Stuart Kelly’s family want coronial investigation into his death

THE first time Stuart Kelly ever set foot inside the elite St Paul’s College was during a Sydney University open day in 2016.

Stuart had not heard of St Paul’s College — which is the oldest college in Australia — but from the moment he set foot on its grounds, he felt he belonged.

The bright and popular student, who loved to kick a footy around, had spent six years living as a boarder at The King’s School, the transition seemed a natural fit.

“He was familiar with the way young men and women drink. He had seen underage drinking over the years at school and am sure he was not naive in any way,” said his mother Kathy.

“He knew that young people drank, took drugs and many did numerous things that were outside the law.”

Four years earlier, Stuart had lost his older brother, Thomas, in devastating circumstances. The much publicised one-punch attack occurred outside a Kings Cross nightclub and two days later, Thomas’s life support would be turned off.

After the sentencing of the man who assaulted Thomas in the Court of Criminal Appeal, Stuart spoke publicly to the media, stating “it’s been difficult for me. I’ve watched my family suffer on a daily basis, trying to somehow regain anything in their lives. I want Thomas’s short life to have some meaning in his death so we can see change, a new fresh start, one where I believe we should have respect for one another.”

Although it was clear that Thomas’ death had a terrible impact on the Kelly family, Stuart continued to excel at school and achieve success in his academic, student leadership and sporting pursuits. During his final year of school, Stuart served as a School Monitor, as Captain of Broughton Forrest House, as a Sergeant in the Cadet Corps and had represented the School in 5th XI Cricket and 5th XV Rugby.

He also achieved the Gold Duke of Edinburgh award and the school headmaster noted that Stuart was “one of our most impressive young men, possessed of the capacity to lead, serve and to be a fine role model both inside and outside of the classroom”.

By all accounts, by the end of his schooling, Stuart was considered a remarkably, popular, outgoing and well adjusted student.

But all that would soon change.

On Monday, February 22, 2016, Stuart, accompanied by Kathy and Ralph, arrived at St Paul’s College. It was the beginning of Orientation Week at the college and parents of the residents were invited to join their sons and college staff for afternoon tea where the students were asked to sign a roll-book of ‘Paulines’ along with a disclaimer about Orientation Week.

The parents were then invited to stay on for dinner that evening. The Kellys recall the dinner as a pleasant one. Staff made a number of speeches, and the parents were assured that their sons would be well looked after.

Following the dinner, residents and their parents were invited to have a drink in the college bar, The Salisbury. At dinner, the parents were told that heavy drinking was not tolerated.

Now the parents were being encouraged to start a “bar tab” for each of their sons, so that they could purchase drinks in coming weeks.

Kathy started a tab of $50 for Stuart, and at about 9:30pm that night, the parents of all the boys headed off, leaving the residents to their O-Week activities.

Ralph and Kathy left the college that night feeling that their son would be safe and happy as he settled into his new life.

WHAT HAPPENED ON THAT NIGHT?

But what happened between 9.30pm and 8am the next morning, no-one seems to know.

The following morning, February 23, 2016, Stuart attempted to call his parents five times, beginning around 8am.

Both his parents say this was extremely out of character. Later analysis of his phone records show that these calls were made from Newtown and Camperdown.

That afternoon, the Kellys were driving to Sydney University to take more of Stuart’s belongings to him, when Stuart attempted to call two additional times.

In the first call, Stuart asked his parents where they were and asked them to meet him outside of the university grounds. His mother replied telling him not to be silly, and that they would meet him at St Paul’s College, but Stuart refused and stated that he wasn’t at the college. Kathy asked where he was, and Stuart told her he would call back and ended the call. A few minutes later, around 3:45pm, Stuart called again. He told his parents that he was at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Medical Centre and asked them to “come now”. The Kellys asked if he was OK, but Stuart did not answer, simply repeating his request that they pick him up as soon as possible.

When Kathy and Ralph arrived at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Medical Centre, they found Stuart sitting in the gutter, with his head in his hands. He got in the back of the car and began sobbing, unable to speak. His parents had not seen Stuart cry since the day his older brother’s life support had been turned off.

“He didn’t cry at the funeral. It was the first time I’d seen him cry since,” said Ralph.

Kathy and Ralph became increasingly concerned and urged Stuart to tell them what had happened, but he wouldn’t reply.

When they arrived at the family home, Stuart told Ralph and Kathy that he was “never going back” to St Paul’s.

Those who knew him say he was a changed boy from that point on. He became withdrawn, he barely left his room and he refused to return to university

About a week later, Kathy went to collect his belongings from St Paul’s and — having made his bed for him on the first night — discovered it had not been slept in.

To this day, no one knows how Stuart spent the early hours of February 22, 2016.

In the weeks and months after Stuart began to spiral. And on Monday July 25, 2016, Stuart Kelly took his own life.

A female friend of Stuart’s would later write to the Kelly family and the police stating:

The only negative thing Stuart ever spoke to me about was his university experience. Although he never told me directly what happened he told me that he had left [college] early and the reason being was that the students there were spoiled and snotty. (However, I believe there was more to it as he was very hesitant about talking about it. I never pushed because I knew it was a touchy subject) … I strongly believe that something terrible happened to Stuart while in university. He also told me how I shouldn’t look forward to university and that high school is a good experience but everything changes when you go into university. Because of this I have reason to believe something awful happened there and it could be likely that that contributed to his death. I think if the police were to look into anything, it should definitely be that. Stuart deserves justice.

Since then, the Kelly family has spoken to the media to confirm their strong suspicion that Stuart was hazed at St Paul’s College. Kathy is adamant that “something terrible” happened to Stuart during his time at St Paul’s College, something “that he wasn’t prepared to discuss”.

In her police statement, dated the March 1, 2017, Kathy has outlined her fears that her son was potentially assaulted “possibly sexually — this was something that Stuart would never have recovered from”. Alternatively Ralph and Kathy fear he was the subject of bullying, hazing or threats.

A spokesperson for the college has said that news.com.au’s email about the matter was “the first the college has heard of an allegation that Stuart Kelly may have been sexually assaulted. If anyone has such an allegation, or evidence of any sexual assault, they should inform the NSW Police immediately. The college is ready to co-operate with any inquiry which would assist.”

“The college again reiterates its deepest sympathy to the Kelly family in their distress and supports their desire to understand the causes of Stuart’s death.”

The college spokesperson says that the college has undertaken its own investigation into Stuart’s time at the college, including using external lawyers.

“These investigations involved interviews with college staff, senior students and Stuart Kelly’s fellow first year students. These investigations found that the allegations previously made were not substantiated. … The college will continue to co-operate fully and openly with those investigations, as well as with any further processes that may help.

“We have advised the Kelly family that the college is always available to provide any form of assistance that we can or further information related to Stuart’s time at the college, should it become available.”

However the Kellys are now calling for a coronial inquiry into Stuart’s death. This follows a development this month, when Ralph Kelly requested a final copy of the police report that was tabled with the NSW Coroner.

However, the investigating officer informed Ralph that such reports are “never provided to the public or family in any circumstance”.

Speaking to news.com.au, Ralph Kelly said that as a parent he had no idea of the scandal-ridden history of St Paul’s College, nor the sorts of hazing that has been alleged to occur at the Sydney University colleges.

“Parents don’t know these things. If I had known some of the history I would not have wanted Stuart going there.”

The college has stated that “the college is committed to the values of respect and dignity, including equality of respect for women and men, and actions inconsistent with these values will not be tolerated.”

“College residents and their parents should very much look forward to the start of the new academic year and to participating in the balanced program of activities offered by the college.”

Advocacy group End Rape On Campus Australia has joined with the Kelly family to call for new anti-hazing laws across all Australian states and territories.

Nina Funnell is an ambassador for End Rape On Campus Australia and the author of The Red Zone Report. She is a Walkley Award winning investigative journalist and is running news.com.au’s exclusive investigation into college culture

Do you know more about college culture in Australia? Contact: ninafunnell@gmail.com

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