The Victorian Nationals candidate who died this week only days before he was due to face court on serious sex offences including rape had been charged more than a year ago.

Shaun David Gilchrist was due to face the county court on 30 November charged with one count of rape and three counts of sexual assault ahead of a trial that had been scheduled for next year.

But the body of the 47-year-old was discovered at Rawson, in the state’s east, on Sunday.

Gilchrist was the candidate in the state election for Narracan, a seat that starts just outside Melbourne’s eastern fringe and finishes before the Latrobe Valley.

Court records provided to Guardian Australia show his first court appearance was in September 2021 – months before he was preselected as a candidate.

The Nationals held its state conference on 27 and 28 May this year in Shepparton, when many of its candidates for the upcoming election were announced.

Only two days later, Gilchrist appeared in the Latrobe Valley magistrates court, where he was committed to stand trial in the county court.

Gilchrist was due to face the county court for the first time on 27 June.

Details regarding the extent of Gilchrist’s court appearances and the fact he had been charged more than a year before the state election raise further questions about how he was preselected.

Local media reported on 1 June that Gilchrist was the candidate for Narracan, a safe Liberal seat that is being vacated by the sitting member, but the Nationals would not confirm the actual date he was endorsed.

The Nationals refused to answer questions about whether the party knew about the charges at the time Gilchrist nominated as a candidate.

The party was also asked why, if they were not aware of the charges, this was not discovered during the candidate vetting process, given the fact Gilchrist had pending criminal charges would have appeared on a publicly searchable online court database at the time he was preselected.

A spokesperson said it was unclear if they would be in a position to answer questions regarding Gilchrist before the election on Saturday.

National party rules in Victoria state that a nominee to be a candidate must sign a statement that they are a “fit and proper person” and disclose any information that might be relevant to whether the nominee could be disqualified from becoming or continuing to be a member of parliament if elected.

Under Victoria’s Constitution Act, anyone convicted or found guilty of an indictable offence punishable by a prison term of five years or more cannot be an MP. Both of Gilchrist’s charges carried maximum prison terms greater than five years.

Peter Walsh, the leader of the Victorian Nationals, told reporters on Monday he would not comment on how Gilchrist was preselected despite the criminal charges out of respect for Gilchrist’s partner and their two young children.

“I’m not going to get into a commentary about the issues because I have been specifically asked by his widow to respect their privacy,” he said.

Matthew Guy, the opposition leader, also refused to answer questions about Gilchrist.

The Victorian Electoral Commission said on Monday that the election for Narracan had been declared “failed as a result of Gilchrist’s death” and that a supplementary election for the electorate would be held at a date to be determined.

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