How do you deal with the unanswered questions when someone you love goes missing?
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 - 20:30

This week on Insight: living with the unknown when someone you love goes missing.

Australia has around 1,800 long-term missing people. For their families and loved ones, the ambiguity surrounding their fate can be a living nightmare.

‘Ambiguous loss’ differs from the grief experienced when a loved one dies because there is no verification of death, no body to mourn. It freezes the grieving process and prevents resolution.

And it can get worse because you don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle to accept what's happened. 

We meet Cath and Jim McDougall whose daughter Chantelle and granddaughter Leela vanished 10 years ago. The young mum and her 6 year-old daughter were living with an internet cult leader and another disciple in Nannup, WA, when she told her parents they were all going to Brazil. They have not been seen since.

Families of missing persons can react differently. Sevak Simonian was 21 when he went missing three years ago after heading off for a bushwalk. An 18-day search found no trace of him. His dad, Masiss, says he can’t bear to go home because his son isn’t there. Mum, Rosik, doesn’t socialise any more. Older brother, Sasoon, dropped out of university, while youngest brother, Areen, believes Sevak is alive and will one day return.

For some, giving up hope feels like a betrayal. Stephenie Fielding’s brother Rigby was 53 when he went missing two years ago. He’d told his mum he was on his way home but never turned up. His brothers want to erect a memorial, but Stephenie doesn’t. She wants to keep looking for him.

Finding their loved one has brought fresh anguish for Sharron and Steve Rooney. After a  seven year search, the remains of their son, Owen, were found at the base of a cliff in Canada, three kilometres from where he was last seen. The Rooney family are still digesting the heartbreaking news, and trying to transition from missing Owen to grieving for him.

This week Insight takes you inside the lives of families living with ambiguous loss.




JENNY BROCKIE:  Welcome everyone, good to have you with us tonight. Sasoon, your younger brother, Sevak, disappeared almost three years ago, he was 21 at the time. What did you think had happened at first? 

SASOON: At first he failed to return home from work, we got a bit worried.  We, he left the house last on Monday night and we eventually found his car on the Friday. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you know where he'd gone? 

SASOON: No we didn't. We believed that he was going bush walking based on something his friend had said, but we weren't certain. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Areen, you're the youngest brother, you were one of the last people to see Sevak on that Monday night, did he say where he was going, did you have a sense of where he was headed? 

AREEN:  He was interested in a district where we found his car, Kanangra-Boyd National Park. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So this was a very bushy area? 

AREEN:  Yes. 


MASSIS:  We were thinking he was going to Barrington Top north, but his friend, when he met his friend his friend said he was thinking go to Blue Mountains.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And this was to go on a bush walk by himself? 

MASSIS:  Correct, yeah, he was going, yeah, yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did he seem Areen when you saw him? 

AREEN:  He was, last time I saw him he was a bit agitated, frazzled up. He just didn't seem like his usual upbeat self. 

ROSIK:  He was very quiet. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Unusually so? 

ROSIK:   Unusually, yes, he was quiet, yeah, then he went to the computer room and he was there for about half an hour like that. Then about 7.30 at night he just, he just, then I looked at door, he just closed the door and he just gone and then I, I thought maybe he went to his friend house.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Massis, how did he seem to you as his dad that last time you saw him? 

MASSIS:  Actually, that day which is, he loved his dried fruits, then one of our friends, sent some fruit from Armenia and then he looked and he took only, pick up only a couple and usually when, before that, he was saying to me:  Dad, can you ask Rosanna send one tonne of this because I love this? But this time there was so strange for me, which is only pick up a couple and then when he's went to computer room and when came out and went around the house and so walked out from hallway and as he was closing the door, even he didn't look, he just straight went out. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And was that unusual? 

MASSIS:  That was very unusual.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Now his friend led you to where his car was? 

MASSIS:  Yes, he led us, he led us. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how did he know that?  How did he know where the car was? 

MASSIS:  Um, I don't know, still we don't know how he knew the car was but I said okay, how did you know Sevak's car was here? So he said oh, just by experience, I thought it's here. Then next day, which is Saturday, police and voluntaries and RFS and SES, everyone, they start with helicopter and…

JENNY BROCKIE:  A big search and it's a big area? 

MASSIS:  A big search. That was a big search for 18 days. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tell me about Sevak, what's he like? 

ROSIK:   He was very kind, nature lover, ambitious and very creative, very nice boy and he didn't, he was, he was himself, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sasoon, you still have no idea what's happened? 

SASOON: No, I've no idea. I wish we had a single shred of evidence to suggest or to push us in a particular direction, but for now we have no evidence and I don't know what to think. If I sit there and think about it all the time, you know, it will drive me crazy so I'm trying to focus on what we do know and what we can control and, and basically accept the unknown. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Cath, your daughter Chantelle and your granddaughter Leela disappeared ten years ago? 

CATHERINE:  That's right. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You last saw them ten years ago? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Where were they living? 

CATHERINE:  They were living in a little farmhouse just out of Nannup in Western Australia. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what were the circumstances they were living in? 

CATHERINE:  Um, they were just living as, with a friend and then the father of Leela.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Chantelle was 27? 

CATHERINE:  That's right. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  She was living with this man known as Simon? 

CATHERINE:  Mm-mmm. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And he was involved in a cult? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  A small cult, can you tell us about him? 

CATHERINE:  Yes, he thought he was a cult leader but I don't think he'd sort of had many people interested in it really.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What did you make of him? 

CATHERINE:  Very weird. You never got to know him very well because when I ever went over to see Chantelle and Leela he would stay in his room all day.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how did you feel about the relationship? 

CATHERINE:  Um, I was very apprehensive but they'd sort of been together for a fair while, but it was always sort of strange. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And was she committed to those ideas, to those beliefs? 

CATHERINE:  A little bit but I don't know if she was that way.

JENNY BROCKIE:  We have a short clip that she sent you of her and Leela, your granddaughter, with another man who's in the cult. 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Who's there on the right. 


JENNY BROCKIE:  And then Simon is there at the back? 





LEELA:  Namaste.  Yeah.  A fun night. 




JENNY BROCKIE:  Leela looks like a very chirpy little girl? 

CATHERINE:  Yes, she is. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tell me about that last visit you had with your daughter and granddaughter ten years ago, what was it like? 

CATHERINE:  Um, I got there and it was really exciting to see them and we would go out in the day, but the whole time I was there, probably after the first couple of days, I felt something strange was up. I just had this gut feeling and I just tried to ask her questions without being too prying, but they apparently got a passport for Leela and it had come in the mail while I was there but they didn't say anything about it. Simon took it and put it away and then they had visitors one night because she asked me to have Leela with me at the little cabin that I was staying in in Nannup and I said, she said oh, I'm tired, I wanted to get an early night. So I had Leela and when I saw her the next day she said to me, um, that she didn't get an early night, they had visitors and that was unusual because they didn't have visitors very often. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you had a bad feeling? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Could you put your finger on what it was? 

CATHERINE:  No, I wished I'd asked perhaps more questions or tried to find out more but I thought well, you know, she's an adult and I just, you know, she's got her life so I just let it go.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What are they like?  Tell me what your daughter and granddaughter are like? 

CATHERINE:  Oh, they are full of life. They're very creative.  Leela, she is very loud and in your face as you can see from the video. But she was, they were loving, they were kind and caring and I just can't imagine that, you know, they're gone and where are they? They don't contact me because I used to keep in contact all the time. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  After that visit your daughter rang you to say that she was leaving the country? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Where did she saw she was going?  

CATHERINE:  She said she was going to go to Brazil and help people and I said oh what, are you going to live in like a commune near the Amazon and they were going to help people and that sort of what they believed in, so I just thought oh, you know, that's okay. I said but please keep in contact and I wanted her to, you know, contact me. We've got the internet on and everything but we never heard. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When did you start to worry? 

CATHERINE:  Probably, well it was a month or two had gone by and we kept trying to find out, you know, what's happened because we told her to write to us and we never heard anything and my brother told me to get in contact and report her missing through our local police which we did. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what happened then once you'd done that? 

CATHERINE:  Once we'd done that, he'd done a bit of sort of research and that and he come back to us and said that there was a note on the door and they said they're gone to Brazil. There was furniture in the house, food in the fridge and they'd gone and, um, their bank accounts weren't touched and she'd sold the car and there was nothing. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So their bank accounts hadn't been touched? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  And was there a record of them going to Brazil? 

CATHERINE:  No, the Immigration said there was nothing unless they went out by other means.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how were you feeling by then? 

CATHERINE:  Oh, frantic. Um, I was so worried and I was so sort of, I felt like I was blaming myself at first because I had that uneasy feeling when I was there and then they were gone and why didn't I, you know, do this and why didn't I ask more questions? But I just sort of kept trying to find out and, yeah, and that's all I could do. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Your husband Jim is also here? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Jim, what was it like for you and how did you react when you realised that all this had happened? 

JIM:  Oh, it's pretty hard to say.  I suppose that's really a big emotional roller coaster that you're on and you can't get off it so you just keep trying to find ways you can try and find out. So I did the things like I contacted embassies and I contacted Immigration before we finally got onto the police to get them to do it all. You just feel hopeless and useless sort of thing so you really just try whatever you can. You know, we made posters and posted them everywhere and did all sorts of things. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You did a lot of that kind of thing yourselves? 

JIM:  Yes. 


CATHERINE:  Yes, we travelled around Australia and my boss printed out all these flyers for us to put up and with the Crime Stoppers number on it and their descriptions and photographs and we went around Australia putting them everywhere because we were told that they hadn't left Australia so we were hoping to find them. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And did you get anything back from that? 

JIM:  We got a fair bit of help from the media actually so they found out things like that Simon wasn't really Simon that he was under an assumed name and illegal immigrant. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  This is her partner? 

JIM:  The partner, yeah, he was really Garry Felton so the media sort of found out more than the police and told us so that all took about four years, I guess, or maybe a bit longer.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was that like as that unfolded, as you realised that he wasn't who he said he was? 

CATHERINE:  It was awful. Jenny, you just felt who is this person? What has he done that he's got to have an assumed name? Your mind goes crazy thinking of all the things that could be happening and things like that that you just don't know then. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And ten years on you still don't know? 


JIM:  No idea. 

CATHERINE:  We just hear all these things that, you know, he'd been involved with beforehand. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What sort of things had he been involved in beforehand? 

CATHERINE:  He's just conned people out of their money and plagiarised the stuff he'd written in the books and that was sort of nothing then. So just felt like to me that he was just a con man. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sasoon, there was a major search for your brother, Sevak, when did it start, how soon did it start? 

SASOON: So we found the car on the Friday and the search began on Saturday morning.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was it like for you when that search was called off after eighteen days? 

SASOON: It was very difficult to grasp.  We really thought we'd find answers through the search, at least some piece of evidence to suggest that he was there, um, but after that finished we basically focused our attention on other, other avenues. We considered other possibilities and, yeah, we weren't satisfied that nothing was found.  Even though the terrain was quite rough and the place was quite remote we still thought we'd find something. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You wanted to keep going? 

SASOON: If it was up to me, yeah, of course I would want to keep going.

JENNY BROCKIE:  You went back to the search site recently, let's have a look. 




SASOON: We wake up every day, thinking about where he could be. This is where we found Sevak's car and we will call his name, we were screaming out his name like at the top of our lungs and it was so disheartening when we didn't get a response because we were like "Sevak" just really loud and it was just echoing everywhere.

If someone saw him here on the day, if something happened here on the day that we don't know about, or if someone saw him somewhere else, I just remember when we were here during the search a few people said just imagine if Sev just came walking out any second and just said like what's all this for? I'm alright, yeah.

The search itself was really difficult because of the roughness of the terrain, because of the density, it's just really, really hard to see anything. You could be a couple of metres from someone and not see them. They also used other equipment to try to detect sound, they used drones, we had access to helicopters.

I actually remember us sitting here and considering whether or not it's possible for someone to walk through there. It seems impossible but we figured my brother's capable of anything. There's just so much terrain, there's just so many places he could be and even just sitting here right now, it's just, we're so small and there's so much out there that the possibilities are endless. 




JENNY BROCKIE:  That is such dense terrain, isn't it, to go bush walking in?  What do you think might have happened to him? 

SASOON: At this stage I'm considering everything. Um, because of the fact that we haven't found leads, I'm now open to the idea that something could have happened outside of the bush, whether it's foul play, whether he ran off for some reason, just considering everything. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you think there might have been secrets that he had or something that you didn't know about? 

SASOON: Well, if he's had secrets, they're going to be huge secrets because they have to explain a lot. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Stephenie, your brother Rigby went missing two years ago when he was 53. When did you realise something was wrong? 

STEPHENIE:   Um, straight away. So the day that he went missing he had called my mum and said he was on his way home and never got home. I just had a really bad feeling. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you contact the police straight away? 

STEPHENIE:   No, we didn't. Mum wanted to contact the police straight away and I think at the time, um, yeah, I was putting on a brave face saying he'll be alright, and yeah, I drove around and, you know, made lots of phone calls to the different hospitals and police stations just to see whether he may have been locked up or all his friends, I called them and yeah, then started getting really worrying because his friends hadn't seen him.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  So when did the police get involved? 

STEPHENIE:   So probably, well initially they didn't do anything. They kept sending me away and kept telling me that he was, you know, 53 years old and he was allowed to go missing.  It wasn't for quite a number of weeks until, yeah, I got the media involved and yeah, the police detectives that were working on it then, found out a lot. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you have any thoughts about what could have happened? 

STEPHENIE:   Um, I, at the time I know, well now know that there was drug use involved and um, he was also, um, meeting people on-line dating sites, so I suppose one of the things I thought was that he'd met with someone, you know, that has taken advantage of him or…

JENNY BROCKIE:  And he was an ice user.  Did you know that before? 

STEPHENIE:   I did. I didn't realise the extent, I suppose, or maybe I didn't want to know. Rigby was, I suppose, a functional user and he didn't do it around family so it wasn't something that was in our face. And he also had, was on a lot of other medication, he had another condition that he was on pain killers and different things for.  So…

JENNY BROCKIE:  You hired private investigators as well?

STEPHENIE:   We did, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tell us about that? 

STEPHENIE:   They certainly got things moving with the police and they were a good support in directing us. The investigators were all ex-police officers too so they'd explain look, this is what you need to be doing and this is what you need to be asking for.  

JENNY BROCKIE:   Some of his belongings were found? 

STEPHENIE: They were, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Where were they found and what was found? 

STEPHENIE:   Yeah, well, they were actually were found on a person who his phone was tracked back to and that person then took the police out to this bushland and said I found the belongings here. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Your brother lived in a granny flat at the back of your mum Kim's house. Your mum agreed to show that to us, let's have a look. 




KIM:  This is Rigby's kitchen and diner, this is just the way Rigby's made it, we don't come into here at all. We still don't know where Rigby is and until we can accept Rigby not being here, we just don't want to touch Rigby's flat. We don't want to move anything that's there. I just can't make any sense of it because Rigby was coming home.

He did have computers and poems on there but the police have taken them for, just to see if they can trace Rigby at all. Rigby was on the meths, was talking about going to a clinic for a rehab, that was why we didn't straight away say look, Rigby's missing. I thought at first that perhaps he just walked somewhere or I don't know, just perhaps collapsed somewhere, I don't know.

He's got his clothes but they're all just the same as what they were when Riggy left them. He's quite stylish actually, Riggy. I've got eight children and Rigby was number two. He was a magic little kid and he just loved everybody, he was a very loving soul.

Out here we've got Rigby's corner.  I think about all my children, I've got terrific kids, but what I hope for is that somewhere my kids will have their brother back. I'd say that Rigby's never going to come back alive but if they could find, just find Rigby and you know, let them have Rigby back and that would be fine. It would be better, better still if he walked through the door. 




JENNY BROCKIE:  Stephenie, your mum is, you can see in her face what she's going through. How old is she? 

STEPHENIE:   Um, she's 80. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what do you think it's been like for her? She is talking about the kids as mums do and worrying about you, what do you think it's been like for her? 

STEPHENIE:   Oh, it's hell for her. Um, it kills me just to see her upset and to be going through that when you know, she should be enjoying her retirement and it's really hard, birthdays and you know, Christmas, any celebration as Rig was often the centre of a lot of, you know, all of them and it's just horrible trying to celebrate something with him not around. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you feel any closer to knowing what might have happened to him? 

STEPHENIE:   Not at all, no, no. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  We've spoken to the police.  They say they haven't identified any evidence of criminality in this situation. 


JENNY BROCKIE:  In his disappearance.  Does that help at all? 

STEPHENIE:   No, no. I mean I'm probably very, probably don't give the police as much credit as what I should and that, and that comes back to not being helped initially. And we just want to find him, it's about just getting him home and back to us so we can lay him to rest and give him that, well give the whole family that farewell that he deserves. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Massis, Sasoon said earlier he's open to all sorts of possibilities about what happened to Sevak, what do you think has happened? 

MASSIS:   I mean still the hope is running away, run away from something but, and I don't know where and why. Every day and morning when I wake up I look out my window, I say oh, he's going to come, he's going to come.  And, and then when I sleep my telephone is twenty four hours is charged and every second I'm just, anyone rings and quickly answer I said maybe that's him.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about you Rosik, what do you think has happened? 

ROSIK:   I think because he was a bush walker and he loved the bush, he will love the nature, I think he just went for a bush walk and he got lost. I don't think anything, anybody harmed him or he run away, that's I think but my husband and my son think he might…

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you don't expect that he's going to come back? 

ROSIK:   I think he just got lost in the bush, that's what I think. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Areen, what about you, what do you think has happened? 

AREEN:  I think he's run away from home for one reason or another, it's unexplained, but he will come back in a number of years. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you feel confident about that? 

AREEN:  I'm pretty confident, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And why do you think that so strongly?  

AREEN:  Um, I guess it's just something that he would do, whether something was troubling him or something big enough would pull him towards that big act, I don't think he got lost in the bush at all. One of the volunteers SES crew members during that entire search was startled because in 25 years, this volunteer, SES member stated that he had not seen a case where there wasn't a single piece of clothing found or a clear track or just anything of that nature. So it begs the question that perhaps Sevak did run away and that he wasn't in that bush at all.  It doesn’t seem as if something tragic has happened, something big for that matter.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you are expecting him to come back at some point?

AREEN:  Yes, yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sasoon, what’s it like, I mean what do you think of these different theories in the family and what’s it like with people  having different ideas within the family about what’s happened?

SASOON: I think everyone is going to give their own meaning to the situation and they are entitled to that, again I’m going off evidence, I hope he is alive, I hope he is out there but I can’t imagine him putting us through thus. I can’t imagine him sending everyone on a wild goose chase for, you know, for nothing. Um, I’m not sure if he will return, I hope he does, I just hope he is okay.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Rosik, what's it like as a family having these different views?  Does it affect the family? 

ROSIK:   Yes, we just keep asking the same question over and over again, yeah, and it's very hard. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Massis, you mentioned before how it's affecting you in terms of your daily life. What other things has it affected, little things, in the way that you live your life now, compared to before? 

MASSIS:  When I come home, I just at front of the house at least I wait at least ten minutes before open my door. I don't want to go home. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Because he's not there? 

MASSIS:  Because he's not there, the house is, the house is cold, is no one is there.  To me it's just, it's, to me it's very cold, house is cold and freezing. It's without him. I don't want to go home so every day it's happened to me. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was it you Stephanie who said you didn't feel you could celebrate? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Rosik, you feel that too, yeah? 

ROSIK:   That's right.  We can't celebrate. We don't have happiness. I don't like to do much, I don't like to socialise as much as before. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you said you don't like to dress up even to go out? 

ROSIK:   I don't like to go out, I don't like to dress up. 

MASSIS:  Or going to weddings or parties. 

ROSIK:  Yeah, yeah. 

MASSIS:  She scared from everything. 

ROSIK:   We don't have life any more. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You don't feel you can be happy? 

ROSIK:  No, I can't feel happy any more. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Massis, you don't make kebabs anymore? 

ROSIK:   No, no.

MASSIS:  It's, Sevak, he would love my kebab.  Every time say dad, when we're making kebab and I was often making kebab and he was sitting and enjoy. Since then I would never make kebab because I said he's not there and only once there was a couple of weeks ago, a couple of weeks ago I make some kebab.  I said oh, Sevak, oh, I wish you could smell dad's kebab, come home. This is I'm making for you. Come home.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sasoon, how's your life changed in a day-to-day sense do you think since this happened? 

SASOON:  It affects the big decisions I make. You know, my future career, I actually dropped out of university a year into my masters because it was just getting too much.  I felt like I was neglecting myself and yeah, it's just not the way to do it. 

My priority right now is the health of my parents, the wellbeing of my family and I just hope things can get better. It breaks my heart that my mum says she can't be happy again. I know I can't be happy right now but I'm hoping in the future we can work towards some level of certainty, some level of happiness.  I still believe that and I hope, I hope they can eventually come to terms with that too. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Areen, what about you, has it affected you? 

AREEN:   I was kind of able to take on my middle brother's Sevak's like live and let live attitude of just living in the present moment, so. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Are there things that have changed in your life Cath as a result of this, just in that day-to-day sense, in that practical sense? 

CATHERINE:  Oh, yes, yeah. Like every time there's another body found I keep thinking maybe it's Chantelle, maybe we'll find something out, and then it's happened so many times now it is just so hard. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do others feel that way when they hear about other situations?  Stephenie, you're nodding your head? 

STEPHENIE:   Yeah, I look forward to that day when somebody's found and you hear a lot more, because you're focused on it and it consumes you.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Stephenie, your brothers wanted to have a memorial, how did you respond to that? 

STEPHENIE:   Well, I pretty much wasn't keen right now to do that and, yeah, I just want to keep looking for him. You know, there's nothing to bury and no place we can go to, to grieve or yeah, it would be quite difficult. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Rosik, you saw a memorial in the park where Sevak disappeared that was for someone else recently, you spotted this memorial. How did you react when you saw that? 

ROSIK:   Yeah, it was a bit strange to have something like that in that remote bush.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did the family react when you mentioned it? 

ROSIK:   Yeah, I think, I didn't say that we need to do the same thing.

JENNY BROCKIE:  The same thing? 

ROSIK:   The same thing but I think now we can do it because we need closure, we need to know what happened to him.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Cath, last year some photos appeared on Facebook of an English speaking teenage girl who was dazed and lost in Rome and there was speculation that that girl was your granddaughter. What was that like for you when that happened? 

CATHERINE:  First I felt yeah, could be, but I was pretty sure it wasn't because our granddaughter had a sort of a high forehead and this girl did not have a high forehead and I don't think that changes in time. But it did look a little bit like since we've had an age progression photograph given to us by the missing person, or missing children's group in Canberra, they do look similar but I'm fairly sure it's not her and they did investigate and it wasn't. But yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What went through your mind though during that time? 

CATHERINE:  Well first I thought that would be good because we'd maybe find out some things, and then you sort of feel a bit disappointed because you don't …

JENNY BROCKIE:  Because your hopes get raised momentarily? 

CATHERINE:  You do, all the time, every time something like this comes up I wonder where they are and yeah, it's, it's just horrible. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah, and Stephenie you've talked about, you know, looking, seeing people that might walk the same way? 

STEPHENIE:   Mm-mmm, yeah, yeah, I follow people actually. You just get caught up in that moment of …

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is that him? 

STEPHENIE:   Yeah, and I've run off after someone because I'm, you know, convinced that that was definitely him and you closer you get your heart just sinks. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Rosik, you dream, you have dreams? 

ROSIK:   Yes, I dream that he was crawling under the table and he wanted to reach me but he couldn't. Then I said please stay with us, we can't live, you know, we are not happy, just come back, come back, stay with us. And then after that I just got up and I start crying. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Are there things that help in a situation like this? 

CATHERINE:  I find I focus on the happy things to do with Chantelle and Leela, the fun things we used to do and Leela loved to dance around and things like that. So I focus on that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And do you think, is that something that's come with time Cath? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Given that it's ten years for you and a much shorter time for everybody else? 

CATHERINE:  Yes it was.  In time, I mean I wasn't coping at all but now I seem to cope a little bit better, even though it's getting harder but yeah, I just keep thinking of all the funny things she used to say and do and the jokes and all the things like that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Lucas, you're 16 year old sister Colleen went missing in Bowraville 27 years ago? 

LUCAS:  Yes.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  You were eight years old when that happened? 

LUCAS:  Right. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you remember how you reacted when you realised she was missing? 

LUCAS:  I felt lost and I felt, because she was the second eldest and her and my elder sister, I have four sisters and one brother, my brother had spina bifida so he's in a wheelchair, my mum was spending most of the time with him and Colleen and my older sister were like second mothers because they would help out with us youngers and it just felt so, like it was a shock really.

Because we were living in Sawtell in the mid North Coast near Coffs Harbour and she went missing from Bowraville was where my mother's from. Mum and dad picked us up from Sawtell and moved to Bowraville immediately days after and we were searching in bushland. My mother was knocking on people's doors because the police weren't doing anything so she decided that she had to do it because nobody else was listening.  My mother actually went to the police station and told them that her daughter was missing and they just said, because we were of Aboriginal appearance, said to my mum that she's probably gone walk about.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how long was it before the police got involved properly? 

LUCAS:  Well, it's actually, um, it was three months until they actually took a statement from my mum because she did go back the next day and she actually showed them a photo of my sister and she's got much fairer skin than myself and then they questioned my mum again and said that is that your daughter because she's got fair skin, she doesn't look like you? So then she felt let down again also because the police are there to put in place to help you in situations like this and she felt like she wasn't being heard. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you've, you went on to experience depression and anxiety growing up? 

LUCAS:  Growing up definitely because we've had 27 years of living a nightmare basically, not having answers, but the bigger picture to this is that there were three kids that went missing in the space of three months basically. The other two kids were found murdered, my sister's clothes were found way down in a river, not far from where the other two were found, so we know that she's not alive and that she is part of all of this. But you know, it's crazy, you can't comprehend, you can't put into words the emotions that you feel and struggle every day-to-day. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And her body has never been found? 

LUCAS:  Never been found so that's, we know that she's not coming home because her clothes were found. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What are you hoping for now? 

LUCAS:  We want someone to be accountable for this, and you know, having, we've had the Police Commissioner come to our community and formally apologise to the community of their wrongdoing from the beginning because they didn't take it seriously.  That's nothing compared to not having someone, you know? 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you want someone brought to justice? 

LUCAS:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  For the killing and you believe the three killings are linked.

LUCAS:  Exactly, because someone is walking out there living a life while my sister's missing.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How has the fact that her body hasn't been found affected your family do you think? 

LUCAS:  Immensely.  It's indescribable how you feel to have, not have her home. Being of Aboriginal descent, you have that kinship between your community and families and it's not just not your immediate family that is mourning, they're all grieving with you together as one and it's…

JENNY BROCKIE:   So finding her body would be very important to you? 

LUCAS:  Yes, we want to bring her home so we can have somewhere where we can go to, you know like sorry, I forgot your name? 

STEPHENIE:   Steph. 

LUCAS:  Steph, we actually didn't build a memorial till two years ago so it took us that long to even have a memorial for her. You know, they do have a memorial for the three kids together but as a family we put one close to our home where we used to go swimming at the river and fishing because that's somewhere where we grew up and that's where she took us to go do things. So you know, it took us 25 years to have a memorial. We still don't think that that's, um…


LUCAS:  Enough, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sharron, your son Owen went missing in Canada when he was 24? 

SHARRON:  Mm-mmm. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How long have you been waiting to find out what happened to him? 

SHARRON:  Seven years. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was Owen doing when he disappeared in Canada? 

SHARRON:  The four children went over to Canada in the January of 2010 and, um, because of the ski fields they went over and they decided to do twelve months over in Canada and work and a working holiday. Um, and then Owen went missing in the August. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Now he'd been to a music festival? 

SHARRON:  Yeah, they finished their season, their snow season, and he decided to go to a music festival before he came home. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And he took some mushrooms? 

SHARRON:  Yes, apparently. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  At the festival? 

SHARRON:  That's what we were told. We really have no idea what really happened at that time. Like yes, he told the doctor when he went to the hospital that he had had mushrooms and had had a bad experience with that, but he had been assaulted a couple of nights before he went to the hospital and so he had head injuries.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And he left the hospital without his belongings? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  And you and your husband Steve went over there.  How long did you spend searching for Owen? 

SHARRON:  Nearly nine months, eight or nine months, it was our full time job, we just went there and searched and looked and flyers and media, everything. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Now just last month you received a phone call from Canada? 

SHARRON:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Which you recorded and you've very generously shared that recording with us. Let's listen to part of that call. 




MAN:  The search was conducted on June the 10th in an area that's about 3.0 kilometres from the hospital where Owen is last known to be.  Within a matter of an hour one of the search and rescue members found a shoe and that shoe led us to tighten down our search and from that shoe we were able to locate human remains.

A further search on June 21st with approximately twenty volunteers in that specific area of course revealed one bone which was a toe bone, so we are very confident that we have all the remains that we're going to find in that area.

It's at the bottom of a probably a hundred foot sheer rock cliff which is only three kilometres from the hospital. We did a systematic search pattern of areas and that just happened to be the area we decided to search on June the 10th and that is what has led us to this phone call today.  Any other questions? 

SHARRON:  We’ll just digest what you've told us now, thank you for the call.   (Sobbing).




JENNY BROCKIE:  Sharon, you sounded so composed as you were being given that information in that call. What was it like to get a phone call like that? 

SHARRON:  Um, we had, we had prepared for it because they ended up contacting Bree and so they told Bree that they were sure that this was Owen and we went well how do you know?

JENNY BROCKIE:  Bree got the call first? 

BREE:  Yeah, I got the call. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you're his sister? 

BREE:  Yeah, I questioned straight away because obviously we'd had a lot of information and sightings and different things over the years that you know, you're not going to take something seriously straight away without… 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Until you've got the evidence? 

BREE:  Without evidence. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you want it to be him? 

BREE:  Um, no, because, yeah, I don't want him to be dead but as a family we did want resolution.  After seven years you do get to a point where, like for me personally, I was, I didn't want to live like this anymore. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  But at the same time? 

BREE:  But at the same time, there was no win win in this, like there was no win in this situation.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What has it been like for you as a family processing that information you've only just received recently, that his remains were found? 

SHARRON:  So we were sort of, we've been living for seven years in this situation where we are, and this is how I suppose I've come to the place where I can compose myself, is you live on the fence for seven years, right? It becomes that's where you sit with that, you know, sort of that information that I don't know. So you sit there and you know that it can go this way or it can go that way. Once the phone call came, it just went splat and so did we, like you know, we just went waaagh and we got really, it was really quite bizarre to be in that situation where now we know and we feel worse, you know. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You feel worse knowing? 

SHARRON:  We were.  Like in time I imagine, you know, sort of we haven't even got him back yet. Like you know, so he's not even here yet, it’s taking that long to be able to get him back and to be able to do what you're talking about, like a welcome home, you know, sort of like to have him home.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about for the rest of the family, what were your reactions? 

BREE:  Um, it was heart breaking, really, but I know, like I understand being on the other side of it and just wanting that resolution in any form that it comes.  And in some instances, it is better knowing but it's still absolutely heart breaking. Like I never really let myself think that he had passed over because I didn't have any solid evidence. So I knew it was definitely a possibility but I didn't ever quite go there and mum was referring to that whole sitting on the fence thing. 


BREE:  Where I think Sean kind of accepted that maybe earlier on. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is that right Sean? 

SEAN:  A few years ago you sort of start to decide whether you're going to accept that he's not coming home or you're going to hold onto that hope that he will come back one day, and it is a hard decision to make but you've got to do that in yourself one way or the other.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you know what happened to Owen? 

BREE:  No. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Still not any evidence around that? 

BREE:  No.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you think you'll ever know? 

SHARRON:  So we've just got bones, you know, sort of, so there's no investigation.  There'll be no, you know, sort of looking into, there'll be no investigation into the assault that happened two days before, there'll be no investigation into the hospital giving drugs to him with a head condition, there'll be no investigation, it's just we get like him seven years later, a partial, partial body and that's it, you know, sort of just bones, like they can't do anything with that information. 

BREE:  As far as the police are concerned they've done a good job and they've found him, pretty much. 

KELLY:  And so for us people often say, you know, oh, you've got closure and for us it's, for us it's the answer, we have part of our answers but we will still probably live with not knowing what happened, not knowing how he died, not knowing so many, so many of our questions. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how have you lived with not knowing in all the years in terms of just, you know, people talk about what ifs and all that kind of thing, I mean how have you dealt with all those sorts of things? 

SHARRON:  There are no what ifs.  There are no, this could have been or that, it's just what it is, if I look too far into the future or too far into the past, then go into that space where it's hard to live in. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Cath, it's been more than ten years? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  For you, there is an inquest coming up in December, what are you hoping will come out of that? 

CATHERINE:  I'm hoping that maybe some witness will get up and say something that they know because we have this feeling that someone knows something, perhaps the friends that came. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  That came that night. 

CATHERINE:  And we'll find that out and we'll get somewhere, some lead to perhaps find something, yeah, because after ten years and you haven't got a lead and you haven't got a lead to anything, it's hard to deal with. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Sasoon, what are you hoping for now? 

SASOON: Basically the same. Basically some concrete answers. Um, just something concrete so we can deal with it as a family and move on with our lives. 


MASSIS:  I just wait for him to come home. I'm waiting for my son to come home. I just, and I'm thinking one evening when it's dark a knock on the door and come home. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Thank you so much for joining us tonight, thank you all very much for joining us tonight, I know this hasn't been easy as all. It's very generous of you so thank you.   And that is all we have time for here but let's keep talking on Twitter and on Facebook. Thanks everybody, thank you.