Fearful man ‘begged to be rescued’ before disappearing

Cheryl Goodenough |

The disappearance of Jeremiah Rivers in remote Queensland is being examined in the Coroners Court.
The disappearance of Jeremiah Rivers in remote Queensland is being examined in the Coroners Court.

Hours before disappearing in Queensland’s remote southwest, Jeremiah Rivers phoned his cousin for help to get away from the pig hunters he was travelling with, a court has been told.

Mr Rivers, known as Jayo, disappeared after the seven men stopped at Wippo Creek near Noccundra on the way from NSW to the Northern Territory in October 2021.

His cousin Matthew Perris said Mr Rivers called about midnight asking for help getting out of a situation, the Coroners Court sitting in Brisbane was told on Thursday.

“He was outnumbered and he just wanted to get away from whoever he was with at the time,” Mr Perris said.

He told the court his 27-year-old cousin, sounding drunk, wanted him to go from the Northern Territory to Queensland to help him.

Mr Rivers said he had an argument, a punch up, with his long-time friend Joe Joe Kantilla-Gaden, Mr Perris added.

Joe Joe Kantilla-Gaden
A Coroners Court sitting was told Jayo Rivers had an argument with Joe Joe Kantilla-Gaden. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

“Jayo told me that Joe Joe got the other fellows to get on his side so they all gang up on him,” Mr Perris said in a police statement read in court.

Mr Perris, who had no transport to get to Queensland, spoke to Mr Rivers for about 10 minutes, trying to calm him down and saying everything should be alright in the morning.

It was the first time Mr Perris heard of issues between his cousin and Mr Kantilla-Gaden, who had grown up together.

Under questioning from Coroner Donald MacKenzie, Mr Perris agreed his cousin was distressed, fearful for his life and begging to be rescued.

He told Mr Rivers’ grandmother about the call the following day, although he only gave the statement about three months later.

There are no records of the call, with Mr Perris saying he has a new Facebook profile and no access to the old one.

Mr Rivers used his own social media account on his friend’s phone as he did not have his own device, Mr Perris said.

A lawyer acting for Mr Rivers’ family has told the inquest his theory is that the missing man got into an argument with Mr Kantilla-Gaden after learning the group was trafficking three pounds of cannabis to the Northern Territory.

The allegation has been denied by group members, who got into Queensland through a locked gate during COVID-19 border restrictions.

Lawyer Stewart Levitt said his theory was that Mr Rivers was grabbed, driven away and shot near Wilson Creek as people reported hearing gunshots in that area around the time of the disappearance.

Despite an extensive search, a forensic examination, police investigation, a missing persons campaign, use of cadaver dogs and at one stage information provided from a psychic medium, no sign of Mr Rivers or potential foul play has been identified.

“It is suspected Jayo has passed,” counsel assisting Sarah Lio-Willie said earlier.

The inquest hearing is due to end on Friday.