Peter Mitchell at the memorial he has made to his son, who was found dead at this spot, on Graham Drive, Sandy Beach.
Peter Mitchell at the memorial he has made to his son, who was found dead at this spot, on Graham Drive, Sandy Beach. Trevor Veale

Parents speak of enduring impact of son's death

MATTHEW Mitchell's parents have spoken of the enduring impact of his death and the added pain of not knowing how he died or who is responsible.

Matthew, or 'Matty' as his father Peter calls him, was found lying unconscious with serious head injuries on Graham Dr on August 17, 2013.

He was flown to Royal North Shore Hospital, where he later died on Saturday, September 19.

While an inquest in 2016 found he was most likely hit by a car while he was walking or standing on the road, Peter and Matthew's mother Julie are not convinced.

The ultimate frustration came when a key witness failed to show and the inquest had to be cut short.

"We're not convinced he was hit by a car but that's what the coroner came up with, but it just makes it even harder to move on but it all just seemed rushed."

The 30-year-old had been at a party and left with another man after reports it became rowdy.

At the time of his death Peter says Matty had started associating with people he has described as undesirables.

"At the time it happened he was a little bit depressed and was sort of hanging out with a group of people who I'd probably describe as undesirables but Matty was trying to help a couple of these people out. That was how Matty was."

In the months following his death the Mitchell family struggled to cope with their loss.

"For the first 12 months I was very angry. I got myself into trouble and did a bit of my own detective work. I made threats and was charged. All those charges were dropped in the end but it was a very tough time," Peter said.

"It gets easier over the years but you never lose it - ever. I think of him every single day. I tell myself he is in a better place now maybe. I need to live my life and so does all the rest of the family but it's the not knowing what happened to him that we can't bear."

 

Family attend the coronial inquest into the death of Matthew Mitchell in 2017. Pictured are Matthew's father Peter, sister Alisha, mother Julie, and brother Rob.
Family attend the coronial inquest into the death of Matthew Mitchell in 2017. Pictured are Matthew's father Peter, sister Alisha, mother Julie, and brother Rob. David Barwell

Matthew's siblings Alicia and Robbie were also struggling.

"They were all so close. Matty and Robbie were like best mates - they would go surfing and play footy together. Robbie sort of lost the plot in the first 12 months and we had to settle him down as much as possible."

Julie also felt extreme anger but, like Peter, she knew she had to also focus on her remaining children.

"It's unbearable, it feels like a part of you is gone. You learn to live with it but it hurts every single day but we have two other children who need us, so you don't have a choice but to go on.

"I'm a completely different person to what I was back then. I was quite a happy, outgoing person and a lot of that happiness is gone now."

Always helping people

He was one 'out of the box', a black belt in karate with a gentle soul, willing to help anybody.

These are the enduring memories of their son that Peter and Julie will cherish forever.

"I'm not just saying this because he is my son but he was one out of the box, he really was. He had a lot of mates. Everyone who knew him liked him. He was just a really easy going guy and he loved life. He was always helping other people, all the time."

 

PROMISING ATHLETE: Matthew Mitchell played for the Sawtell Saints.
PROMISING ATHLETE: Matthew Mitchell played for the Sawtell Saints. Contributed

He was a black belt in martial arts but his father said he had never seen him hit anyone ever - except maybe on the footy field.

"Matthew was born here then we moved to Melbourne when he was five. When I separated from his mother we moved back up here when he was about 10 and the two boys grew up here," explained Peter.

A talented athlete he played AFL for the Sawtell Saints and was named in a state under 17s squad until a work accident at the age of 18 ended his playing career.

He sustained a back injury lifting a heavy weight while employed as a road worker and despite several operations it was difficult to resume such physical work on a full time basis and was working casually at the time he was killed.

Family hopes reward will uncover the truth

AS both Peter and Julie Mitchell have stressed, it's the not knowing that makes their loss so unbearable.

They are both hoping the $300,000 reward announced last week for information into his death will help them find the answers they so desperately need.

 

Matthew Mitchell
Matthew Mitchell

Peter has thanked the NSW Government for putting the money forward and has urged anybody with information to "please reach into your heart" and come forward.

"I am an optimist and I am confident. Please reach into your heart. Look... I don't want this person locked up for life or anything. It may have been an accident, it may have been a hit and run perhaps, I don't know, but I am sure if he came forward or if we were able to find out who it was, I am sure the sentence wouldn't be that harsh because it was five years ago but at least we would know what happened to Matt and we can actually lay him to rest."

Julie has also welcomed the reward, announced on August 17, the fifth anniversary of his death, but is sorry it's taken this long.

"I am glad about the reward but wish it had been done a lot sooner when minds were more fresh."

Since announcing the reward Coffs/Clarence Police District crime manager detective Acting Inspector Peter O'Reilly says there has been some contact from the public in relation to the case and stresses that all information will be treated in a confidential manner.

"We have no doubts that there are people in the community who know the identity of those involved and we are asking those people to come forward to assist us and assist Peter and their family."

On behalf of a grieving family Peter has this final plea:

"Our son has died and all we want to know is why."



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