A man who claimed he was going to exorcise his mum of ‘bad magic’ during a doomed sea voyage did not purposely bury her at sea despite damning evidence he planned to kill her and himself.
Victorian coroner Audrey Jamieson found on Monday that Adrian Meneveau, 56, ‘contributed’ to the death of his vulnerable mother Felicity Loveday, 83, when he left Frankston with her for a three-day boat trip on Port Phillip Bay on December 11, 2019.
Their capsized boat was found four days later along with the life jackets they had been photographed wearing as they set off.
This is the last photo of Adrian Meneveau and his mother Felicity Loveday (right) as they headed off on a boating trip on December 11 2019. Her daughter Christina took the photo
Felicity Loveday, 83, (right) and Adrian Meneveau, 56, (left) haven’t been since since they left for a three-day boating trip in December 2019
It was a photo that some speculated showed an already dead Ms Loveday in the front of the small boat, prompting comparison to the Hollywood movie ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ in which a pair of salesmen pretend their murdered employer Bernie is still alive.
Judge Jamieson said the pair believed Ms Loveday had conjured up ‘bad magic’ through her interest in Buddhist mysticism.
Her son, who shared his mother’s interest in the dark arts, told his sister Christina he aimed to reverse the spell by heading out onto the bay with her for three days.
Ms Loveday had been a former ‘worshipful master’ at the notoriously secretive fraternal society Co-Freemasonry.
A worshipful master is the most powerful elected official in the Masonic lodge at the Co-Freemasonry – an offshoot of Freemasonry with religious roots that admits both men and women.
The pair claimed they had previously reversed bad magic with a voyage over the Dead Sea – a salt lake bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west.
‘The only way to put the bad magic to sleep was to be out on the salt water,’ Mr Meneveau told his sister.
The court heard Mr Meneveau followed his mother’s beliefs while acting as her full-time carer for the last seven years of their lives.
Ms Loveday had dementia and suffered a stroke in 2018.
Mr Meneveau bought a boat, which he registered and insured in his sister’s name.
The small vessel was never going to last three days in the wild seas they set out in.
The court heard Mr Meneveau had recently bought a grave, paid his rent in advance, gave his sister all of his online passwords, banking credentials and a document appearing to be a will, leaving his estate to her.
He had made no mention of suicidal thoughts in the days and weeks leading up to the voyage.
But he had a history of depression, anxiety and psychosis.
Emergency crews retrieved the boat four days later, found by a fisherman about 24km north from where they disappeared.
Christina Meneveau (pictured) was the last one to see her loved ones from the wharf
Detective Chris Obst said in the days before the duo disappeared, searches for ‘sea burial’ had been made on Mr Meneveau’s computer.
Ms Meneveau had helped her mother onto the boat on December 11 and saw them off.
Her brother sent a text later in the afternoon advising all was well, but was never heard from again.
Ms Meneveau reported them missing two days later.
Despite evidence appearing to indicate a murder suicide, Judge Jamieson refused to conclude it was not a simple case of misadventure.
‘The weight of available evidence supports the finding (Mr Meneveau) died in the vicinity of Port Phillip Bay, but the evidence does not enable me to make more specific findings as to the place or day,’ she said.
‘There is insufficient evidence to support a finding that (he) intentionally ended his own life or the life of his mother, but equally the possibility cannot sensibly be excluded as evidence indicates that the personal flotation devices which (the pair) were seen to be wearing when they departed from Frankston … were found in the wreckage of the vessel.’
Judge Jamieson further found she could not conclude Mr Meneveau removed his own life jacket or his mum’s.
‘However, the evidence indicates that Felicity Loveday may not have been able to remove her own personal floatation device because her physical limitations due to her ill health and mental health concerns,’ she said.
How the pair came to remove their life jackets will remain a mystery, the coroner concluded.
Instead, she found only that Mr Meneveau ‘contributed’ to his mother’s death by taking her out onto the bay in a vessel not fit for purpose.
Adrian Meneveau bought a boat (pictured), which he registered and insured in his sister’s name
Felicity Loveday (centre) with members of the Southport Co-Freemasonry lodge
Detective Obst had told the coroner he was immediately suspicious about the circumstances of the voyage and believed there were pieces of the story he will never know.
‘For me it was the significant delay in the report, it was Felicity being 83 years old and frail, and believing that she was going to be OK on a vessel for three days on Port Phillip Bay,’ he said.
‘I can categorically say from December 11 to 15 when the vessel was located, that vessel in those conditions would not have stood a chance.’
He was also suspicious about the photo taken at their time of departure.
It showed Ms Loveday seated in the front of the boat while Mr Meneveau dealt with supplies in the back.
It was unusual, he said, that a search and rescue team would have a photo of the vessel on the day it was last seen.
The inquest heard Ms Meneveau made a claim on the insurance policy in January last year and was paid out the insured value.
Det Obst said Ms Meneveau had been very ‘matter of fact’ and ‘philosophical’ about her family’s disappearance and believed they had died.
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Timeline of Felicity Loveday and Adrian Meneveau’s disappearance
December 11, 2019: About 7am, Christina Loveday waves off mother Felicity Loveday, 83, and brother Adrian Meneveau, 56 from Olivers Wharf at Frankston. She snaps a photo before they go.
The pair had told family they were embarking on a ‘cleansing ritual’ at sea for three days
December 13: Adrian reports to Christina that they were having a ‘good time’
December 14: Christina contacts authorities after the pair failed to return home
December 15: The pair’s submerged boat is found by a fisherman about 24km north from where they disappeared.
Police find no trace of the pair despite an extensive land and sea search
January 31: Melbourne’s Seven News reports that police are not ruling out foul play, with only one life jacket found on board the boat.
June 7: An interview with Senior Constable Chris Obst is published by the Sunday Herald-Sun.
The investigator says police cannot rule out anything and the report states police have considered whether Felicity may have been dead in her final photo
Police also make an appeal for information regarding a second boat that Mr Meneveau purchased
June 10: Christina Loveday tells Daily Mail Australia her mother was ‘very much alive’ during the photo and she has told police everything she knows
July 7: Australia’s Freemason society seeks to distance itself from Ms Loveday’s beliefs – saying they had nothing to do with the values of the famously secretive organisation
August 26: Police reveal the investigation is still active and but their line of inquiry about Mr Meneveau’s second boat is yet to be closed.
November 2021: An inquest into the pair’s disappearance begins, almost two years after they vanished.