care of her father, Mr Smith.

Ms Kiely, who moved to a small cottage on Kalang Road near Bellingen, was unemployed and receiving government benefits.

“From all accounts Kiely lived from day to day,” Const. French said.

“Kiely relied on hitch-hiking, neighbours and friends for transport. She was a regular cannabis user and had a drinking habit.

“She was well known at the local Federal Hotel in Bellingen, with her friends also abusing drugs and alcohol.”

On December 1, 1989, Ms Kiely saw young Heidi onto the school bus at 8.30am.

About 15 minutes later she was picked up hitch-hiking by local residents and was said to have been in ‘good spirits’. She told them she was on her way to town and planned to spend the day with friends.

She was dropped at the intersection of Church and Hyde streets about 9am but it is not known where she went immediately after.

Some time between 11am and 1.30pm she went to a friend’s place at 2 Short Street – now the YHA Backpackers – and stayed there for between 30 and 90 minutes. One of her friends believed she was on her way to the bank when she left. Another believed she was on her way to the bank and the pub.

Const. French said she has not been since leaving 2 Short Street and had not accessed her bank account.

She was reported missing by Mr Smith and another man on December 8, a week after she was last seen.

Const. French said Mr Smith later told police he had heard that Ms Kiely had overdosed on drugs while with friends and they had disposed of her body.

“It could be that Smith fabricated this information in an attempt to turn the attention of police away from himself and to others,” he said.

She told the inquest Gary Kiely was unhappy with how his sister’s disappearance had been investigated from the start. She also said some stages of the investigation seemed to ‘lack leadership, experience and direction’.

The inquest continues.

Investigators have urged people with information about the disappearance of Susan Maree Kiely to contact them at Coffs Harbour Police Station on 6652 0299.



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