• Bowia Family showing Alimah's mother, Daisy (woman in the centre). (Milton Savage)Source: Milton Savage
EXCLUSIVE: In 1962 Alimah Bowia, the eight-year-old daughter of parents Daisy and Joseph Bowia, mysteriously vanished from Thursday Island. Now a Fijian woman named Flosy Ganier has come forward claiming she is the missing girl.
Nancia Guivarra

The Point
11 Apr 2017 - 12:41 PM  UPDATED 11 Apr 2017 - 3:54 PM

In 1962, eight-year-old Kaurareg girl Alimah Bowia disappeared from a beach in the Torres Strait in a shroud of mystery that left her family devastated.  

Right before her disappearance, Alimah Bowia was playing after school with her cousins on Thursday Island beach near the wharf.

Her mother Daisy was institutionalised and in the intervening 55 years since nothing was seen or heard of her again.

"How can a child be taken away from our doorstep?" asks relative Milton Savage.

"You can use DNA testing to tell if people 'might be' half sisters and the DNA testing will give you some weight as to the strength of that but you can never prove absolutely that they are."

Alimah is Milton's cousin.... he calls her his sister or sissy. Although he was born two years after she disappeared, he says his mum, Daisy's younger sister, never stopped telling Alimah's story.

"Oh your sister there somewhere, we don't know where now. She's been taken away by boat. We don't know what did they do with her, whether they killed her throw her off or taken her to another country or another town." Milton recalls his mother saying.

But in 2014 the family thought a miracle had occurred. Alimah's cousin Milton Savage and half-sister Norah Tom were contacted by a Fijian woman, known as Flosy Ganier, who says she is Alimah.  

At the time she made contact, Flosy was in a prison in Brisbane awaiting deportation on what she described as "criminal charges". Queensland Corrective Services would not comment on the matter.

She was deported back to Fiji by Australian immigration and Norah began sending money to support her. In a statutory declaration dated 28 October 2016 Flosy says she was kidnapped from Thursday Island.

Flosy says, she clearly remembers the day she was abducted from the beach. She says she was abused on the boat, and taken to Fiji where she was prostituted and eventually sold to a Fijian man who became her husband.

On her husband's death bed, in 2011, he wrote a letter stating, that she was actually Alimah Bowia. Since being deported back to Fiji, Flosy has made attempts to get a passport in Alimah's name to return to Australia but, her requests have been denied by the Australian High Commission in Fiji.

In 2015 to prove that she was Alimah, Flosy and the woman she claims is her half sister, Norah Tom, sent DNA samples away for testing. The standard DNA test results dated September 2015 are presented by Flosy as proof they do share the same mother, Daisy Bowia. However DNA expert Associate Professor Peter Gunn from the University of Technology Sydney says this autosomal test cannot ever prove that they are half-siblings.

"You can use DNA testing to tell if people 'might be' half sisters and the DNA testing will give you some weight as to the strength of that but you can never prove absolutely that they are... or that they are not half sisters.  But you can get some evidence which really helps you make that decision," he said.

"Our big sister Norah, she's been sending money and her pension. She supports Alimah financially."

In a bid to find out the truth, in February this year Milton and his friend Charles Passi went to Fiji to meet Flosy face to face. 

"It's such a huge story being, not just an Indigenous story, but an Australian story," says Charles Passi. 

"It's a human story and it's something that needs to be done. We need to get her back to her country, join her back to her people and complete not only her wish, but the wish of her family to have her back again and in the country."  

Flosy currently lives in Tavualeni Village, Tavua in Fiji, where she is being cared for, by the Commissioner of Oath or local village Justice of the Peace.

"She stay with us and she's happy, because especially I treat her like a mother and my sister," says Commissioner Aisake. 

"We gave her all the support she needs. I've told her that whatever you want you can always ask from me.  It's not a big deal.... it's not a problem. ... I can support you throughout the way till you go back to your homeland."  

Charles and Milton spent two weeks with Flosy, during which there were many days of conversation and memories were explored.

On their return, however, both Charles and Milton reconsidered the proposition that this was their missing sister Alimah.

"I didn't recognise her at first, cause she met us at the airport and I thought it was somebody else from the family that was there," says Charles Passi.

"When I first met up with Alimah in Fiji I couldn't get that connection," said Milton Savage

Milton wants another supervised DNA test to prove that Flosy is their sister.

Project uses DNA in hair to scientifically prove 50,000 years of Aboriginal history
"50,000 years – that’s around 10 times as long as all of the European history we’re commonly taught.”

"This is where I sort of said to Charles, like wow we have to be really careful, like we don't want to be harbouring international fraud," he says.

"But if its gonna go that way, I wanna break the ice to know whereabouts my sisters is. Our big sister Norah, she's been sending money and her pension. She supports Alimah financially... for me as a kid brother [it's hard] to explain to Norah. Are you sure this is Alimah?"

The only way to comprehensively prove Flosy is Alimah, is to have a mitochondrial DNA test.

"If they really are half sisters and if they really do share the same mother, then their mitochondiral DNA patterns should be identical and that would be much stronger evidence than this (test presented by Flosy)  that they were indeed half sisters," says professor Peter Gunn.

For now however, Flosy Ganier remains in Fiji and Australian Immigration has since interviewed Charles about her claim to be Alimah Bowia.

What remains unresolved is if Flosy isn't Alimah, then who is she, and how did she know Alimah's story which has never been widely publicised? 

Charles and Milton are continuing to investigate the possibility that Alimah may have been taken to Fiji. The two are planning another trip to explore that proposition.

The family still hopes to find the real Alimah, but for now, her disappearance remains a cold case.