Friday, 20 April 2012

Findings in the Mock Coronial Inquest into the deaths of Burke & Wills

Dr Thorne on the left calculating the thiamine content of a bottle of wine.
Dr Peter Thorne, Vice President of the Royal Society of Victoria, presents Coroner, Dr Jane Hendtlass with a special gift of wine after she delivered of her findings from the mock Coronial Inquest into the deaths of Robert O'Hara Burke, William John Wills, and Charles Gray.  Members and others, many of whom had attended the two days of evidence given in July 2011, gathered at the RSV on Thursday 19 April to hear Dr Hendtlass' conclusions on the deaths of the above men. 

The original Commission of Inquiry  which sat in 1861 laid most of the blame on Mr Brahe, Mr Wright, and the Exploration Committee.

Dr Hendtlass found that the primary cause of the deaths of Burke, Wills and Gray was 'nutritional inadequacy including starvation and beriberi associated with thiamine deficiency', for which Burke was entirely responsible as the person who made the decisons on what and how much food to take.  She found that Burke was unsuitable to be the leader of the Exploration Expedition.   The responsibility for the appointment of such an unsuitable leader lies with the Exploration Committee, and they must share the blame for the deaths. 

The full report will be available to read on the Royal Society of Victoria website on Monday 30 April.