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Drowned asylum seekers hard to identify

AAP logoAAP 22/08/2016

Three asylum seekers believed to have drowned near Christmas Island will never be properly identified but Western Australia's deputy coroner says she is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt they are dead.

Mohammad Hassan, 21, Mohammad Noor, 20, and Mr Sabibullah, 20, became lost at sea in January 2013 while trying to reach Christmas Island.

They were among 16 passengers and three crew who departed Indonesia on an unseaworthy 16-metre wooden vessel known as SIEV580, which had no radio, flares, life jackets or satellite phone, counsel assisting the coroner Lyle Housiaux told the inquest on Monday.

On the fourth day of their voyage, the Christmas Island mountains were in sight when the engine stopped working and attempts to restart it flattened the battery.

The vessel soon began to fill with water so Captain Roy Jordi and the three men constructed a makeshift raft using bamboo poles, inner tyre tubes, rope and paddles cut out of a wooden box lid.

Jordi, who has since been sentenced for people smuggling, told investigators a storm on the first night caused the raft to break and he became separated from the others.

About 24 hours later, HMAS Larrakia boarded SIEV580 and a search began for the four men, which lasted six days, Sgt Housiaux said.

Jordi was found at Lily Beach on Christmas Island and said he had been there for four days and had slept in the jungle.

Mr Hassan, Mr Noor and Mr Sabibullah were never found.

The Coroner's Court did not know about the three men until it received an email four months later requesting approval for the release of their names because the administrator for the Indian Ocean Territories wanted to nominate them for a bravery award.

Deputy Coroner Evelyn Vicker expressed concern about the difficulty in confirming the identities of the men.

Detective Sergeant Jason Kennedy testified Mr Hassan's brother was also on SIEV580, while Mr Sabibullah had registered with the UNHCR.

He said there was no documentation for Mr Noor, but he was seen boarding the raft wearing a bumbag, which presumably had his identification inside.

Ms Vicker concluded there was no way of ever identifying the men properly and she was sorry the families could not be informed.

She said she was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt they had died, but could not specify an exact date because she could not be sure how long they might have survived after the storm hit.

Ms Vicker will officially hand down her findings at a later date.

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