A MAN whose wife’s body had just been pulled from the Columbo Creek at Morundah acted as if nothing had happened and was matter of fact about her death, two witnesses have told an inquest.
Coroner Megan Greenwood is presiding over an inquest in Wagga into the death of 36-year-old Swedish national Anna Therese Sjostrand on November 13, 2011.
Ms Sjostrand’s husband, Shaun Hannocks, gave differing versions of the tragedy, which happened 10 days after Ms Sjostrand returned to Australia after a period of separation from her husband.
One version was Mr Hannocks left her on the creek bank while he went to get help after she fitted, and the other was she disappeared underwater while he carried their four-year-old son out of the water.
“These inconsistencies in Shaun’s version of events raise serious questions about the reliability of the facts as described by Shaun, and make it difficult to determine exactly what happend at Columbo Creek that morning,” said counsel assisting the inquest, Ian Bourke SC, in his opening statement.
The police officer in charge of investigating Ms Sjostrand’s death, Detective Inspector Scott Wilkinson, was asked by Mr Bourke his opinion about Mr Hannocks’s behaviour and mental state while talking to him after the tragedy.
“His lack of emotion struck me at the time,” Inspector Wilkinson said.
“In the sense he was very calm?” Mr Bourke asked.
“Yes, very matter of fact,” Inspector Wilkinson said.
Morundah resident David Fahey was one of several people who raced to the creek after the alarm was raised.
Mr Fahey told the inquest that when he asked Mr Hannocks for a description of his wife to help in the frantic search, Mr Hannocks became angry and said: “What does it matter?”
And when the body was found “his demeanour was strange, and as if it was a day at the beach”.
“He didn’t seem to care … it was a little bizarre”.
Mr Hannocks, who left Australia in December, 2011, is believed to be in Nepal and will not appear at the inquest.
The inquest heard details of disturbing behaviour by Mr Hannocks leading up to the tragedy, including describing himself as a reincarnation of Jesus, believing his wife was possessed by demons and being erratic and aggressive.
Ms Sjostrand came to Australia in 1999 to study at Southern Cross University in Lismore.
There she met Mr Hannocks, a South African who moved to Australia in 1994.
They shared a common interest in yoga and eventually became involved in the Hare Krishna faith on the north coast.
After becoming romantically involved, the couple travelled overseas and had a son, Arjuna, in 2007.
Ms Sjostrand while in India became a qualified yoga teacher and had the status of a grand master, good friend Elizabeth Boag told the inquest by phone from the north coast.
In about May, 2011, Ms Sjostrand returned to Sweden with her son amid problems in her relationship with Mr Hannocks and telling her family he was “very strange” and using cannabis and hallucinogenic mushrooms while they lived in Thailand.
In October, Mr Hannocks bumped into Ms Boag at a temple at Uki in northern NSW and it was agreed he could stay at her house at Crabbes Creek while he made arrangements for Ms Sjostrand and their son to come to Australia.
“Shortly after Shaun commenced staying at Crabbes Creek, it became apparent he was experiencing some mental problems,” Mr Bourke said in his opening statement.
“He spoke of going on a ‘vision quest’ to raise awareness of world famine, but appears not to have considered how this would affect his plans to reunite with Anna and Arjuna.
“He also made reference to himself being ‘Jesus reincarnated’”.
Mr Bourke said Mr Hannocks was also seen diving into the ocean naked at Burleigh Heads, and when he swam back to shore told police he was attempting to swim to the sun.
Ms Boag said that while staying with her, Mr Hannocks made her and her children undertake 30 minutes of “laughing yoga”, which she had never heard of before, and spoke of vampires pursuing him.
“It made us quite uncomfortable,” Ms Boag said.
She said Mr Hannocks told her he had been smoking cannabis and ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms.
We don’t even know if we are coming back. We don’t even know if you are coming back- Shaun Hannocks
She said Ms Sjostrand arrived in Australia on November 3 with the intention of starting up a yoga business with Mr Hannocks and Ms Boag.
But three days later, Mr Hannocks suddenly hired a car and said the family was driving to Adelaide that day to see his father.
Ms Boag told the inquest, Mr Hannocks said to Ms Sjostrand: “We don’t even know if we are coming back. We don’t even know if you are coming back”.
“Shaun’s behaviour that afternoon was quite erratic and aggressive, however there was no strong protest by Anna, and it is apparent she left in the hire care with Shaun of her own volition,” Mr Bourke said in his statement.
On the drive to Adelaide, a truck driver found Ms Sjostrand abandoned and crying on the road near Wilcannia about 11.45pm on November 6.
“It seems that Anna had asked to get out of the car that she, Shaun and Arjuna were travelling in, after she had protested with Shaun about allowing their (four-year-old) son Arjuna to drive the car on the highway,” Mr Bourke said.
“There was some sort of physical altercation involved in this incident – where Shaun either pushed or hit Anna in the face before she asked to get out of the car.”
The trip continued the next day after Ms Sjostrand spent the night at a refuge.
On November 9, Ms Sjostrand sent an email to a male friend, Marcus, in Sweden saying she had gone through some “full-on stuff over here”.
Anna also spoke of something else that was ‘really terrifying’ having happened but did not elaborate- Ian Bourke
She added that Mr Hannocks was “convinced I am possessed by demons and he attacked me in the car”.
“Anna also spoke of something else that was ‘really terrifying’ having happened but did not elaborate,” Mr Bourke said.
He said that after Ms Sjostrand told Mr Hannocks she had been involved with Marcus in Sweden he immediately asked for a divorce but wanted her to leave their son with him in Australia for six months.
On November 13, the family appeared at Morundah and about 7am they walked onto a property, told the residents they had been driving all night and asked if there was a spot by the water where they could rest.
They were given directions to Columbo Creek.
“The events that occurred at the swimming hole during the next 60 minutes or so are unclear,” Mr Bourke said.
“However, what is tragically clear is that Anna drowned in the creek that morning.”
The inquest continues on Tuesday.
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