English common law was applied in the New South Wales penal colony when it was founded by Governor Arthur Phillip in 1788. Phillip’s second commission granted him sole authority to appoint coroners and justices of the peace within the colony. The first paid city coroner was appointed in 1810 and only five coroners served the expanding territory of New South Wales by 1821. To relieve the burden on coroners, justices of the peace were authorised to conduct magisterial inquiries as an alternative to inquests. When the Moreton Bay settlement was established, and land was opened up to free settlers, justices were relocated from New South Wales to the far northern colony. Nonetheless, the administration of justice, along with the function of the coroner, was hindered by issues of isolation, geography and poor administration by a government far removed from the evolving settlement. This article is about death investigation and the role of the coroner in Moreton Bay. By examining a number of case studies, it looks at the constraints faced by coroners, deaths due to interracial violence and deaths not investigated. It concludes that not all violent and unexplained deaths were investigated in accordance with coronial law due to a paucity of legally qualified magistrates, the physical limitations of local conditions and the denial of justice to Aborigines as subjects of the Crown.