Sunday, November 28, 2004

(*) Missing person - close to home

You've all heard the "it won't happen to me" line? Well - it did happen. She was my ex-wifes' cousin. She was only 14 years' old - and simply disappeared off the face of the earth. She has not been seen in over 7 years.

I first met Jess (and her slightly-older sister, B) when M brought them down to Sydney to stay and visit when we were first engaged. Good kids - Jess was only about 10 or 11 at the time. We took them to the beach, attempted ice-skating - stuff like that. Their home life was hellish - their mum was an alcoholic and drug-user, and they were frequently left home alone while their mum was off at the pub or wherever. M often got late-night calls from the girls, when they were home alone and frightened - mum hadn't been home for hours and hours. M would have to try and find their mum at the pub and try to get her home. And M was only 20 at the time herself. Not a good scene. It was heartbreaking. M and I would always say (more often seriously than half-joking) that we would adopt the girls ourselves, simply to take care and look after them. Sometimes M would have the girls stay over at her place rather than leave them at home. I have a memory of those times of about a 12-yo Jess refusing a piece of toast I'd made with about an inch-thick scraping of Vegemite as a joke!

After M and I married, we saw the girls on a regular basis as they were growing up. The elder sister was always a bit of a 'rebel', but Jess seemed to be a quiet, 'good' kid. As time went on, her elder sister got herself involved in the whole 'drug' scene, fell pregnant, and was living with an 'undesirable' type of bloke. When the son was born, both M and my hearts broke to see the child living in such an unwholesome, unpleasant situation (the boy is about the same age as my first-born son.) But there was nothing we could do about it. Jess, on the other hand, stayed completely away from that whole 'scene'. She and her sister remained very close, often only having each other to turn to when things got crazy, as they must have from time to time.

Then the unimaginable happened. As the story unfolded, Jess and a girlfriend were out at a 'pinball arcade' place late one night, and foolishly accepted a lift hitch-hiking to a friends' place. A struggle ensued in the car soon after, the story has been told, and the other girl managed to get out of the car, but Jess was unable to. Jess, the car and the driver have never been seen since. She was only 14.

Stuff like this doesn't happen in nice country towns like ours, does it? Sadly - yes. After a huge police investigation - nothing. Absolutely nothing. No clues, no trace of her anywhere. Did she simply run away? The simple answer is - no. She wasn't that type of girl. If she had just run away, she definitely would have at least made contact with her elder sister (they were very close in that way), telling her that she was OK, but she just wanted to get away - something like that. All of the family who knew her agreed with that too. It wasn't like Jess to just simply up-and-disappear like that. Especially as the other girl in the car with her told the police the story often enough.

So - what happened? We do not know. We may never know. That's always been heartbreaking for all of us who knew her. Her mum was a broken woman. Sure, her choice of lifestyle probably wasn't 'socially acceptable', but no-one deserves to have your youngest daughter simply vanish into thin air. For the mum, things got even worse. One of her 'boyfriends' decided to burn her house down, and the mum lost everything she ever had of Jess - clothes, pictures - EVERYTHING! That was a huge blow. Soon after, as a special tribute to her missing cousin, M contacted all the relatives (she comes from a very large family), and made a collage/montage of pictures of Jess on one huge mounted display. It looked amazing - she digitally copied heaps of pics of Jess from everyone's family collections from when she was born until they had last seen her. She mounted them on this huge display, and gave it to Jess' mum. That was M's way as a special tribute to her cousin, and someway for her to support Jess' mum during such a horrid nightmarish time.

Over the years, whenever I hear on the news that a 'body has been found' - I still prick my ears up. It never leaves your subconscious. Even just the other week a story of a skeleton being found brought the sad memories back. The awful fact is - no-one knows what happened to poor Jess or where she is. In the days after her disappearance, relatives jumped in their cars and went driving for hours around, simply trying to find a trace. It was heartbreaking. It seemed so 'unreal' (not real, an unfathomable nightmare) at the time for all who knew her Even as the national media picked-up the story, there was still no news, despite a massive co-ordinated police investigation. They simply did not have much to go on.

So, back in October this year, her elder sister arranged a Memorial Service for her younger sister. It'd been 7 years. 7 years without any sense of closure, answers - or knowing what, why, how...? As her sister reportedly said, she was doing this for Jess as a memorial. There's no closure, but it was a special way for people to remember her.

I wish there was a good news / happy ending to this story - but there isn't. Life is sometimes cruel, unfathomable, and nightmarish.

PS. I have emotionally struggled for a while whether or no to post Jess' story on here. But I realised that Jess needs her story told again and again.

Mal (ie. Mallard d'Quackers)
Email: mal [@] maljam [.] cjb [.] net

"If we see light at the end of the tunnel, it's the light of the oncoming train." (Robert Lowell)
"Excuse me, which way is the stage?" (Audience member, lost at Altamont, 1969.)
"The Lord survives the rainbow of His will." (Robert Lowell)


Blogger 3rd daughter said...

this is such a sad story, mal. i'm crying as i read it. it must be awfully hard to deal with situations like this. there can never really be any closure until you know the true story of what happened to poor jess.

November 28, 2004 10:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Yvonne. Mal, I'm so sorry for what you and your family has been put through. I can't imagine the horror. My heart goes out to you and your family.

November 28, 2004 12:09 pm  
Blogger caroline said...

sorry to hear it mal. I don't know what i would do if it was my child! I don't think i would be able to function. I hope that one day their would be closure.
my prayers go out to you and your family

November 28, 2004 5:52 pm  
Blogger Ruby said...

Mal, I do not know what to say except I am so sorry.
I too would not understand the total horro of something like that happening to me or my family.
My heart goes out to you and your family, my thoughts are with you all.

November 29, 2004 12:45 am  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

What a deeply moving story that is. And yes, I think you're right that it needs to be told. In many ways it seems worse than death, death is often tragic but at least it brings closure and usually people can move on. I guess you've been in touch with all the support services already, but just in case it's useful here's a link to them: Thank you for sharing Jess's story, and yours. Take care.

November 29, 2004 11:13 pm  

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