Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Derek Spencer WATTS

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Derek Spencer WATTS

Delivered on : 4 May 2020

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Vicker

Recommendations :N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : On 30 January 1977 Mr Watts was fishing from rocky ledges at the Ledges, Bob’s Hollow, with a friend, when he descended to a lower level to assist in gaffing a fish. The ledge upon which he was standing was swamped by two waves in succession and following the second wave it was noticed Mr Watts was no longer clinging to the ledge. Mr Watts was seen in the vicinity of the rocks at water level. Mr Watts was never seen or heard from again.

Mr Watts was a recreational fisherman and went fishing approximately once a fortnight in the Margaret River area. Mr Watts usually fished with a friend and they enjoyed fishing at the Ledges at Bob’s Hollow. On 27 January 1977 the two men left Collie intending to spend the weekend at Bob’s Hollow at a camping spot. In the early hours of 30 January 1977 the two men were fishing from a ledge with the sea being described as relatively calm although they were aware of the swell could build up and break over the rocks. Mr Watt’s friend heard a large wave coming in and shouted to Mr Watts to get down and hang on. Mr Watts crouched down on the ledge and held onto a rock while the wave partially broke over him. Once it had broken over him and started to recede Mr Watts started to get back up but another wave bigger than the last one came in. Mr Watts was not seen to be hanging onto the ledge and the torch he had been using was lying on the ledge. Mr Watts was then seen to be in the water approximately 20-30 feet below and clinging to a rock at water level with the water rolling over and around him. Mr Watts said he was going to try and swim to the rocks. Mr Watts was not seen or heard from again.

After five to ten minutes Mr Watts friend decided to go and get help. At approximately 3.30 am police attended at Bob’s Hollow to search the area for Mr Watts. They could see no sign of him and after an hour of searching they returned to Margaret River in an attempt to get further assistance. Search by air, land and sea was then continued over the next 11 days by local volunteers and police, but no trace of Mr Watts was ever located.

The Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Mr Watts is deceased after becoming immersed in the vicinity of the strong current along the bottom of the ledges at Bob’s Hollow. The Coroner determine Mr Watts drowned and his death occurred by way of Misadventure.

 Catch Words : Long Term Missing Person : Rock Fishing : Immersion : Drowning : Misadventure

Last updated: 16-Jul-2020

[ back to top ]