• The Gomeroi man was found in the Gwydir last week, three months after he went missing on July 10 (NITV: Sascha Estons)Source: NITV: Sascha Estons
The family of the 22-year-old wants answers as to how he died, and why it took three months for police to find his body.
Sarah Collard

12 Oct 2021 - 2:41 PM  UPDATED 12 Oct 2021 - 2:41 PM

WARNING: This story contains the image of an Aboriginal person who has passed.

Authorities have confirmed human remains found near Moree are those of a missing 22-year-old Gomeroi man. 

Last week a major new search launched at the behest of the Coroner found Mr Copeland's body 500m from where he was last seen by police, in the early hours of July 10.

In a statement, Mr Copeland's aunt Lesley Fernando said she hoped a coronial inquest would provide the answers they needed.

"We are looking forward to seeking justice for Gordon," she said.

She described her much-loved nephew as a happy and bubbly young man.

"Gordon was deeply loved," Ms Fernando said.

"He was a son, father, partner, brother, cousin and nephew.

"He was excited to welcome another child into the world later this year and we are devastated that his kids will grow up without their dad."

The Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT has confirmed Mr Copeland's death will be treated as a death in custody.

They are demanding answers as to how he died, and why it took three months for police to find his body.

"Clearly this young man was there," ALS lawyer Sarah Crellin told NITV.

"They (the family) are feeling devastated they've lost their son, their father, cousin. They're feeling very sad about the loss of their loved one.

"And obviously (they're) devastated they've had to wait this long to find out exactly what happened.

"They still don't know what happened, but at least they know where he is now.

"The family need answers as to why it's taken almost three months to find his body."

'Release the video'

Sarah Crellin principal solicitor at NSW's Aboriginal Legal Service called for the release of any police footage of the incident.

"We're hoping for any evidence that shows what actually happened to (Mr Copeland) on the night," she said.

"We need to understand what happened to him and why he's ended up in the river."

She said Mr Copeland was the 12th Aboriginal death in custody this year.

"The First Nations people in Australia make up three per cent of our population, yet 12 people have died, either in Corrective Services custody or in a police operation this year," she said.

"They are astronomical statistics. In the care of the state they have died.

"It's absolutely tragic and it's a disgrace." 

Aboriginal man dies in custody in Toowoomba
Police say the 27-year-old man became unconscious as they were attempting to arrest him and could not be revived.