An abandoned van, the sole of a shoe, and handwritten coordinates are among the clues linked to the mystery disappearance of a prospector in South Australia’s outback seven years ago, an inquest has heard.

Key points:

  • Alan Leslie Graham was aged 79 when he was last seen in 2016 during a prospecting trip
  • An affidavit-only coronial inquest into his disappearance has begun
  • The coroner is trying to determine his final movements from witness testimonies

Alan Leslie Graham, who was 79 at the time, was last seen on April 30, 2016, at Angepena Station — 42 kilometres south-east of Leigh Creek in the northern Flinders Ranges.

Mr Graham is believed to be deceased, but his remains have never been recovered.

An affidavit-only coronial inquest into his disappearance began last week, with Coroner Ian White attempting to piece together Mr Graham’s last known movements from witness testimonies.

An affidavit from the owners of Angepena Station stated that Mr Graham had travelled to the area multiple times over 40 years and had rung to let them know that he would be returning for prospecting.

According to the owner’s testimony, the 79 year old then rang back the next day and said that the trip was “beyond me”, believing that he was developing sleep apnoea and struggling to get his van ready.

Despite that indication, the owner stated, Mr Graham arrived on the following Saturday before advising them that he was travelling to Evans Outstation and then onto an unknown location in search of gold and rocks, and would return later the same day or the next.

According to affidavits, when Mr Graham failed to return to the station by Monday morning, the owners travelled to Evans Outstation where they found a handwritten note on the door, which read, “left at 11:45 Saturday morning, heading east”, and included coordinates, which police later tracked to his home in Whyalla.

An investigator suggested the note indicated behaviour “in line with someone who, if lost, wanted to give an indication of his location to expede any rescue attempts”.

Continuing their search, the owners eventually found Mr Graham’s van abandoned on an isolated track around 20 kilometres from his homestead with two flat tyres and decided to call police, the inquest was told.

A map showing the terrain of the area.(Supplied)

Testimony from a local police officer who responded to the call and analysed the van stated that the “vehicle was in no way suited to the terrain”.

“It appeared that Graham had attempted to drive a distance on the flat tyres as the walls were well worn and the tyre had come away from the lip of the rim,” the testimony states.

The officer noted that the keys were not in the ignition and that Mr Graham had left behind “valuable and personal equipment”, including diabetes testing equipment, GPS, laptop, metal detector and food.

After this discovery, an extensive missing person’s search involving land and air units was conducted over several days.

But the search was eventually terminated, and Mr Graham’s remains have never been located.

According to police documents, the sole of a single shoe was found approximately one kilometre east of Mr Graham’s vehicle.

Mr Graham is believed to have died, but his remains have never been recovered.(Crime Stoppers)

Authorities stated that Mr Graham “knew the area quite well” and would have known that the homestead was north of where his van had broken down.

“It was considered a strong possibility that during this walk the deceased had some form of medical episode rendering him unable to move,” the affidavit read.

Station owners described Mr Graham as fit for his age but also said that they believe that Mr Graham’s “stubbornness and level of outback knowledge could possibly lead him to attempt to walk for help”.

A missing person investigator found that the specific location of the van made it almost impossible for Mr Graham to have been “collected by a third party and moved to a different location”.

“Through the missing person checks it has been established that the deceased hasn’t accessed any of his normal personal accounts,” the statement read.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the deceased met with foul play.

“At this stage his body hasn’t been located and the likelihood of recovering his body is extremely low.”

The station owners also made note of an ongoing problem with wild and “aggressive” dogs in the area.

Mr Graham’s family is due to make submissions to the inquest.