Coroner refuses to absolve family of missing toddler

”Puzzling” … the parents of Rahma El-Dennaoui, Hosayn and Alyaa El-Dennaoui, arrive at Glebe Coroners Court on Thursday.A CLOUD of suspicion will continue to hang over the family of missing toddler Rahma El-Dennaoui after a coroner found some of their behaviour was ”puzzling” and their evidence ”troubling”.

In Glebe Coroners Court on Thursday, the Deputy State Coroner Sharon Freund said she could not be sure that missing toddler Rahma was dead, and handed down an open finding.

Ms Freund said that after four weeks of hearings, and testimony from more than 40 witnesses, the inquest ”did nothing, in my view, to exculpate Rahma’s immediate family”.

She declined to find that Rahma was kidnapped by a person or persons unknown to the El-Dennaoui family, or to rule out the suggestion that they staged an abduction to conceal that she died at home.

Rahma has not been seen since she was put to bed by her parents, Hosayn and Alyaa El-Dennaoui, in their Lurnea home about 2am on November 10, 2005. She was about 21 months old.

Outside the court, Mr El-Dennaoui said: ”Last Saturday it was seven years exactly [since she disappeared] and we don’t know what’s happened to her and we would like to know.

”We are not involved, anyone, me and my wife, we’ve not done nothing to Rahma.”

When asked what he thought happened to her, Mr El-Dennaoui said: ”I don’t know.”

Ms Freund said that during the hearings in April and May this year ”it became clear that some of the evidence given by the parents of Rahma, and their close relatives, was inconsistent and raised questions about the veracity of earlier accounts they had given to police”.

Ms Freund said it was ”unfortunate” that detectives did not focus their investigation on the family, particularly her parents, immediately after her disappearance.

The officer in charge, Nicholas Sedgwick, told the inquest there was no obvious reason to target the family because initial inquiries did not find suggestions of child abuse or neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness or criminality. But after a review of the investigation in 2011, Detective Sedgwick decided the family warranted a closer look.

When the hearings resumed in October, counsel assisting the coroner, Robert Bromwich, SC, revealed police had secretly intercepted a number of phone calls between family members.

Ms Freund said the telephone intercepts ”revealed behaviours that were, to say the least, puzzling as they were not ad idem with those of a grieving family”.

”In particular, the jokes and laughing by Rahma’s parents with third parties about the kidnapping and the splitting of the reward money, the specific references to avoiding talking about the inquest on the telephone and actually talking in code.”

However, Ms Freund said there was ”no conclusive evidence to suggest that the El-Dennaoui family had staged the kidnapping and are implicated in Rahma’s disappearance”.

She said the investigation of a suspected paedophile who lived near Rahma’s house ”had a number of shortcomings and issues”, but she declined to comment further in case it tainted any continuing inquiries.

Outside the court, Detective Sedgwick said: ”The investigation … is ongoing and won’t stop until those responsible are brought to justice.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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