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Man who died in Cairns hotel balcony fall could have been 'forced'

Statewide

A court has heard explosive allegations that a man who fell several storeys to his death from a hotel balcony in Far North Queensland may have been “directly or indirectly forced off” by his friend.

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Seth James Luhrs, 24, died after plummeting about 15 metres on to a hotel awning at the Rydges Esplanade Hotel, Cairns, in April 2018 while on a weekend away with friends.

The Mareeba man had been sharing a room with friend Sean Clift, 21, who police claim was the only person in the room at the time of his fall.

No one has been charged over the incident.

On day one of a coronial inquest examining Luhrs’ death, the court heard Clift sent a Facebook message to a friend saying “Seth’s dead”.

Investigating police officer Detective Senior Constable Zoe Goodall told the court she believed Clift may have “directly or indirectly forced him (Mr Luhrs) over the balcony”.

The claim was met with fury by Clift’s solicitor Philip Bovey, who said any claim that his client was involved in Luhrs’ death was “absolutely outrageous”.

Goodall told the court a hotel maintenance worker heard a loud bang about 1.30am and discovered Luhrs’ body.

She said police quickly responded and went to Room 709, where the friends had been staying, to find Clift sitting in the darkness.

She said Clift told officers he had been asleep and didn’t know where his friend was.

“There are two people in the room [sic] and one of them is dead and one knows what happened and lied about it,”  Goodall told the court.

Court shown vision of pair checking in

The court was told the pair had taken LSD that night and Clift, who was captured on security vision outside the hotel alone, had somehow broken his arm.

The vision played to the court showed him in his underwear, his arm badly broken, walking around the hotel foyer and outside the hotel.

“My theory is that Seth broke his arm and the LSD was wearing off, he was in pain and he wanted to go to the hospital. He wanted Sean to take him to the hospital,”  Goodall said.

“I think Seth was skylarking on the balcony and [Mr Clift] has been frustrated and has either directly or indirectly forced him over the balcony.

“There might have been some altercation on the balcony, it might just have been a misadventure.

“Sean has some involvement. For him to be texting and acknowledging [the fall] and then say ‘I was asleep’.

“He lied about the situation.”

The court heard Clift was arrested at the scene but later let go.

Bovey told the court there was “not one whiff of evidence that a push could have occurred”.

He said there had been an extensive police investigation, including scientific and forensic officers sent from Brisbane to investigate “and as a result of all that, there were no charges against Clift”.

Goodall agreed police were not able to provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Clift was involved.

Clift is due to give evidence on day three of the inquest.

– ABC / Kristy Sexton-McGrath

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