Matthew Leveson’s parents Faye and Mark Leveson outside court. Photo: Ben Rushton Michael Atkins and Matthew Leveson at the ARQ nightclub in the hours before Mr Leveson went missing in September 2007. Photo: Supplied
Michael Atkins arrives at the Coroner’s Court for the inquest into the death of Matthew Leveson. Photo: Ben Rushton
The lover of Sydney man Matthew Leveson – and the last person known to have seen him alive nearly a decade ago – has given public evidence for the first time, claiming he always thought Mr Leveson had gone to Thailand.
Michael Atkins, 53, who was acquitted of both the murder and manslaughter of Mr Leveson in 2009, said he had a “tiny bit” of hope that he was still alive and he could have travelled overseas to “start a new life”.
Mr Atkins was compelled to enter the witness box, with immunity from prosecution, after a ground-breaking ruling by Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott who found that he would “likely be able to give important evidence about the manner and cause of Matthew’s death”.
In a bid to avoid giving evidence, Mr Atkins unsuccessfully attempted to challenge the ruling in the NSW Supreme Court.
Mr Leveson, 20, was last seen leaving the popular ARQ nightclub in Sydney’s Taylor Square with Mr Atkins, then 44, in the early hours of September 23, 2007.
In the greatly-anticipated hearing and in front of Mr Leveson’s parents, brothers and friends at the Coroners Court in Glebe on Monday, Mr Atkins said his then-boyfriend had always “enjoyed” Thailand and might have gone there because he wanted a fresh start in life.
“You know Matt is dead don’t you?” counsel assisting, Lester Fernandez, put to Mr Atkins.
“No,” Mr Atkins responded.
“Could Matt be alive?” Mr Fernandez continued.
“He could be,” Mr Atkins said.
Mr Atkins said the last time he had seen Mr Leveson, with whom he lived with in a unit at Cronulla, was on the afternoon of September 23, 2007.
Earlier that morning they had been partying at ARQ nightclub, but Mr Atkins said he had driven Mr Leveson home because he had taken too many drugs.
The inquest has previously heard that Mr Atkins was captured on security footage purchasing a garden mattock and gaffer tape at a Bunnings store later that same day.
In his evidence, Mr Atkins said Mr Leveson had planned to go out clubbing again and their last conversation was “something about the TV”.
Mr Atkins said when Mr Leveson did not return he thought it was because he was a “bit of a princess” and “had got the shits” with him.
“I thought that he just had got the shits and was just off somewhere else … I thought he would be back,” Mr Atkins said.
The inquest has previously heard that two days after Mr Leveson was reported missing his car was found parked at Waratah Oval in Sutherland.
Inside the car, police found a Bunnings Warehouse receipt, containing Mr Atkins’ fingerprint, for a mattock and gaffer tape. A large speaker system had been removed from Mr Leveson’s car and was found in the couple’s garage by police.
But Mr Atkins, who at one point during the hearing put his head down and said he was not feeling well, denied any prior familiarity with the oval despite renting out an arcade machine to the basketball stadium nearby.
He conceded that he had not done enough to help search for Mr Leveson in the days, weeks and years after his disappearance but said this was because he suffered depression and he thought police would do their job.
“I loved Matt so much . I think he loved me just as much as well,” Mr Atkins said
The inquest heard that Mr Atkins, who has a black belt in martial arts and has been trained as a security officer, had sex with two people in the days after Mr Leveson disappeared.
Outside the court, Mr Leveson’s parents Faye and Mark, laughed at the suggestion their son could have assumed a new identity and be living in Thailand. They said they only wanted to find out where their son’s body was.
“We hoped we would see this day but it’s taken a long while to get to this point,” Mr Leveson said.
“It’s as simple as that, bring him home and lay him to rest properly, that’s been our goal right from the start.”
Mark Leveson is representing his family during the coronial inquest and said he may take up the opportunity to question Mr Atkins himself.
– with Lisa Visentin
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.