The Westpac Life Save Rescue Helicopter assisted in a search operation last night of the Richmond River at Woodburn.
The Westpac Life Save Rescue Helicopter assisted in a search operation last night of the Richmond River at Woodburn. Contributed

RIVER TRAGEDY: Missing man named in court

Update 12.10pm: AN ITINERANT man who allegedly assaulted another man, who subsequently went missing and is now presumed drowned in the Richmond River, has been refused bail.

Luke James Mote, 43, allegedly kicked fellow homeless man Robert Doyle twice in the mid-rib area on the banks of the river at Woodburn shortly before Doyle fell into the water about 7.30pm last night.

Mr Mote appeared in the dock of Lismore Local Court clad in prison greens just after 11am this morning, looking dishevelled and anxious.

Magistrate Jeff Linden since the alleged assault the missing 45-year-old was the subject of an ongoing search operation, and believed to be drowned.

The court heard that when Doyle initially told emergency services about the incident, he said his friend had fallen into the river while intoxicated, and denied involvement.

However he had later changed his story while being interviewed by police, telling them he was trying to move his friend, who was drunk and asleep, away from the riverbank when they both fell in.

"In an attempt to move him he kicked him in the mid-rib area twice, but he didn't respond," Magistrate Linden said Mote claimed.

He told police he then used a "monkey hand grip" to try to wake him up, but both men rolled into the river.

Mr Mote faces a single count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in relation to last night's incident.

In applying for bail, Mr Mote's solicitor Rachel Thomas explained the discrepancy in her client's story by arguing he was under stress at the time.

Magistrate Linden said Mr Mote had a "propensity not to comply with court orders" and had previously breached an apprehended violence order.

He is also currently serving good behaviour bonds for several offences including stalking/intimidation, high range drink driving, and assault.

"At this stage I am concerned there is a failure to appear possibility and at this stage bail is refused," he said.

The matter returns to Lismore Local Court on July 3.


Original story: A MAN has been charged in relation to the assault of a 45-year-old man who is now the subject of a major search and rescue operation in the Richmond River at Woodburn.

It's understood two itinerant homeless men were sleeping rough near the banks of the Richmond River last night.

Police will allege about 7pm last night the 43-year-old accused assaulted the missing man while he was asleep, after which he fell into the river.

He has not been seen since, despite a major search operation last night.

Man, 45, missing after falling into Richmond River

Emergency services were called to Woodburn about 7.30pm and a search of the river and riverbank began involving local police, volunteers and the SES in boats, assisted by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

The 43-year-old is in custody and will face Lismore Local Court later today.

He has been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and was refused bail by police.

The search is about the resume this morning with the same resources used last night, plus additional assistance from the NSW Police Dive Unit.

Police are urging anyone with information in relation to this incident to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page:

Information provided will be treated in the strictest of confidence.