There was insufficient evidence to recommend that Rockton man, James 'Jim' Hawes, be charged with the death of Sylvia Pajuczok, the inquest into the disappearance of the 53-year-old Eden grandmother has heard.
Mr Hawes was the last person known to have had contact with Ms Pajuczok, at Rockton, near Bombala, in late December 2008.
Mr Hawes was a neighbour of Ms Pajuczok's brother, Igor Pajuczok; Ms Pajuczok was staying with Mr Hawes after her brother left to spend Christmas, 2008, in Victoria.
Magistrate Mark Douglass, presiding over hearings of the NSW Coroner's Court in Bombala on Monday and Tuesday, found that Ms Pajuczok was deceased, and that her death was suspicious.
He found that she died on or about December 23 or 24, 2008, in the vicinity of Rockton.
In a submission to the Coroner's Court, Senior Counsel Ian Burke said there was a "strong suspicion" that Ms Pajuczok's disappearance was linked to Mr Hawes.
"The evidence raises the strong suggestion of homicide whether accidental or otherwise," Mr Bourke's submission said.
"A finding of that kind, however, is obviously of the most serious kind, and can only be made on the basis of very cogent evidence.
"It is submitted that while the evidence relating to Mr Hawes is extremely suspicious, it is not sufficient to conclude that Sylvia's death is due to his actions.
"Nor is there sufficient evidence upon which the Coroner might refer this matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions for the commencement of criminal proceedings against Mr Hawes," his submission said.
Speaking to the Bombala Times on Tuesday afternoon shortly after Magistrate Douglass handed down his decision, Mr Hawes maintained his innocence.
"I feel for her family," Mr Hawes said.
"I have never stopped wishing that she will turn up somewhere one day safe and well," he said.
Mr Hawes said he was glad Magistrate Douglass had said that the police investigation would be active and ongoing.
"I'm glad it hasn't been written off, that they haven't given up on it.
"I know nothing about it [the circumstances of her death], I'm not guilty," he said.
Mr Bourke said that four scenarios surrounding Ms Pajuczok's disappearance had been considered: that she had abandoned her normal life and was living elsewhere; she had committed suicide, she had died by misadventure; or, that she had been murdered.
"Her sudden disappearance, leaving behind virtually all her possessions, and the circumstances of the abandonment of her van are highly suggestive of her having died an unnatural death," Mr Bourke said.
"When considering the circumstances of Sylvia's disappearance, the natural and logical focus must be on those persons and places with which Sylvia had contact immediately prior to her disappearance.
"The last person known to have had contact with Sylvia was Mr Hawes.
"The nature of that contact was one of conflict, and in circumstances where Mr Hawes had been drinking alcohol, to the extent that he had allegedly 'passed out'."
"Furthermore, there exists a fundamental problem with the version of events described by Mr Hawes.
"According to Mr Hawes, it was on December 24, 2008, that he 'kicked Sylvia out' after an argument, and that she then left in her van.
"However, there is abundant evidence that by that time, Sylvia's van had been sighted perhaps as many as 20 times, from the early hours of December 24, in the same location where it was found, abandoned, by police on December 27, 2008.
It was these circumstances, Mr Burke said, that raised the "strong suspicion" that Ms Pajuczok's disappearance and death were linked to Mr Hawes.
Mr Bourke's submission stated that Ms Pajuczok had been depressed about living in Eden and wanted to be closer to her three children in Sydney.
"Sylvia arrived at Igor's home on December 19, 2008, and told Igor that she did not intend to return to Eden, as she thought her phones were being tapped," Mr Bourke said.
She also believed that people were trying to kill her, he said.
"[Accounts] of people who knew Sylvia in Eden described how her paranoia appeared to worsen [during 2008]," he said.