The grieving family of a young Indigenous mum-of-two whose decomposing body was found being eaten by a dog in the family’s backyard may finally get some answers at a coroner’s inquest as their hard-fought fight for justice continues.
Barkindji woman Lasonya Dutton, 31, had been missing for several days when her body was discovered just four metres from the kitchen window of her home in the remote town of Wilcannia in north-west NSW in March 2022.
Lasonya’s uncle Merle Dutton was horrified to find the mum’s decomposing body in the family’s backyard.
When he went outside, he initially believed the dog was eating a kangaroo.
‘I didn’t think anything of it until I got up a bit closer, then I realised it was a human being. I just ran out screaming and screaming,’ he said.
Merle claims police never got a formal statement from him or other family members who would have been able to provide information about Lasonya’s final days alive.
He claimed the only time he spoke to officers was ‘when they asked him to leave’ the home following the grim discovery.
Her tragic death rocked the small town of fewer than 750 residents, but, almost 18 months later, her devastated family are no closer to knowing how and why she died.
Police ruled Lasonya’s death to be suicide before a coroner stated in an autopsy report that ‘third-party involvement’ could not be ruled out and found the circumstances of Lasonya’s death suspicious.
The NSW Coroner’s Court has since taken over the investigation from police and is now working toward a coronial inquest.
The Adelaide Advertiser has reported that the coroner has requested documents and interviews from the newspaper to form part of an inquest into Lasonya’s death.
It comes after the Advertiser recently delved into Lasonya’s unexplained death as part of a podcast series.
Lasonya’s grieving family are adamant the mum-of-two didn’t take her own life. Source: NITV
Among the documents requested by the coroner are the publication’s interviews with Lasonya’s father Keith Dutton, uncle Merle Dutton who discovered his niece’s decomposing body and a neighbour who claims she saw two people try and break into Lasonya’s home the night before her body was found.
‘No hearing dates have been scheduled for this inquest at this time,’ a spokesman told Daily Mail Australia
‘Coronial investigations are ongoing.’
The family claims Lasonya’s death was ‘poorly investigated’ by police and that key witnesses who could have provided information weren’t interviewed.
Keith Dutton remains determined as ever to get justice and answers for his daughter.
Mr Dutton, who received the autopsy report almost a year after Lasonya died, insists his daughter did not commit suicide because she loved life as well as her two children.
Many unanswered questions remain 18 months after Lasonya Dutton’s body was found
‘I don’t know how the police come to the conclusion that a full investigation has been done,’ he told Adelaide Advertiser last month.
‘I’m horrified, to be honest with you. My family knows, and half of Wilcannia knows… I’m ready to explode.’
Wilcannia Lasonya Dutton was found dead in her family’s backyard in March 2022
Mr Dutton is baffled as to how his daughter could have been lying in the backyard for so long without her family seeing her, especially when the home was a ‘drop-in-centre’ for locals.
There were also rumours that people saw Lasonya being assaulted on the Friday night she was last seen, and a bloodied knife found at the local oval.
Neighbour Ingrid Bugmy recalled seeing two people appearing like they ‘wanted to get in’ to Lasonya’s home on the night before her body was found, two days after she was last seen
‘I just thought it was just strange. It was really strange for me for someone to stand on that side of that window … and then the next day they find a body there,’ Ms Bugmy told the newspaper.
Mr Dutton went to the police with the claims he heard but alleged officers ‘didn’t want to hear it’.
NSW Police insists it explored various lines of inquiry as part of the task force established to look into the death of Lasonya and had engaged with the family multiple times during the investigation, a claim Keith refutes.
If you or someone who knows needs support, contact 13Yarn (13 92 76) or Lifeline on 131 114.
The NSW Coroners Court is now investigating Lasonya Dutton’s tragic death and working towards an inquest to provide answers for her grieving family