SUNDAY SUN, September 16 1990:
Top Queensland medics have given up hope of ever solving the Mud Island body-in-the-box riddle.
For the past two years doctors and police have been trying to identify the skeleton, found in a makeshift wooden coffin in April 1988 on the foreshore of Mud Island.
According to Government pathologist Doctor Tony Ansford: “We simply have no idea who it is.”
Exhaustive tests by Dr Ansford and other Queensland scientists have failed to uncover the burial date of the skeleton or the cause of death.
“We believe the skeleton is of a male person, possibly part Aborigine, aged between 26 and 31 and about 172 cm tall,” he said.
“The rest is a total mystery…it’s extremely bizarre.”
Detective Senior Constable Col Pass of the Brisbane Homicide squad is just as puzzled.
He said only one person had inquired about the skeleton when it was first discovered by a fisherman.
“A woman thought it might have been her husband who was washed off the rocks in northern New South Wales. But she was at a loss to explain how the body had found its way into a coffin.”
Sen. Const Pass said there was nothing to indicate the person died a violent death.
“Tests and x-rays of the bones reveal the person had not suffered any serious illness” he said.
Police have examined the possibility the skeleton was a leprosy sufferer, who in the past lived in exile on St.Helena Island.
Sen. Const Pass said evidence indicated the skeleton was moved from its original resting place and carefully transferred to the hand-made box which had a stake to indicate the burial spot. He said if police failed to uncover any new leads within the next few months, the matter would be referred to the coroner.
Dr Ansford said slabs of mud on top of the wooden box had prevented marine biologists from matching marine growth on the skeleton, allowing an estimate of the age.
“We have checked with various ethnic groups and it doesn’t appear to be a normal burial rite,” he said.
In a last ditch plea to solve the mystery, Sen. Const Pass said anyone who might have information can contact him on 364-6505.
(Editor: Well, that doesn’t tell us too much. Dr Ansford has no idea of the identity, and Detective Senior Constable Pass is just as puzzled. The reporter, Warren Gibbs, also had the wrong island for the Leprosy sufferers – they were on Peel Island; St Helena had the prison. The photo of the grave is more interesting. By the reflections of the marker and an image of someone standing behind it, the grave at the time of taking the photo is on the water’s edge. What was the tide at this time, because if it was low water, then the grave would have been submerged when we walked along the beach? Maybe we should return at low tide next time.)