Trio died drinking $2 moonshine so lethal one sip could paralyse drinkers' arms for 15 minutes

By Candace Sutton

Crates of moonshine were seized by police in Collarenebri after Sandra Boney became the first of three people to die from methanol poisoning. Stock photo / 123RF.com
Crates of moonshine were seized by police in Collarenebri after Sandra Boney became the first of three people to die from methanol poisoning. Stock photo / 123RF.com

Three people who died in outback NSW after drinking $2 moonshine so strong it could paralyse the drinker's arms for 15 minutes died from ingesting methanol - or wood alcohol - a Coroner has found.

Sandra Boney, 40, her brother Norman Boney, 46 and Sandra's boyfriend, Roger Adams, 37, all died within weeks of each other in early 2015 after drinking the moonshine sold to the siblings' sister.

NSW Deputy State Coroner Helen Barry also found on Tuesday that a second hand shop owner in the tiny town of Collarenebri, in northwestern NSW, Mary Miller, had supplied boxes and boxes of the moonshine.

Even after the three deaths, Ms Miller reopened her illegal grog shop "the next day after they died like it was nothing", the inquest heard.

The coroner found Ms Miller had manufactured and sold the moonshine, which can cause blindness and death, to the Boneys' sister Margaret.

Margaret Boney bought two boxes with large bottles of the moonshine, plus another 10 to 20 boxes each containing 24 smaller bottles, and a further large crate filled with large bottles.

The three dead, along with other members of the Walli Reserve Aboriginal community in Collarenebri, had been drinking the illegal moonshine for months before they died.

One of the moonshine drinkers, Mr Adams' niece Amy Bennett, had chest pains and her arms went numb "like pins and needles" after drinking it.

She had paid $50 for a Bundaberg Rum bottle full of moonshine just before Christmas 2014.

At the time, the "whole of the Reserve was talking about" the moonshine, which tasted like "licorice" and had the "smell of methylated spirits".

Some of the moonshine was sold in Coke bottles for around $5.

In handing down her findings into the deaths on Tuesday, Ms Barry said that despite an official cause of "organising pneumonia" in each death, it was the moonshine or methanol which killed all three.

Sandra Boney was the first to die, at Bourke Hospital on February 3, 2015, followed by her brother Norman, who was admitted to Dubbo Base Hospital the same day and died on February 14.

Mr Adams was admitted to Collarenebri Hospital the same month, later transferred to Dubbo and then Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and later discharged. He returned to country at Collarenebri and died on March 24, 2015.

Ms Barry said that Collarenebri second hand shop owner, Ms Miller, had supplied the moonshine to the Boneys' sister, Margaret Boney.

Ms Miller lived with her partner Graham Stewart at Pokataroo, 16km southeast of Collarenebri which lies in a cotton and wheat farming belt 750km northwest of Sydney and 100km south of the Queensland border.

During the inquest, Ms Bennett said she had seen Ms Miller dropping off boxes of alcohol at the rear of Margaret Boney's house at the Walli Reserve.

Margaret Boney told the inquest that Ms Miller had sold her moonshine on more than 10 occasions, in two boxes of large bottles for $80 each, 10 to 20 boxes each containing 24 bottles and costing $100 and a very large black crate containing large bottles for $150.

Margaret shared the alcohol with Sandra, Norman and Roger. She told the inquest that Ms Miller also delivered moonshine in plastic bags containing 15 Coke bottles full of it for $80.

Ms Barry said in her findings that moonshine is made by distilling liquids containing methanol, such as antifreeze, stove fuel, paint solvent and nail varnish and can contain lead and arsenic.

Three days after Sandra Boney's death, on February 6, 2015, police attended Ms Miller's Pokataroo property.

They seized boxes of red wine and bottles containing homemade "rum" and "Tia Maria" and a home brew kit belonging to Ms Miller's partner, Graham Stewart.

Ms Miller later told the inquest that she assisted Mr Stewart with the manufacture of homemade beer.

She denied selling the homemade alcohol, but claimed that she would use a "barter" system with the residents at Walli Reserve.

Ms Barry said that "Mary Miller's denial that she sold homemade alcohol to the residents at Walli Reserve is in stark contradiction to the oral evidence given to the court and to statements

given by witnesses to health workers and the police".

Max Boney, Sandra and Norman Boney's nephew, gave evidence that he had carried a box of home brew from Ms Miller's shop in Collarenebri to his mother Margaret's car.

He had seen Ms Miller attend Walli Reserve on three to four occasions bringing bottles of alcohol.

He had observed family members consuming the alcohol noticed them to have "not a normal hangover".

Lavinia Flick told the court that Ms Miller had told her at Easter in 2014 about the availability of moonshine and about her selling it.

Ms Flick stated that Ms Miller said to her: "Ask your brother if he'd like to buy some homemade alcohol for $5."

Ms Barry said in her findings that drinking moonshine can cause uneven heartbeat "altered mental states, seizures, blood in your urine, vomiting blood, diarrhoea, drowsiness and stomach pain".

She said each of the three victims had "a compromised immunity due to other health issues" which methanol poisoning had exacerbated causing their sad and untimely death.

- news.com.au

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