Father's quest for answers over three-year-old's death

Years of effort to solve the mystery of the death of a toddler in Gore have taken two major steps in the last two weeks.
Years of effort to solve the mystery of the death of a toddler in Gore have taken two major steps in the last two weeks. Photo credit: Via RNZ - Newsroom

By Sharon Brettkelly for The Detail 

There've been no answers and no culpability over the death of three year old Lachie Jones, whose body was found in a sewage pond near Gore more than four years ago.

Years of effort to solve the mystery of the death of a toddler in Gore have taken two major steps in the last two weeks with the police ordering a review of their investigation and the coroner ordering an inquest.

Three-year-old Lachie Jones was found dead in a sewage pond near Gore in January 2019.

The police said he had drowned accidentally with no suspicious circumstances after wandering off from his home, but his father, Paul Jones, refused to accept the finding and has doggedly challenged the police work.

"Like anybody who feels like there hasn't been a proper investigation, people can fight very long and very hard if they can't get some sort of answer to the questions that don't seem to be being answered ," says Melanie Reid, Newsroom's investigations editor.

Reid and Newsroom colleague Bonnie Sumner made The Boy In The Water podcast series and have written extensively on the many twists and developments in the case.

She tells The Detail how Paul Jones persistently called her until she agreed to go to Gore and the scene of Lachie's death.

"I was neither here nor there [on the case], and when I went there and I did the walk from where Lachie was living with his mum and half-brother to the ponds where he was found it was just like, whoa, there's something really wrong here.

"It was such a long way. Plus, there were all these other elements in that he didn't have marks on his feet – how could he have found his way through all these prickles with no marks on his feet?

"And then the more I started to get involved, the more it didn't stack up. It just got worse and worse, really, about what hadn't happened, what the police hadn't done in this case."

Reid explains how the Newsroom investigation tapped into expert analysis from a pathologist from the UK and a former top US forensic detective, whose pro bono work for Jones has been supplied as a report to the coroner.

"What became clear, and it might sound arrogant because I'm a journalist, but this was a really substandard investigation," she says.

Late last month, the police ordered a review into the investigation and referred the matter to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

A spokesperson said that police are "well aware of continued reporting and concerns raised by some parties about our investigation and reinvestigation of the case. To address that concern, we have asked one of police's three national investigation leads, Detective Superintendent Darryl Sweeney, to lead this review, to provide a senior and objective analysis of the police investigations.

"His work will include reviewing the police file, police decisions and actions in the early stages of the original investigation, and the subsequent re-investigation by a detective inspector."

Last week, the coroner ordered an inquest into Lachie's death, and plans to visit the oxidation pond where Lachie Jones died. 

Find out more by listening to the full episode.

Check out how to listen to and follow The Detail here.  

You can also stay up-to-date by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.

Father's quest for answers over three-year-old's death