A woman may have contributed to the death of former military officer Lee Edward Parker in the Somerset region four years ago, a coroner has found.
A woman may have contributed to the death of former military officer Lee Edward Parker in the Somerset region four years ago, a coroner has found.

Woman may have been involved in bus fire death: coroner

A WOMAN may have contributed to the death of a former military officer in the Somerset region four years ago, a coroner has found.

More than three years after Lee Edward Parker died, Deputy State Coroner John Lock delivered his findings on the inquest into the 47-year-old's death yesterday.

Mr Parker was a promising warrant officer who had served in the army for more than 17 years until he was medically discharged in 2004.

The Coroners Court was told that after a long struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and the breakdown of his marriage, he moved to the Atkinson Dam Caravan Park and began working there.

His body was found in the burnt-out shell of a bus at the park on August 19, 2016.

He had died as a result of the fire.

The court was told Mr Parker had been drinking heavily at a bonfire with the caravan park's residents, including Cathleen Susan O'Loughlin on the night before he died.

Informal portrait of three members of an international crime scene investigation team in an office at Liquica Police Station. Warrant Officer Class 2 Lee Parker, Australian Military Police investigator, is standing at the rear (left). Other two people are not named in the records. Photo: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL
Informal portrait of three members of an international crime scene investigation team in an office at Liquica Police Station. Warrant Officer Class 2 Lee Parker, Australian Military Police investigator, is standing at the rear (left). Other two people are not named in the records. Photo: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL

The pair had been flirting and Mr Parker had gone back to Ms O'Loughlin's bus about 3.30am on the morning of August 19.

The bus caught fire about 4am that morning.

Mr Lock said at some point Ms O'Loughlin had made her way to the bus before the blaze.

"It is likely Ms O'Loughlin was at the bus at some point, knew Lee was present, probably picked up his keys at that point and then left the bus," Mr Lock said.

"She was then seen later, some distance from the bus, and a few minutes later it is evident the bus was well lit.

"The degree of involvement of Cathleen O'Loughlin into how the fire started or if she intentionally or accidentally did an act, which caused the fire, cannot be determined.

"However, it has not been excluded on the evidence that she may have done so."

Mr Lock referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions. No charges have been laid.

The bus was not fitted with a smoke alarm.

Mr Lock said consideration should be given to mandatory installation of smoke alarms in on-site van and caravan parks, similar to NSW policy. -NewsRegional