Who is Jason Vance? Coroner's report into disappearance

JASON Vance was known to wander off on his own, effectively disappearing from friends, when under the influence of amphetamine.

Several people giving evidence at the 2017 coronial inquest into his disappearance from a remote cabin in a state forest near Chinchilla testified to that fact.

"The significance becomes obvious because that appears to be what happened," Deputy State Coroner John Lock wrote in his findings at the conclusion of the inquest.

The inquiry also found Jason John Vance, a father of three from Rockhampton, was most likely dead but whose body has never been found, nor a cause of death determined.

 

Jason Vance went missing in October 2013. An inquest found he died but the cause of death was inconclusive. His parents believe he was murdered and are determined to have the case reopened. Picture: supplied.
Jason Vance went missing in October 2013. An inquest found he died but the cause of death was inconclusive. His parents believe he was murdered and are determined to have the case reopened. Picture: supplied.

The 42-year-old, who had a history of substance abuse and whose lifestyle meant it "would not be unusual" for him to go missing, was loved by his parents and remains a dearly missed son.

Police have today offered a $250,000 reward for new information that may help find Mr Vance and give closure to his family.

While the 2017 inquiry determined Mr Vance had died, most likely from misadventure, foul play or suspicious circumstances could not be entirely ruled out.

South West District Detective Inspector Mat Kelly said police have kept an open mind on the six-year cold case, and hope the reward will compel people to come forward.

Police first became aware of Mr Vance's disappearance on October 31, 2013, when his parents raised concerns for his whereabouts.

A formal missing person report was filed the next day by Mr Vance's housemate, unnamed in the 2017 inquest findings and who told police his close friend had gone to the Gold Coast about eight weeks earlier.

The housemate told police Mr Vance had "a plan to use his recent tax return to make some money selling drugs, specifically speed (methamphetamine) or ice (crystal methamphetamine)".

The remains of Jason John Vance have never been found. Picture: supplied.
The remains of Jason John Vance have never been found. Picture: supplied.

"The housemate knew Jason had drug contacts down in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, and believed Jason had been couch surfing with numerous people while he was away," Coroner Lock found.

Police investigations confirmed Mr Vance had gone to the Gold Coast and "appeared to have had contact with various people in relation to making and selling methamphetamine".

Four days after his last contact with his housemate, about October 24, 2013, Mr Vance travelled with a man and woman to the Barakula State Forest near Chinchilla.

The forest is said to be the largest state forest in the southern hemisphere.

There, Mr Vance along with the other man and woman, named in the inquest as Alex Thornton and Megan Pitt, went to an old school hut near the main forestry station where they intended to stay the night but moved on when spoken to by a forestry worker.

The trio went further down a track.

The forestry worker, suspicious of the trio travelling in unsuitable vehicles, reported them to police.

"Jason has not been seen by anyone since that night and there have been no signs of life," Coroner Lock said.

"The versions of (Ms) Pitt and (Mr) Thornton as to what happened next are reasonably consistent.

"The story they gave however, is so bizarre that if they were trying to withhold something more sinister they would have thought of a simpler story."

The pair said they had gone to the forest to allegedly cook amphetamine and, after consuming some of the drug, Mr Vance went for a walk back down the track, dressed in T-shirt, shorts and thongs.

He never returned.

Waking the next morning, the pair searched for Mr Vance for about an hour before packing up and leaving.

They moved on to an abandoned forestry house near Monogorillby, possibly continued using drugs, and then Mr Thornton left after digging out his car which was bogged for a number of days.

 

Jason John Vance was last seen on October 24, 2013 in the Barakula State Forest (near Chinchilla).
Jason John Vance was last seen on October 24, 2013 in the Barakula State Forest (near Chinchilla).

 

Ms Pitt stayed three more days in the house with little food and was later "found in a dishevelled state on a remote road and taken by a council worker to a local school" who contacted police.

By this stage, a missing-person report had been made into Mr Vance's disappearance and plans under way for a large-scale search of the Barakula State Forest.

Between December 1 and 6 that year, 49 police and 44 State Emergency Services personnel would search the forest including land and water, on foot and on horseback.

"One of the added difficulties in locating a body was the known presence of wild dogs and pigs and the likelihood of animal predation impacting, particularly as the search was taking place one month after he was allegedly last seen," Coroner Lock found.

"Jason's body was not found nor was any other evidence of his presence such as clothing.

"Although the family have had concerns about the outcome of the investigation and the involvement of Pitt and Thornton and perhaps others, it is my view that the investigation carried out has been very comprehensive.

"There is no evidence to suggest that Megan Pitt, Alexander Thornton or anyone else caused harm to Jason or have done anything with his body."

Mr Pitt and Ms Thornton would both return to the Barakula State Forest with police in the years following Mr Vance's disappearance, but nothing was ever found.

Deputy State Coroner Lock said it was possible Mr Vance fell into a creek, wandered further than the extensive search parameters, became lost and died of dehydration - a few of a "number of potential scenarios, and there may be more".