The body of a missing man found covered in soil and plants in a stream is thought to have been “deliberately concealed”, an inquest has heard.
Jamie John Perkins, 41, was discovered on his side in the stream bed in Gilfach Goch on November 1, 2017 more than three weeks after he was last seen.
A murder inquiry was launched at the time and a £10,000 reward issued by Crimestoppers for information but no-one was ever charged.
During an inquest held on Tuesday it was heard Mr Perkins had been living at the Waterton Hotel in Tonyrefail after being released from prison on September 28, 2017.
He was reported missing to police by his father on October 12, days after he was seen on CCTV on October 8 heading towards a friend’s home.
Mr Perkins’ body was discovered the following month by a walker on Bog Lane, along with a sim card which had been “bent in half” and a blister packet of Pregabalin medication.
During the second day of the inquest, forensic archaeologist Alastair Vannan described how Mr Perkins’ body was found on its side in the stream partially covered by “clumps” of soil and “large fragments” of what appeared to be dried bracken or ferns.
It was heard the build-up of material was “different” from the surrounding area, and that the deposition of soil was not consistent with “bands” or “layers” caused by natural processes in the water.
One area of the stream’s bank also appeared to have been “disturbed”, Mr Vannan added, where moss covering the soil had been displaced.
Giving his conclusions based on police photographs and videos from the scene, Mr Vannan said it appeared the body had been “deliberately concealed with vegetation and soil rather than having become covered as a result of natural processes”.
Asked about the likelihood of his conclusion, he said it was “extremely likely”.
During the hearing, which is expected to run until June 18, it was heard that CCTV amounting to 188 days and 19 hours was collected in the investigation into Mr Perkins’ death.
Footage was also taken from a Samsung tablet which showed Mr Perkins with others at the house of friend Carl Webber at Heol-Y-Mynydd on October 7.
Giving evidence at Pontypridd Coroner’s Court, DC Sharon Wood said Mr Perkins had appeared to be “happy” and in “good spirits” during the footage. At the time he appeared to be in possession of a smartphone which was never recovered.
The following day, on October 8, Mr Perkins was taken to hospital by ambulance after a suspected overdose of sleeping tablets. He did not receive treatment after discharging himself.
After returning to his accommodation, CCTV from that afternoon was captured showing Mr Perkins on Francis street holding an unopened can and wearing a navy jumper with the words “duffer” on the front. The jumper has also never been recovered.
Mr Perkins was later seen on CCTV at Heol Y Mynydd, heading back towards the address of Mr Webber.
While other sightings were reported after that date, none could be confirmed using CCTV.
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During questioning from Anna Midgley, counsel to the inquiry, DC Wood said Mr Perkins had first been classed as a “medium risk” missing person after his father failed to get into contact with him. This was due to his “chaotic lifestyle”, it was heard, which could often see him “sofa surf” at friend’s homes.
On October 19, one week later, Mr Perkins was designated a “high risk” missing person. This allowed telephone enquiries to be carried out which discovered that Mr Perkins’ phone number had been used on October 10 to contact a number belonging to Brian Rees, an acquaintance of the missing man.
Police attended the address of Mr Rees where a black nokia phone said to belong to Mr Perkins was found.
DC Wood said: “At the time both Brian Rees and Hayley Selby were at the address. The police were handed a black nokia phone which belonged to Jamie.
“They had said it was Jamie’s phone.”
Asked about its condition, DC Wood added: “It was damaged. It was smashed.”
“They admitted smashing the phone with a hammer and taking the sim card out. They said it had been left by Carl Webber when he visited.”
Forensic searches were carried out at the address but nothing was found to link Mr Perkins to the address.
Mr Webber’s home and car were also searched, as well as the address of his partner Sian Thomas, but no evidence was found linking the properties to Mr Perkins.
During the inquest DC Wood said investigations were also carried out around mattresses in the area following information suggesting that Mr Perkins’ body may have been “transferred via a mattress”.
At the time, it was heard Ms Selby, Mr Rees and Mr Webber had been in contact via Facebook about the sale of a mattress. The mattress was forensically examined but received a negative result.
In total 1,100 exhibitions were seized during the investigation for forensic examination, including 170 items sent to a specialist team outside the police force.
None were found to provide any assistance to the inquiry.
During Tuesday’s hearing evidence was also heard from forensic entomologist Dr Amoret Whitaker.
In her evidence, she explained that both dead larvae and maggots were found on Mr Perkins’ body.
As painful as these proceedings are for those who have lost a loved one the lessons that can be learned from inquests can go a long way to saving others’ lives.
The press has a legal right to attend inquests and has a responsibility to report on them as part of their duty to uphold the principle of open justice.
It’s a journalist’s duty to make sure the public understands the reasons why someone has died and to make sure their deaths are not kept secret. An inquest report can also clear up any rumours or suspicion surrounding a person’s death.
But, most importantly of all, an inquest report can draw attention to circumstances which may stop further deaths from happening.
Should journalists shy away from attending inquests then an entire arm of the judicial system is not held to account.
Inquests can often prompt a wider discussion on serious issues, the most recent of these being mental health and suicide.
Editors actively ask and encourage reporters to speak to the family and friends of a person who is the subject of an inquest. Their contributions help us create a clearer picture of the person who died and also provides the opportunity to pay tribute to their loved one.
Often families do not wish to speak to the press and of course that decision has to be respected. However, as has been seen by many powerful media campaigns, the input of a person’s family and friends can make all the difference in helping to save others.
Without the attendance of the press at inquests questions will remain unanswered and lives will be lost.
As a result of her investigations, including analysing temperatures at the scene where Mr Perkins was found and the weather from the nearest meteorological station after Mr Perkins’ last sighting, Dr Whitaker estimated Mr Perkins’ “minimum” date of death to around October 8 or 9.
She added it could be possible if Mr Perkins’ body was kept somewhere warmer indoors before being moved to the stream.
The inquest continues.