The mysterious disappearance of Jeremiah ‘Jayo’ Rivers, a 27-year-old Indigenous man from East Kimberley, during a pig hunting trip in Queensland’s south-west in October 2021, has led to an inquest led by Coroner Donald MacKenzie. The case, which is now under scrutiny for potential foul play and the adequacy of the police investigation, reveals a hidden agenda involving the transport of cannabis to Darwin.
Rivers, who went missing from a campsite at Wippo Creek near Noccundra, was believed to be part of a group of seven men on a hunting expedition. However, the inquest heard from Joe Joe Kantilla-Gaden, Rivers’ brother, that the true purpose of the trip was to sell three pounds of cannabis in remote communities, a plan unknown to Rivers.
Matthew Peris, a cousin, recounted a phone call from Rivers the night before his disappearance, indicating a fistfight with Kantilla-Gaden. Counsel Stewart Levitt suggested Rivers discovered the drug motive at the campsite, leading to arguments and tensions within the group. Despite Kantilla-Gaden’s denial of these claims, he admitted trying to prevent Rivers from leaving the campsite due to his substance use.
The group, which had traveled from Balranald in New South Wales to Darwin, faced questioning over their actions following Rivers’ disappearance, including moving the campsite hours after he went missing. Matthew Moore, another member of the group, denied involvement in Rivers’ death, stating the relocation was to be closer to the road for visibility.
Rivers’ family, deeply affected by his disappearance, expressed frustration with the police handling of the case and the lack of communication. His mother and grandmother, along with other relatives, called for justice and answers regarding his whereabouts. The Indigenous community of Warmun and the East Kimberley region, where Rivers has deep roots, have also been significantly impacted.
The five-day inquest is set to hear from fifteen witnesses, including all men on the trip and the police officers involved in the case, to unravel the truth behind Rivers’ disappearance and the circumstances leading to it.