A Queensland family remains in the dark after a coroner failed to uncover answers in one of the state’s most enduring cold case mysteries.

Disappearance and Investigation

Sharron Phillips, 20, vanished on 8 May 1986 in Southwest Brisbane while waiting for her boyfriend after running out of petrol. Her yellow sedan was found abandoned, and her shoes and purse were discovered in a nearby drain.

State Coroner Terry Ryan found that Phillips had died under suspicious circumstances but could not determine the cause, details of her death, or identify those responsible.

Family’s Pain

The ambiguous loss experienced by the family of a missing person is considered to be the most traumatic kind of loss, and most unmanageable form of stress,” The Coroner said. 

The Coroner reopened a 1988 inquest after police identified taxi driver Raymond Mulvihill as the prime suspect. Mulvihill’s stepson, Ian Seeley, testified in 2020 and 2021 that Mulvihill had abducted and killed Ms Phillips. Despite this, the Coroner found Seeley’s testimony unreliable and insufficient to implicate Mulvihill, who died of cancer in 2002.

Conflicting Testimony

Seeley (Mulvihill’s stepson) claimed Mulvihill made a deathbed confession about sexually assaulting and killing women, urging him that “You have to tell them about the girls … it’s time to give the girls back

Despite evidence placing Seeley and Mulvihill in the Wacol area when Phillips disappeared, the Coroner found Seeley had a commercial motive to lie, aiming to benefit his podcast about the case. Seeley also claimed his father had killed at least 10 other women, but searches of the identified locations yielded no human remains.

Ongoing Investigation

Ryan recommended Ms Phillips’ death remain under the police cold case investigation team for review and monitoring of any new information. “I acknowledge Sharron’s family, who have lived with continual and unresolved grief for over 38 years,” he said.

The case of Sharron Phillips remains one of Queensland’s most mysterious and painful cold cases. The coroner’s findings provide for the challenges in resolving such cases, leaving the family with unresolved grief but a continued hope for answers. 

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