The Queensland Coroner will investigate the mysterious deaths of a Sunshine Coast mother and daughter in Bali at the request of the state's acting Attorney-General.
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Bali deaths: family rejects autopsy
The family of Noelene Bischoff and daughter reject an autopsy in Bali and say they want the bodies flown home to Australia.
But it remains unclear whether autopsies on the pair will be carried out in Bali, despite a request from the family to have them carried out in Australia.
Noelene Bischoff and her daughter Yvana Jeana Yuri Bischoff, 14, died at the start of their 15-day adventure on the Indonesian holiday island.
Local police speculated food poisoning was to blame, although the managers of two restaurants in Bali where the mother and daughter dined have said the pair suffered an allergic reaction.
Hospital staff have said toxic fish may have caused their deaths.
On Tuesday, acting Attorney-General David Crisafulli directed the Coroner to have the autopsies performed in Queensland.
“Noelene and Yvana Bischoff’s family deserve answers,” Mr Crisafulli said.
"They asked us for help and we said yes straight away.
“They requested that the autopsies be conducted here in Queensland and I have directed the Coroner to make that happen. Hopefully, it will shed some light on the cause of this tragedy."
Queensland's Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie knows the Bischoff family personally and attends the same Sunshine Coast church as Ms Bischoff's mother Jean, but Mr Crisafulli said he alone approved the request.
A Bischoff family spokesperson, who asked not to be named, said the family requested autopsies be carried out in Australia, not in Bali.
Indonesian police were advised of the family's wishes through a letter from the Australian consulate.
‘‘We want the truth,’’ the family spokesperson said. ‘‘We want to know if it was an accident, or if it wasn’t an accident. Were they poisoned, or was it something else?
"We’re worried that there will be a cover-up if the autopsy is done in Bali.
"It’s not about prosecution. They died mysteriously. We just want to know why."
Under Indonesian law, however, authorities can proceed with an autopsy without permission.
The criminal investigation chief in Karangasem, Adnan Pangibu, said investigators would meet with consular officials on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the matter.
"We haven’t decided to have an autopsy or not, even though the family has rejected it yesterday," he said.
"We also have interest to reveal the cause of these victims’ death and that could only be discovered through autopsy.
"Our staff will meet today with consulate people to discuss about this. Maybe later at noon (1600 AEDT), we will have the decision."
He said investigations could stall without an autopsy.
‘‘Without an autopsy it's going to be very difficult for us to investigate further,’’ he said.
The Antar Bangsa Funeral Service, which specialises in repatriating the bodies of foreign nationals who die in Bali, said it had been approached regarding the Bischoffs.
‘‘We have been contacted regarding this case, but we’re still waiting for confirmation,’’ spokesman Agus Prababe said.
It would take two to three days to return the bodies to Australia, he said.
Antar Bangsa also brought the body of Queenslander Denni North to Australia last year.
Meanwhile, Dr Ida Bagus Putu Alit, head of the forensics department at Denpasar's Sanglah Hospital, said he had tested samples of vomit taken from the pair’s hotel room, but had not yet received the results.
“I still have not ruled out the fish or anything seafood that may have caused the deaths,” he said.
Virgin Airlines has offered to return the bodies of Noelene and Yvana to Queensland free of charge, although Noelene's younger brother Malcolm Bischoff said the family would not travel to Bali to accompany them home.
‘‘There's nothing to do [if we go]," he said, adding there were language barriers.
Ms Bischoff and Yvana ate a mixed seafood lunch about 1pm Friday at the Warung Dewa Malen restaurant, an eatery popular with Australian tourists in Ubud, about 50 kilometres from Padang Bai.
A waitress from the restaurant who served Ms Bischoff and her daughter said the women did not show any signs of illness and she did not believe they suffered a food allergy.
She said Ms Bischoff had shrimp, tuna and squid and her daughter ordered fried calamari. For dessert they had creme caramel.
"When I asked how's the food, they said it was good. And they ordered a lot, the whole course until dessert. They were happy," waitress Gusti Ayu Mentari Dewi said.
Restaurant supervisor Wayan Bagia told Fairfax Media not one of the 108 other guests served lunch that day had complained about food poisoning. Several diners had consumed the same dish, he said. Ms Bischoff paid 404,140 rupiah ($38), using her credit card.
Later that afternoon the pair checked into the Padang Bai Beach Resort and ate seafood again for dinner - this time mahi mahi fish at the Buddha Bar and Restaurant attached to the resort. They also ate chicken curry and vegetarian pizza.
Resort manager Giovanni Bareato told the Bischoff family by phone on Sunday that the dinner was not to blame. He had eaten it, as well as the staff, and did not have any adverse effects.
The Bischoff family has denied the pair had allergies, adding that Noelene, 54, loved seafood.
Just after midnight on Saturday, Yvana alerted security staff to their violent illness. They were taken by private ambulance to a nearby hospital but Noelene died en route at 1.45am, according to local sources.
Yvana was then rushed to BIMC Hospital, an international clinic in the Balinese capital of Denpasar. Despite still being conscious and able to speak to doctors on arrival, she could not be saved.
Malcolm Bischoff, Noelene's younger brother, said he felt shocked when Mr Bareato described the scene in the ambulance.
"Her airway was closed; it was so swollen they couldn't even put a tract in. That's what the hotel manager was saying ...
“The best possible outcome for our family is that the cause of death was food poisoning."
"It wasn’t a Schoolies binge full moon party. It was a family holiday in a reputable hotel with a restaurant."
Food safety consultant and microbiologist Dr Patricia Desmarchelier said it was an unusual case, but it was possible the pair may have died from toxic fish, including a condition known as ciguatera poisoning.
"People usually don't die, at least in Western countries, of food poisoning," Dr Desmarchelier said.
"To have two people die so quickly like that is unusual but not necessarily impossible. But what it does suggest is that they have had massive doses of toxins."
Ciguatera poisoning is contracted by eating warm water ocean fin fish, such as mahi mahi, that carry the ciguatera toxin produced by a tiny organism attached to algae.
Symptoms, including vomiting, muscle pains and headaches, usually start an hour to 24 hours after eating a toxic fish.
- with AAP