A year after the coroner damned police for their incompetence, the 2007 de*ath appears no nearer being solved.
When Kieffen Raggett’s body was found in a shallow waterhole near a small town in the Northern Territory, police said right away that he had died by accident.
The eight-year-old’s pants were found full of rocks the size of dinner plates that had hidden his body for two days in the thigh-deep billabong. That didn’t matter. Or that Kieffen and an adult’s tracks leading to the waterhole were found by guardians who were suspicious.
He also had two cuts on the top and back of his head that looked like someone had hit him from behind. He was also known for being “shy of water.”
The case was thrown out as just another file for the coroner. It took the police three years to finish the file.
The Territory’s Coroner, Greg Cavanagh, found these and other mistakes made by police investigating Kieffen’s de*ath in 2007 in Borroloola, a fishing town 954 km southeast of Darwin, last year.
His research showed that the police had “irrationally” focused on trying to prove that the boy’s de*ath was an accident, even though the rocks were found in his pants for no apparent reason.
Around the scene, no proper searches had been done. Senior officers weren’t given enough information, evidence was destroyed or ignored, and police didn’t give reports to the coroner on time. DNA evidence from Kieffen’s body was lost during this time.
Northern Territory Police told Kieffen’s family they were sorry when Mr. Cavanagh talked about his findings in March of last year.
The community has a right to expect more from their police, and this time they didn’t get what they should have,” said Superintendent Kristopher Evans of the major crime division.
Mr. Cavanagh told the Commissioner of Police about what he had found because he thought a crime “may have been committed.” But after a little more than a year, there is still no sign that Kieffen and his family will get justice.
Based on what The Herald has learned, some of the boy’s close relatives say they haven’t talked to police or been told anything about the investigation’s progress since they said sorry.
The NT police won’t say how many detectives are working on the case and haven’t set up a taskforce.
A suspect named in the coroner’s report has not been charged, and people in the area don’t think he is the most likely person to have committed the crime.
The Herald has also been told that an alleged child sex offender is still roaming around Borroloola, even though he was accused of a different child sex attack months ago.
“It’s like they pushed it to the bottom shelf again,” says Cliff Taylor, who is upset. Cliff is married to Kieffen’s aunt Adrianne Raggett and was the boy’s guardian.
Mr. Taylor, a respected health clinic worker in the area who cares for 10 kids with his wife, almost broke down when he said he hadn’t been told anything about the investigation.
From his home in Borroloola, he said, “We can’t have peace until they catch the person.” “I love my kids very much.” I’ll be happy if they wake up with a smile on their face. This has made me, them, and my wife feel bad.
In his report, Mr. Cavanagh named several locals as possible suspects, but one was singled out for special attention.
The coroner left the man’s name out of the report because, at the time of the inquest, he was being charged with separate child sex crimes.
Mr. Cavanagh said that this man was linked to the case in 2009. He said this happened because the man’s DNA matched DNA found on a XXXX beer can at the waterhole.
As far as the Herald knows, the suspect says he threw away the beer can while helping to look for Kieffen. The man also said that he had a red shirt that looked like the one that was found near the watering hole but that he had lost it. The suspect is now in jail for the separate sexual assaults.
Last week, a family member of the man said that he has a good reason for not being at Kieffen’s funeral. The person’s relative said that they were stuck in a small town on the day Kieffen died, and there were witnesses to back this up. That being said, these witnesses have since died.
The Herald also got a copy of the man’s sentencing remarks for the separate sex assault charges he was found guilty of.
The comments show that he admitted to a separate sex assault and then said that a child sex abuser had abused him.
A person in the community told the Herald that this other suspected child molester still lives in the area and has been accused of other sex crimes in the past that are not related to this case.
Being asked about this situation This week, NT police told the Herald that someone was arrested in July of last year for “historical child sex abuse.” A police spokeswoman, though, said she couldn’t say if or when the person would be in court.
The spokeswoman would only say that the investigation into the Kieffen case was still going on. She said that police couldn’t say who was being questioned because it would affect their work.
She also said that the officer in charge of Kieffen’s case had been in touch with his family on a regular basis.
In early April, Kieffen’s biological mother, Valerie O’Keefe, said she hadn’t talked to the police officer in charge of the case since the inquest in March of last year.
“I want to know what’s going on,” she said from Tennant Creek, where her cell phone could be reached.
At the same time, Mr. Taylor said last week that Kieffen’s family was thinking about suing the police. From what he said, he hadn’t talked to the police much, and whenever they did, it was either Kieffen’s birthday or the anniversary of his de*ath, which made things worse.
He said, “It’s so hard because he was such a nice kid.”
The family might have to wait a long time for anything to happen.
In 2010, NT police were criticized again for their handling of the murder of a teacher who had his throat cut at Katherine. This time, the case had nothing to do with Katherine.
According to Mr. Cavanagh, the police did not send the right unit to investigate the crime, did not do a blood splatter analysis, did not do up to 20 follow-up tasks, and did not hire a crime scene manager.