Details of a phone tap recorded during an investigation into the suspicious disappearance of 19-year-old Belinda Peisley suggest a former boyfriend of Ms Peisley was referring to a “dead chick”.
The summary of the telephone intercept, obtained by Unravel, details a conversation between Ms Peisley’s former boyfriend, Jason (whose name has been changed for legal reasons) and his mother, recorded a year before the inquest into Ms Peisley’s disappearance.
Ms Peisley disappeared in 1998 from Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. The inquest held into her disappearance and suspected death in 2012 and 2013 found it was more than likely she had been a victim of homicide.
Jason and his father, John (whose name has been changed for legal reasons), were both named as persons of interest at the inquest.
The summary of the phone tap in the brief of evidence presented to the inquest outlines that Jason states when referring to his brother talking to police: “If he says something silly about the dead chick from Sydney he’ll sink me.”
When this was put to Jason by police, he stated that the woman he was referring to was not Ms Peisley but another woman his father had suggested he stop seeing.
Jason also stated he thought he had said “dead shit” not “dead chick”, and he had said his brother would “sink him” because his brother did not know what he was talking about.
Unravel has contacted Jason’s mother, who declined an interview, but did respond to questions via email.
She did not respond to a question about whether Jason may have said “dead chick” or “dead shit”, and she does not remember Jason saying his brother might “sink him”.
She also said that if she thought her son was in any way involved in Ms Peisley’s disappearance that she would have gone to the police, and she wishes she could help Ms Peisley’s family get closure, but she said does not have the answers they need.
Unravel has contacted both Jason and his father John but they have declined to comment.
Phone tap was never raised at inquest hearing
The summary of the telephone intercept was part of the brief of evidence and documents given to the inquest, but it was never specifically brought up at the inquest hearing.
Jason, Jason’s mother and John gave evidence at the inquest but none were questioned regarding this particular phone tap.
When asked about this telephone intercept, Phil Strickland, the counsel assisting the coroner at the inquest into Ms Peisley’s disappearance and suspected death, could not recall why it was not raised at the inquest hearing.
“Maybe in retrospect those things should have been brought up,” he said.
Mr Strickland added that there were always time constraints and judgements that had to be made about what was relevant and what was not during an inquest.
Unravel asked NSW Police for access to the full audio and/or transcript of the telephone intercept, as well as a response to the recording.
NSW Police did not release the telephone intercept audio or full transcript, and a spokesperson responded saying police were unable to comment on telephone intercepts, but added that during the inquest into Ms Peisley’s disappearance, a number of discrepancies in the evidence were identified.
At the conclusion of the inquest, NSW deputy state coroner Paul McMahon said Jason had made errors, but was honest about them, so was found to be of good character. The coroner found that it was unlikely Jason was involved in Ms Peisley’s disappearance and suspected death.
The coroner also found there was no evidence that Jason’s father John had the opportunity or intent to do any harm to Ms Peisley, and was satisfied that there was no clear evidence implicating him in her disappearance and suspected death.
Key dates in the Belinda Peisley case
Ms Peisley inherited about $150,000 from a relative.
- Ms Peisley bought a house on Trow Avenue in Katoomba for about $118,000. She moved in with her three-year-old son, Cody. Her other son Billy lived with his father in Sydney.
- Over the course of the next few months, the house became like a “drop-in centre” for the local drug community, according to evidence given at the coronial inquest into Ms Peisley’s disappearance.
- Ms Peisley began a new relationship with Jason (whose name has been changed for legal reasons). By this time, she had spent almost the entirety of her inheritance.
September 26 1998
- This is the last day Ms Peisley is known to have been alive.
- Ms Peisley attended a gathering in Katoomba where she was punched in the face by an acquaintance.
- After the altercation, Ms Peisley allegedly got a taxi home with her boyfriend, Jason (whose name has been changed for legal reasons). He said they had an argument at her house and she smashed mirrors and windows.
- Jason left to allegedly stay at a friend’s house. This friend remembered Jason coming over that night, but not staying over.
- Ms Peisley’s neighbour called the police after hearing yelling and things smashing. Police arrived at Ms Peisley’s house and found her intoxicated and alone. They took her to a hospital in Katoomba where she was triaged by a nurse. She had a cut on her right hand.
- Ms Peisley left the hospital at about 8:50pm before a doctor saw her. This was the last reported sighting of her alive.
- At about 10:30pm, Ms Peisley called her mother, Lesley, and asked her to bring her son, Cody, to her home at Trow Avenue (Cody was staying with Lesley). Lesley said it was too late and they would come in the morning.
September 27 1998
- Heidi Wailes said after she heard about her friend Ms Peisley being punched, she went to her house to see how she was, but no-one was home. Ms Wailes said she went inside the house to look for Ms Peisley and found her bag, with her wallet inside, squashed down the back of the couch. Ms Wailes did not make an official report to police about this until a considerable time later.
- Jason (whose name has been changed for legal reasons) went to the NRL Grand Final in Sydney with several people.
September 28 1998
- Jason returned to Ms Peisley’s house in the morning and found the front door open and windows smashed. He looked around for Ms Peisley but she wasn’t there. He said he found her keycard and Medicare card, and he took them. He waited for her for a couple of hours, then left.
- A Department of Community Services (DoCS) worker went to Ms Peisley’s home to visit her. She saw windows were smashed, and there was no answer at the door.
- A note on the police reporting system said Jason had informed police Ms Peisley had gone “berserk” at her house on September 26, smashing property and windows and throwing him out. The note also said Ms Peisley had not been seen at the house for two days and her current whereabouts were unknown.
September 29 1998
- The DoCS worker returned to Ms Peisley home to ascertain her whereabouts but nobody was there. The worker notified police about her concerns for Ms Peisley’s welfare.
- Police attend Ms Peisley’s home and made a forced entry into the property. One officer who attended later remembered seeing what appeared to be blood in the bathroom.
October 6 1998
- Ms Peisley’s mother officially reported her as missing to police. A photograph of Ms Peisley was collected by police and posted on an information board in Katoomba.
October 10 1998
- Police marked Ms Peisley’s missing person’s report with a clear-up status of “No further investigation”.
4 November 1998
- Police were informed of activity in Ms Peisley’s bank account and the possibility that Jason (whose name has been changed for legal reasons) was the person accessing it.
16 November 1998
- Police took their first formal statement from Jason regarding Ms Peisley’s disappearance. Jason admitted to using her keycard to withdraw money from her account, but said she owed him money.
8 October 2012
- The inquest into the disappearance and suspected death of Ms Peisley began at the NSW State Coroner’s Court in Katoomba. The inquest continued over 15 days in 2012 and 2013 at Katoomba Local Court, Parramatta Local Court and the NSW State Coroner’s Court in Glebe.
11 October 2013
- NSW deputy state coroner Paul McMahon determined Ms Peisley died on or about 26 September 1998 in or around Katoomba, and her death was more likely than not the consequence of the action of a third party. The coroner was unable to make a finding as to the cause and manner of her death.
- At the conclusion of the inquest, Mr McMahon found it was unlikely Jason (whose name has been changed for legal reasons) was involved in Ms Peisley’s disappearance and suspected death. As to whether Ms Wailes had any direct knowledge of and/or involvement, the coroner said the evidence was inconclusive.
3 December 2018
- Police conducted a forensic dig at Ms Peisley’s Katoomba home and found three pieces of clothing that are being tested for DNA.
To follow Unravel’s ongoing podcast investigation into the unsolved disappearance of Belinda Peisley, listen to Unravel Season Three on the ABC Listen app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.