Mark Stewart

May 1976

North Head, Manly

Mark Stewart was 18 years old when he died.

Mark's name was originally Mark Spanswick which he changed by Deed Poll to Mark Stewart a few months prior to his death.

At 10am on 11 May 1976, Mark's body was found by a local fisherman at the base of the cliffs between Shelly Beach and North Head, near Manly.

There is a walking path which leads south from Shelly Beach uphill and around to an area known as Blue Fish Point. The path clings quite close to the cliff edge.

After a couple of hundred metres it arrives at a stone wall which marks the boundary at one time of the North Head Quarantine Station. The path continues through a gap in the wall, continuing south towards the tip of North Head. On both sides of the path there is bush and vegetation which would provide seclusion for anyone who might wish it.

At least by the 1970s, the area was a well-known beat, and it is an area where several other deaths, which were or might have been "gay hate"-related deaths, including that of Scott Johnson, also occurred.

Mark Stewart was the second of three children. He spent most of his childhood growing up in Fiji where his father worked. At age 13 or 14 he left Fiji to attend boarding school in New Zealand. He joined the New Zealand Navy at the age of 16. However, he apparently went absent without leave from the Navy in August 1974, just after his 17th birthday.

After leaving the Navy, Mark lived for a time in Brisbane. On the evening of 9 May 1976, it seems that he checked into the Hilton Hotel in George Street in Sydney. The full extent of his movements between then and the morning of 11 May, more than a day later, when his body was found, is not yet known. A brief inquest was held two months later, on 16 July 1976, and the Coroner found that Mark had died of multiple injuries sustained as a result of falling from the cliff top. The Coroner was satisfied that there were no circumstances giving rise to suspicion of foul play but said that he could not determine whether the death was accidental or intentional.

In its paper-based review, Strike Force Parrabell classified the case as one where there was "insufficient information to establish a bias crime".