As Bernard Gore’s wife of 50 years waited to meet him in a Sydney shopping centre, she had no idea her husband was trapped nearby in a fire stairwell where he would later die.
Angela Gore, surrounded by her children, cried silently as an inquest heard how her husband’s body was found kneeling forward – as if he’d fallen off a nearby chair – in the stairwell at Westfield Bondi Junction in early 2017.
Three weeks had passed since he disappeared.
Ms Gore and her daughter, Melinda, reported him missing on January 6 after he failed to meet his wife outside Woolworths as planned earlier that day.
The 71-year-old Tasmanian, who had a minor cognitive impairment, had walked to the Westfield from his daughter’s Woollahra apartment and entered a fire stairwell where he became trapped.
His body was discovered by a maintenance worker on January 27.
When searching for Mr Gore, security officers and police only reviewed CCTV from certain pedestrian entrances to the centre, and for the area surrounding Woolworths, which led them to believe he never arrived.
CCTV cameras did capture Mr Gore entering Westfield, walking through the shopping centre and the fateful moment he paused and turned into the fire stairwell. But those videos weren’t examined by authorities.
The inquest has heard the door through which Mr Gore entered the stairwell couldn’t be opened from the inside and, while there was an exit down some stairs and along a corridor, he didn’t find it.
Police searched the shopping mall three days after the retiree was reported missing but didn’t enter the stairwell.
Officers are expected to give evidence they believed the stairwells were searched by security, while an expert is expected to say Mr Gore could only have survived three days without water.
The adequacy of the review of CCTV footage, the physical search for Mr Gore at Westfield and the signage pointing to the exit in the stairwell will be examined at the inquest before deputy state coroner Derek Lee.
In her opening address at the NSW Coroners Court at Lidcombe on Monday, counsel assisting Anna Mitchelmoore SC told the inquest of Mr Gore’s last moments with his wife.
He’d waited for the sun to come out before walking to the shopping centre. His wife had wanted to walk with him but hadn’t been ready and he’d wanted to get moving.
Ms Mitchelmoore said before he’d been diagnosed with cognitive impairment, Mr Gore had become lost once in Hobart and, as a result, his son had bought him a watch with a GPS tracker.
But the watch had broken and he wasn’t wearing it.
Instead, his wife and daughter gave him a card to carry, with the address of where he was staying written on it. The inquest continues.
© AAP 2019