AN army officer who disappeared 18 years ago was reportedly seen at a Brisbane gay bar shortly after he was reported missing.
Former Pioneer High student Sean Sargent, then 24, vanished on March 19, 1999 after attending a party with friends at a house in the Brisbane suburb of St Lucia. A handful of people have claimed to have seen Mr Sargent since that night but there is nothing else to indicate he is alive.
An inquest into his disappearance in the Brisbane Coroners Court, which began yesterday, is examining both the adequacy of the response by civilian and military police and what caused Mr Sargent's disappearance.
The court heard there were suggestions Mr Sargent had been living a double life as a gay or bisexual man, and that he had hidden his sexuality from the army.
Retired Queensland Police sergeant James Hayes, who was working in the Missing Persons Bureau at the time, gave evidence he received a report from a witness who said he had seen Mr Sargent at a popular gay bar in inner-city Spring Hill almost two weeks after his disappearance.
Coroner John Hutton suggested it would have been logical for the police to put a photo of Mr Sargent up in the bar, calling for any other witnesses to come forward, but the court heard that was not done. Mr Hutton also questioned Mr Hayes about disparaging comments made about Mr Sargent and his close army friend, Andrew Juniper, by two military police involved in the investigation.
"They called him a faggot," Mr Hayes reluctantly told the court, prompting Mr Hutton to note that this attitude was not likely to have encouraged Mr Sargent to have been open about his sexuality. Mr Hayes told the court he visited Mr Sargent's unit at Ferny Hills a few days after he was reported missing and that everything was intact.
It didn't look to me like things had been ready packed," he said. "At that time, he wasn't long missing, so we were always confident he was going to show up."
The inquest is set down for five days.
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