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Byron Shire
July 20, 2024

Kingscliff jawbone is 1979 Evans Head lost mariner

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William (Bill) and Philippa had only been married a year when they lost their lives. Photo supplied.

Philippa and Bill Moran had only been married a year when they tragically lost their lives at sea in 1979. Bill’s body was never recovered but 32 years to the day after the tragedy happened, a bone washed up on the beach at Kingscliff.

Ten years after its discovery investigators and forensic DNA experts have found that a bone belongs Mr Moran, and his family have tangible evidence of his lost life.

The jawbone that washed up on Kingscliff Beach on September 24, 2011, prompted an extensive NSW Police Force investigation into the owner’s identity, with the help of NSW Health Pathology’s Forensic & Analytical Science Service.

What was left of the couple’s vessel – the ‘Nocturne’. Photo supplied.

For nine years, the unidentified jawbone was one of dozens of unidentified remains cases on the Missing Persons Registry, and continuous searches on DNA databases failed to find a direct match.

In August 2020, following a ‘familial DNA’ search, NSW Health Pathology alerted NSW Police to a possible link to a biological relative.

Familial DNA searching uses complex technology to identify potential relatives who have provided their DNA to an existing database. The closer the biological relationship, the greater the chance that a relative will be identified.

The search only recovered Philippa’s body at the time. Photo supplied.

The familial DNA link in the jawbone case led investigators to a 34-year-old man imprisoned in Goulburn Jail in 2020 and whose DNA profile had been added to a database for convicted offenders in NSW.

An investigation by the Marine Area Command and State Crime Command’s Missing Persons Registry confirmed the inmate was the nephew of a mariner lost at sea 40 years ago.

In Memory of the couple. Photo supplied.

The return of the jawbone to Mr Moran’s family has brought closure after decades of searching for answers.

The story is the subject of a new podcast which explores the chance discovery of the bone on the beach in four episodes. You can listen to the podcast here: https://link.chtbl.com/drV2_bhw

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