Aussie Elly Warren was found dead in Mozambique. 8 years on, her father is still seeking answers.

Elly Warren was just 20 years old when she embarked on the adventure of a lifetime—volunteering in Mozambique for a conservation program.

She had dreams of becoming a marine biologist, and this six-week trip to the African nation was just the beginning. 

But Elly never made it home. Just four days before she was due to return to Melbourne, she was found face down behind a toilet block in the coastal town of Tofo. At the time, her death was described as "violent", but no charges were laid by Mozambique police.

That was more than seven years ago. And while Elly's father has been arguing his daughter's death resulted from foul play ever since—embarking on his own, privately funded investigation—it took until August 2023 for Mozambique police to rule Elly's death as a homicide. Despite the ruling, they've yet to pass the final step of having a judge peruse the evidence. 

A Victorian colonial inquest was unable to conclude that she was murdered, despite autopsies revealing a significant amount of sand in Elly's lungs, as well as in her mouth and trachea.

Last month, the AFP released a statement, claiming the organisation "made numerous offers of assistance to Mozambique authorities and liaised closely through police-to-police channels following the death of Elly Warren". 

The AFP's position has further devastated Elly's father, who says he will not give up his fight for justice for his daughter. 


Feeling let down by the Australian and Mozambique authorities, Paul conducted his own years long investigation into his daughter's death, and has recently put his findings into a new website,

"It has all the true facts, and I can support all these facts," Paul told Mamamia

"It's not just the deception by the Mozambique police, but the integrity AFP and coroner's court also come into question," he said. 

Watch: Father of Elly, Paul Warren speaks as the inquest for her daughter's death begins. Post continues after video.

Video via Channel Nine/A Current Affair.

Paul believes there are several critical issues that let Elly and her family down, many of those in relation to Australia's handling of the case. 

While he acknowledges Australia didn't play a role in what he believes was "crime scene tampering" by the Tofo police, Paul says the integrity of the AFP and the Coroner's court should be called into question. 

"The integrity of the AFP, and the future effect this will have on Australian families facing similar circumstances overseas. The coroner's court can manipulate proceedings as they have the monopoly on the witnesses called and how they are cross-examined. 


"The coroner's court did not want the radiologist, who was a critical witness, because they were protecting their Victoria Institute of Forensic Medicine pathologist, from their team.

"The Melbourne pathologist did not do his due diligence and completed a sub-optimal examination on my daughter's body. My daughters lungs, in the bags, were full with sand, and a lady's sanitary item was also placed inside the plastic bags, which is also not reported in the Melbourne pathologist's official autopsy report."

The inquest. 

On December 15, the Victorian state coroner, John Cain, said there were "gaps in the evidence" related to Elly's cause of death that had not been resolved.

He also said authorities in Mozambique did not hand over their investigation brief.

"It's possible that Mozambique prosecutors do have information that is relevant to this investigation," he said.

"But I do accept that release of any material held by Mozambique authorities is a matter entirely in their discretion."

Outside the court, Paul said he believed there was "overwhelming evidence" Elly was murdered.

"The Australian authorities have blatantly told us where they stand... and it's back in the hands of Mozambique," he said. "So I think Australia has let the family down."


In a letter to the AFP in response to their statement, shown to Mamamia, Paul wrote: "It’s very disappointing with the strong proof of evidence in Elly's case that Mr Cain (coroner) did not convincingly concur with the recent Mozambique police conclusion of Homicide. 

"To take it to the next level would be too expensive for the family."

Policing academic Associate Professor Michael Kennedy says Australia had no jurisdiction to interfere. 

"Mozambique is not a signatory to most of the international conventions," he explains.

"The investigation was typical of the sort of country Mozambique is at present. It is under resourced and extremely poor."

During Judge Cain's three-day hearing to examine Elly's death, Elly's movements in the lead up to the murder, as well as the findings of multiple autopsies were revealed. It also highlighted what went wrong, to leave a grieving family investigating their own loved one's murder.

Elly's final moments.

Elly's friend Jade O'Shea spoke at the inquest, describing the hour leading up to the murder. A group of friends, including Elly, were at a house gathering, Jade explains, but Elly became bored and left the group to return to a nearby bar. The rest of the group followed sometime later, spotting their friend at the bar around 11pm. She gestured she was going to grab a beer, but never returned. That was the last time they saw her alive.


"We assumed she went home to the hostel," Jade told the inquest, explaining that at that time, Elly did not appear drunk. "She definitely wasn't drunk, she was completely coherent and sober," Jade told the court.

Image: Facebook.

Elly was discovered face down by a local fisherman near a public toilet block. Her father believes her body had been moved from the beach to throw authorities off track.


"I know for sure that what happened to her was someone else... and that she was killed," Jade said. "Nothing she did contributed to that. She wasn't drunk. She wasn't out of control."

In Cain's inquest findings, he said he could not determine if Warren died outside the toilet block or was moved after her death.

Initially Mozambique police said Elly died of an overdose, but toxicology reports showed there was no alcohol or drugs in her system.

The autopsies

The inquest heard three autopsies had found a significant amount of sand in Ms Warren's lungs, mouth and trachea, describing them as "chock-o-block" with it.

The first autopsy took place in Mozambique and found Elly's medical cause of death was asphyxiation, introduction of sand into her throat and lungs, and direct suffocation, concluding the legal cause of death to be homicide.

A second autopsy was undertaken by forensic pathologist, Dr Patricia Klepp, who told the coroner the post-mortem conducted by African authorities was "suboptimal", "totally unacceptable" and "not worth the paper it's printed on".

Mistakes, according to Dr Klepp included Elly's body being embalmed – making future autopsies more difficult - and drawing incorrect conclusions about the cause of death. Dr Klepp believes Elly was alive at the time she breathed in the sand. 


When Elly returned to Australia, an autopsy was conducted by Dr Matthew Lynch, but the court heard this autopsy didn't reach a clear conclusion.

In his findings, Cain said the cause of death was sand aspiration, which was also consistent with a report by a South African forensic pathologist. However, he said the available evidence was not sufficient for him to determine how the sand entered her throat and lungs. Sexual assault also could not be excluded.

"It is also possible that persons or persons unknown caused or contributed to Elly’s death," Cain said.

What went wrong?

"Since she was taken from us, over seven years ago, the family has felt we have had our backs against the wall," Elly's devastated father, Paul, told the inquest.

He said his family had "struggled desperately" in their fight for justice, he said. "We have felt we have had little support from the Australian government and the AFP."

Paul believes the AFP should have actively assisted the family's investigation, given Mozambique was a developing nation unable to properly investigate his daughter's death. 

"This should have been done in 2016," he said. "It was always possible to ask for a mutual assistance agreement."

But in August 2023, Associate Professor Kenny told Mamamia the family's expectation of the AFP was "unreasonable". 


"'The inquest has highlighted an unreasonable expectation by the victim's family that despite having no jurisdiction or political influence, Australia should get to the bottom of everything."

Appearing at the inquest, AFP Commander International Engagement Andrew Smith echoed these sentiments. He said Australia didn't have consistent cross-border police-to-police relationships with Mozambique, significantly limiting the role the AFP could play in the investigation.

Stacey Walker, a public servant with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), told the inquest Mozambique police appeared to her as "poorly trained, resourced and paid".

Ms Walker, who travelled to Mozambique to provide translation services, said crime scene photos were taken on a local police officer's broken personal phone. 

Now-retired AFP officer Noel Scruton, who was travelling with Ms Walker, offered to pay to have the phone repaired and extract the photos, but stressed the AFP was only there to support local police.

Associate Professor Kennedy told Mamamia this was no surprise to him.

"This is a homicide that is across multiple jurisdictions, but in the end it is Mozambique, and apart from political and economic issues, English is not a common language.

"Predominantly they speak Portuguese and as such would have a French type Napoleonic Inquisitorial legal system that purports to be a search for the truth. It is not like our system."


AFP Commander of International Engagement Andrew Smith also took the stand at the inquest. When questioned about the AFP's decision not to formally investigate Elly's death, he said the agency's default position was: "where the crime has been committed is where it should be investigated."

"We can't just go into another country and start doing our own investigation," he told the court.

What happens now?

While Paul has vowed to continue to push for answers, Associate Professor Kennedy feared during the inquest that there will be little progress in the case.

"The Homicide ruling is nothing and the inquest will not be anything substantial. I doubt anyone will ever be charged. If that was going to occur, it would have happened by now," he says.

"It is an international dilemma and a jurisdictional dilemma that simply cannot be resolved."

Associate Professor Kennedy urged Australians to understand the potential consequences when they visit "exotic locations that are cheap and exciting to live in".

"When anything goes wrong communication is difficult, language creates massive issues, poverty means a total lack of government resources or the will to resolve these issues."

Elly's father says the present system needs to change to support Australian families facing these circumstances overseas.


"The impact has been devastating and very frustrating to have no support whatsoever from the Australian authorities."

Paul with her daughter, Elly Warren. Image: Facebook.

This article was originally published on August 29, 2023 and has been updated.

Feature Image: Facebook.