Carley Metcalfe, 40, was found dead in the river near Mullumbimby on November 27, 2017.
Carley Metcalfe, 40, was found dead in the river near Mullumbimby on November 27, 2017.

Mystery death: How did this 'devoted' mum die?

UPDATE 5.15pm: A FORENSIC specialist has told the NSW Coroner's inquest into the death of Carley Metcalfe he believes the 41-year-old woman died seven to 10 days before her body was discovered in the Brunswick River.

Dr Allan Cala, the senior staff specialist who conducted the autopsy on Carley on December 5, 2017, said he determined Carley's death would have most likely occurred between that timeframe because of the level of her  body's decomposition.

However, he was unable to come to a definitive conclusion to the cause of her death.

"We're talking about a river in the far north NSW… bodies in water, particularly in warm water, deteriorate faster," Dr Cala said.

"If she did drown, I didn't find any sign of drowning but that's not uncommon with decomposition.

"If there had been a significant injury, I would believe it to be observable in the underlying tissue.

"I don't believe she struck her head in any specific way because I saw no evidence of that."

While a very minor level of alcohol was detected in her blood stream, Dr Cala said he could not confirm if Carley had consumed alcohol prior to her death because the body can create its own blood alcohol level during decomposition.

He also concluded there were no drugs detected in Carley's system at the time of her death.

Meanwhile, Lismore Legal Aid solicitor, Rachel Thomas told the inquest she'd observed a person outside of Lismore Courthouse on October 31 who appeared to be "homeless".

Having previously legally represented Carley, Ms Thomas said she recognised the woman as Carley and offered her assistance by bringing her back to the legal aid office to make a phone call.

When asked if she thought Carley was affected by drugs at the time, Ms Thomas said she was "more concerned for her mental health" and "she wasn't slurring words".

After Carley informed her that she intended to return to Mullumbimby, Ms Thomas saw Carely again outside of the courthouse on November 1.

Later that same day she called the courthouse to inquire after Carley but was told an ambulance had taken her to hospital.

Ms Thomas said she didn't know if it was "a common occurrence" for people with mental health conditions to not be admitted to hospital.

However, she said legal aid records showed some clients had in the past "not been admitted when they're displaying signs of mental illness".

The hearing will continue Wednesday at 10am in Ballina Court.

UPDATE, 2.45pm: THE actions of Lismore Base Hospital and NSW Police in the days prior to the mysterious death of Carley Metcalfe, whose body was found in Brunswick River in 2017, will be investigated by the NSW Coroner's Office this week.

Carley's body was discovered badly decomposed on the banks of Brunswick River near Mullumbimby by a fisherman on November 29, 2017.

The "devoted" mother-of-two had been reported missing three weeks earlier by her parents, who were both extremely concerned for her welfare after she had been discharged from Lismore Base Hospital on November 2.

Counsel assisting the corner, Kirsten Edwards, told the court on Monday Carley had a history of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and drug use but toxicology reports revealed no drugs were in her system at her time of death.

"It's not clear if Carley killed herself, if she died from misadventure by falling into the river or while she was swimming in the river or if she was killed," Ms Edwards said.

Ms Edwards said while the decomposition of Carley's body was "so severe", there were no signs of drowning or drugs in her system, her cause of death was unidentified, and they could not "rule out foul play".

The 41-year-old woman presented to Lismore Base Hospital on November 1 and was seen by a team of doctors, who requested a urine sample, but no actual record of the procedure was taken.

The consulting doctors had not deemed it necessary for her to remain at the hospital under the mental health act and did not object to her release because she didn't have any "apparent medical issues".

However, while the discharge papers were signed, Carley did not leave the hospital until after 6am on November 2.

From there she went to retrieve her possessions from the police and presented to the mental health clinic in the afternoon because she was claiming she was "paranoid and was hearing voices".

But when the nurse returned to the room to continue her assessment, Carley had disappeared.

Ms Edwards said it is understood Carley then went to see her former partner in Lismore, who described her as "laughing hysterically" before he dropped her off at the Lismore Transit Station on November 3.

Two days later, Carley's belongings, including her bank cards, were found strewn across Apex Park in Mullumbimby.

Her parents contacted police to file a missing-person report, but records show only a welfare report was filed.

Ms Edwards said this then led to several days of inactive police work, in which no contact was made with the family, no efforts to seek CCTV footage was made or any other usual missing persons procedures were conducted by police.

"There was no consultation with homicide, missing persons unit or media unit," Ms Edwards said.

Police then began their active investigation a week before Carley's body was found, where they conducted interviews with people in Mullumbimby who reportedly saw her around town.

The inquest continues in Ballina Court today.

Anyone with information about Carley's final days are urged to contact the officer in charge, Scott Noland, on 02 6681 8649.

Original story: THE NSW Coroner's inquest into mysterious death of Carley Metcalfe, who was found in the Brunswick River near Mullumbimby in 2017, begins today.

It's been two years since the 40-year-old mother of two was found dead, and the cause of her death remains unsolved.

Ms Metcalfe's body was discovered in the river near Mullumbimby on November 29, 2017, three weeks after she was reported missing by her concerned parents.

She was last seen on November 3 in Lismore, one day before her belongings were discovered scattered over the Mullumbimby railway platform on November 4.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the officer in charge, Scott Noland, on 02 6681 8649.


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