Hangers, speccies and screamers

One of the most, if not the most spectacular part of Australian rules football is the high mark, where players jump into the air to catch the ball, often jumping over or on opposition players to grab the ball.

Over the long history of the game, many of these great marks have been captured by photographers, who were in the right place and the right time to take a brilliant picture.

Here are some examples of the best hangers, speccies and screamers taken in Australian rules football history.

Edwards

Aaron Edwards (North Melbourne) versus Hawthorn (AFL – 2007)

Carlton

Unidentified Carlton player versus Melbourne (VFL – 1960’s)

Ryan

Bill Ryan (Geelong) versus St Kilda (VFL – 1968)

 

Gerovich

John Gerovich (South Fremantle) versus East Fremantle (WAFL – 1956)

 

Walker

Andrew Walker (Carlton) versus Essendon (AFL 2011)

 

Coleman

John Coleman (Essendon) versus North Melbourne (VFL 1950’s)

 

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Ashley Sampi (West Coast Eagles) versus Melbourne (AFL 2004)

 

Holst

David Holst (Glenelg) versus Norwood (SANFL 1979)

 

Knights

Peter Knights (Hawthorn) versus Collingwood (VFL 1973)

 

Roach

Michael Roach (Richmond) versus Hawthorn (VFL 1980)

 

Dugdale

John Dugdale (North Melbourne) versus St Kilda (VFL 1961)

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Oisne Aisne Military Cemetery – “Plot E”

Plots A-D of the Oise Aisne American Cemetary hold the remains of American soldiers who died fighting in a small portion of Northern France during World War I. However set across the street unmarked and completely surrounded by impassible shrubbery is Plot E, a semi-secret fifth plot that contains the nearly forgotten bodies of a number of American soldiers who were executed for crimes committed during and after World War II.

Over 6,000 soldiers are buried in the first four plots of the Oise Aisne Cemetery, but just 94 bodies are currently buried in the shunned fifth plot. While the small patch of land is technically on the grounds of the greater cemetery, it is not easily distinguished as it sits across the street, hidden behind the tall hedges that surround it. The only way into the secret cemetery is through the superintendent’s office.

 

The soldiers eventually interred in Plot E were tried for rape, murder, and in one case, desertion (although the remains of the deserter, Eddie Slovik, the only American executed for desertion in WWII, were returned to the states in 1987). After being convicted in U.S. courts martial held in Europe, the men were dishonorably discharged and executed via hanging or firing squad. In many cases, the men who were buried in Plot E were initially buried close to the site of their execution. Those bodies were later exhumed and moved to Oise Aisne in 1949 when the plot of shame was established.

 

PLotE
The lone headstone in Plot E.

 

Plot E has been referred to as an anti-memorial. No US flag is permitted to fly over the plot and the graves themselves, small in-ground stones the size of index cards, have no names; they are only differentiated by numbers. Even underground they are set apart with each body buried in Plot E positioned with its back to the main cemetery. The site does not exist on maps of the cemetery, and is not mentioned on the cemetery website.

 

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Marker for Private Louis Till, who was hanged in Italy in July 1945 after murdering an Italian woman, raping two others and then assaulting a US navy sailor.

 

Plot E has been described by one cemetery employee as a “house of shame” and “the perfect anti-memorial,” especially as the original intent was that none of the individual remains were ever to be identifiable by name.

“The Fifth Field: The Story of the 96 American Soldiers Sentenced to Death and Executed in Europe and North Africa in World War II” by French L.Maclean (Schiffer Publishing, 2013) was the basis for this blog post.

March 721X Formula 1 car

March (formed by Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd) was formed in October 1969, and had reasonable success in the 1970 and 1971 Formula 1 seasons with the 701 and 711 cars.

March started the 1972 season with the 721, which was an improvement of the 711, with over 50 changes and modifications. Herd then designed a totally new car, the 721X (72 for 1972, 1 for Formula 1 and X for experimental), which March hoped would place them amongst the top teams. While the car followed the majority of cars in using the Ford DFV 3-litre V8 engine and Hewland gearbox, there were a couple of innovations. One was the rear suspension, which featured high mounted rear springs operated by cranks and levers. Inspired by Porsche and Alfa Romeo sportscar design, the gearbox was mounted between the engine and the rear axle, instead of behind the rear axle, which was the ‘norm’ in Formula 1 at the time. In theory these two features would be very good for the car’s overall weight distribution, and lead to excellent handling.

721X.jpg
Left to right – designer Robin Herd, driver Ronnie Peterson and Max Mosley with the first 721X. Along with the rear suspension and placement of the gearbox, other interesting features include the full-width front nose, elaborate roll-cage and exposed DFV engine.

The 721X made its debut at the non-championship Race Of Champions at Brands Hatch in March, driven by Ronnie Peterson, with the car making its World Championship debut at the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama in May, driven again by Peterson and Niki Lauda.

Unfortunately for March, the customer Goodyear tires that March were using were designed for a conventional chassis and suspension configuration. The front tires were completely overloaded and caused all kinds of trouble in corners from complete understeer to acute oversteer, resulting in an uncompetitive car.

 

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Niki Lauda in the 721X at the 1972 Monaco Grand Prix.

Both Lauda and Peterson retired in Spain, and were nowhere near the top cars in Monaco (Peterson 11th, Lauda 16th) and Belgium (Peterson 9th, Lauda 12th).

March realised that with the team locked in to using Goodyear tires, the only solution was to replace the 721X. This was done expediently by using the Formula Two chassis, modified to take the DFV engine, with the fuel capacity increased by side tanks. The 721G was more competitive, with Peterson finishing in the points at the French, German and United States Grand Prix.

Both 721Xs still survive, and the car driven by Ronnie Peterson competes in historic racing. Here is some great footage of that car lapping the Scandinavian Raceway in 2017, juxtaposed with Ronnie Peterson driving the same car at the same circuit 45 years earlier.

The following books were used as sources for this blog post:

Anthony Pritchard, “Directory of Formula One Cars: 1966-1986”, Aston Publications, England, 1986, p. 142

David Hodges, “A-Z of Formula Racing Cars”, Bay View Books, England, 1990, p. 160-161

Maurice Buckley- Victoria Cross recipient

Back in November 2015 I made a blog entry about Frederick Whirlpool, the Victoria Cross winner who ended up leading a hermit-like existence in the Hawkesbury. Here is the story of another Victoria Cross recipient, and the unusual way that he was awarded the highest honour in the British armed forces.

Maurice Buckley was born in Melbourne on the 13th of April 1891, and joined the 13th Light Horse Regiment the week before Christmas 1914, and was sent to Egypt.

BuckleyEnlistment
Maurice Buckley’s enlistment form.

 

Like so many of his comrades, Buckley contracted gonorrhea and syphilis. Venereal disease was a huge problem for Australian troops based in Egypt. With the troops not actually fighting, they spent each day training in camps outside of Cairo, and when off duty they frequented the many brothels in the city as well. By February 1916, almost 6,000 men had been infected, and more than 1,000 of them were shipped back home to Australia.

Buckley ended up at the Langwarrin Venereal Diseases camp, located 40 kilometres outside of Melbourne in November 1915.  The facility at Langwarrin had originally been a training camp for Boer War soldiers, and at the start of the Great War was recommissioned as an internment camp for German and Turkish civilians. But with the dramatic emergence of venereal disease amongst enlisted men, the facility became a ‘pox camp’.

The camp was located well away from the township of Langwarrin, and conditions for the patients who went there were terrible – the men were herded behind barbed-wire enclosures, and slept in tents with rubber sheets and blankets for bedding. There was a shortage of water, which impacted on treatment and hygiene. In October 1915 there was a mass break-out involving 50 patients who had been refused leave to visit the township. The patients overpowered the camp guards, and caught the train to Melbourne, where they were subsequently arrested by police.

 

AWM-Langwarren-Camp-Venereal-Hosp
Entrance to Langwarrin Venereal Diseases camp, circa 1915.

 

After five months in Langwarrin, Buckley had had enough, and in March 1916, he escaped from the camp, never to return.  His Army papers were stamped ‘deserter’ and he was struck off the army roll. Buckley returned to his family’s house in the leafy Melbourne suburb of Malvern, to explain to his family why he was no longer serving in the Army.

With Military Police looking for her son, Agnes Buckley suggested that Maurice re-enlist, but under another name. So Maurice travelled to Sydney and re-enlisted as Private Gerald Sexton. Sexton was his mother’s maiden name, and Gerald was the name of his brother who had died in an army camp almost a year earlier of meningitis.

 

MauriceBuckley
Maurice Buckley – awarded the Victoria Cross under the alias Gerald Sexton.

Sexton was assigned to the 13th Battalion of the 4th Division, embarking shortly after for Plymouth in England and then France. Sexton was promoted to Sergeant, and on the 8th of August 1918, earned a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery in the action around Morcourt Valley.

Sexton received his Victoria Cross for bravery during action near Le Verguier on the 8th of August 1918. Here is the official citation, as reprinted in the “London Gazette” of the 13th of December 1918:

“No. 6594 Sjt. Gerald Sexton, 13th Bn., A.I.F.

For most conspicuous bravery during the attack near Le Verguier, north-west of St. Quentin, on the 18th September, 1918. During the whole period of the advance, which was very seriously opposed, Sjt. Sexton was to the fore dealing with enemy machine guns; rushing enemy posts, and performing great feats of bravery and endurance without faltering or for a moment taking cover. When the advance had passed the ridge at La Verguier, Sjt. Sexton’s attention was ‘ directed to a party of the enemy manning a bank, and to a field gun causing casualties and holding up a company. Without hesitation, calling to his section to follow, he rushed down the bank and killed the gunners of the field gun. Regardless of machine-gun fire, he returned to the bank, and after firing down some dugouts induced about thirty of the enemy to surrender. When the advance was continued from the first to the second objective the company was again held up by machine guns on the flanks. Supported by another platoon, he disposed of the enemy guns, displaying boldness which inspired all. Later, he again showed the most conspicuous initiative in the capture of hostile posts and machine guns, and rendered invaluable support to his company digging in.”

At the end of 1918 the commanding officer at the Langwarrin camp notified the authorities of Sexton’s real identity. When Sexton received his Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace in May 1919, he did so under his real name of Maurice Buckley. Buckley returned to Australia and was discharged from the Army. Buckley, a strong Catholic, was openly aligned to the controversial Archbishop Daniel Mannix, and marched with Mannix in St Partick’s Day parades. Buckley established a strong friendship with infamous Melbourne identity John Wren, who business empire was built on SP bookmaking, sly grog and prostitution. Wren gave Buckley financial support to help set up a road-contracting business.

Buckley died after a horse-riding accident in January 1921, aged just 29. At his funeral, his casket was carried by ten other Victoria Cross winners. He was buried in the Brighton Cemetery, and fittingly was laid to rest alongside his brother – whose name he had borrowed to restore his reputation.

BuckleyGrave
Buckley family grave at Brighton Cemetery.

As far as I know, Buckley is the only soldier to have earned a Victoria Cross while serving under an assumed name/alias.
Russell Robinson’s book  “Khaki Crims & Desperadoes” (Pan Macmillan Australia, Sydney, 2014) was the main source for this entry, along with various Australian and international military history sites.

The strange disappearance of Lars Mittank

With the increase in the numbers of CCTV cameras in public places around the world, there are many examples of footage of people caught on camera shortly before they disappear. A lot of this footage is mundane – people walking down the street, or entering a shop, and then leaving again, and acting normally. The CCTV footage of German tourist Lars Mittank is far from normal, and has become one of the most popular, infamous and disturbing pieces of CCTV footage taken in recent years.

Lars Mittank was 28 years old, and worked at the Wilhelmshaven Power Station in northwest Germany. In the summer of 2014 Lars decided to take a holiday to Bulgaria with some friends. The group travelled to Golden Sands, a sea side resort on the coast of the black sea in Bulgaria, a popular and relatively low cost holiday destination for those in nearby European countries who want to take a break and soak up the sun. They arrived at their destination on the 30th of June 2014, after a 2 hour plane trip from Germany, and checked into their hotel.

The group enjoyed themselves until the 6th of June, when they got into a confrontation with a group of locals, which lead to Mittank suffering injuries, which included a ruptured ear drum.  Mittank visited a local doctor, who suggested that surgery needed to be performed to repair the ear drum. Mittank was reticent about having surgery in a foreign country, and asked if he could be given some medicine or antibiotics. The doctor prescribed 500mg of Cefuroxime, which is used to treat bacterial infections. Because of his injury, he was unable to fly back to Germany with his friends. They offered to stay with him till he recovered, but Mittank said that they should go home, and that he would stay in Bulgaria until he had recovered, and would then fly home. Mittank’s friends left Bulgaria on the 7th of June, they day after the altercation. Mittank purchased the Cefuroxime from a local pharmacy, and then booked a room at a new hotel.

The following day Lars started acting strangely. At 11.50 pm Lars called his mother using his cell phone and told her that he felt scared. He asked her if she would contact his bank and freeze his credit card. He also called her again at 3.00 am and told her in a low whisper that he was hiding from a group of men who had been following him. He then checked out of the hotel with his belongings, and caught a taxi to the Varna airport. Lars shared the cab with a fellow passenger, who said that Lars appeared to have dilated pupils, a condition known as mydriasis, which can be caused by drug abuse or severe trauma. Once at the airport he again called his mother who advised him to visit the airport doctor before boarding his flight home. Lars visited the doctor who examined him and would later describe him as being nervous and erratic. While the examination was happening, the doctor was interrupted by a construction employee, who wanted to chat to the doctor about doing some renovation work on her office. At this point Mittank ran out of the doctors room, leaving his belongings behind, and then continued running outside of the terminal. Once outside the airport, he was seen climbing a fence, running into a meadow and disappearing into the woods. He has not been seen since.

The following CCTV video shows Mittank acting normally when arriving at the airport, followed by his rushed exit out of the terminal, and then climbing the fence into the woods.

The footage is very confronting – what happened to Mittank to cause him to flee the terminal without his belongings and then run randomly into the woods? There have been several theories that could explain his actions:

  • Mittank was suffering from side effects of the Cefuroxime, which has caused him to act in an unstable manner.
  • As mentioned by the passenger in the cab, Mittank may have been suffering from mydriasis, which may have been caused by the injuries he received in the altercation at the hotel on the 6th of June. As well as the ruptured eardrum, Mittank also received a jaw injury.
  • Mittank mentioned to his mother that he believed that he was being followed by a group of men. Could they have been the same group that he had the altercation with? Could they have followed Mittank to the airport, and were waiting for him, which caused Mittank to flee hurriedly?

    Only Lars Mittank knows the answers to these questions, but as there has been no confirmed sightings of him for over 4 years since he disappeared, these questions will probably never be answered.

 

The SS Fort Stikine explosion – Bombay, 1944

The Fort Stikine was one of 26 identical ships, all 441 feet long and 57 feet across the beam, and all bearing names beginning with the prefix Fort. The Fort Stikine was a solid workmanlike merchant ship of 7,142 gross tons, capable of travelling at ten to eleven knots and carrying more than 7,000 tons of cargo in its holds.  The Fort Stikine’s first and only captain was Alexander Naismith, who took over the ship in May 1942. It was a utilitarian product of the Lend-Lease system in World War 2, under which the United States essentially allowed Great Britain to borrow war supplies on credit until after the war. Huge numbers of ships were supplied on this basis, the object being to maintain trade and keep war materials moving around the world at a time when German U-boats were destroying unprecedented tonnages of Allied shipping.

SS_Fort_Stikine
The SS Fort Stikine – the ship responsible for one of the largest maritime explosions of all time.

The Fort Stikine steamed out of Birkenhead in England in February 1944, bound for Bombay in India, via the Suez Canal. The Fort Stikine was part of a large convoy, and sailed slightly apart from the other ships. The reason for this was the ship’s cargo. Apart from crates containing twelve Supermarine Spitfire fighter aircraft, the cargo also included 1,395 tons of explosives, of which 238 tons was the highly sensitive category A type, stowed in the wings of the ‘tween-decks. The explosives were essential to the war effort in the Far East, and the Fort Stikine was the only ship that was going to Bombay – all of the other ships would turn away to their destinations before the Fort Stikine reached the Indian Ocean.

 

As well as the explosives, there was also another curious part of the ship’s cargo. In the upper half of No. 2 hold there was a specially constructed steel tank measuring five foot by four foot by four foot. Inside the tank had been placed thirty-one wooden boxes, each containing four bars of gold. In 1944, this quantity was worth in excess of £1,000,000. The use of such a vulnerable ship as the Fort Stikine for transit of such a valuable cargo is evidence both of the dire shortage of more appropriate shipping and the urgency with which the gold was required. The lid of the tank had been padlocked and then welded on.

After a stop for coal at Suez, the Fort Stikine reached Karachi on the 30th of March. The twelve crated Spitfires were unloaded, and in the vacated space the Fort Stikine took on 8,700 bales of raw cotton, several thousand gallons of lubricating oil, sulphur, rice, resin, scrap iron and fish meal. It was highly combustible and sat uneasily with the thousands of tons of explosives already in the ship. Captain Naismith and his senior officers were unhappy about the new cargo but they had no real choice to accept it.

HO187-739-Stowage-plan-of-SS-Fort-Stikine
The stowage plan for the SS Fort Stikine, showing the lethal mixture of cotton and explosives in the ship.

The Fort Stikine left Karachi on the 9th of April and reached Bombay on the 12th of April, and was put into No 1 berth at the Victoria Dock. According to regulations the ship should have flown a red flag to signify to other ships that it was carrying explosives. Captains were reluctant to fly the red flag, feeling that it made their ships a better target for air attack and possible sabotage. Naismith chose not to fly the flag – possibly a fatal error that sealed the fate of the ship.

As the Fort Stikine had explosives on board, it was given priority for unloading over all other ships berthed in Victoria Dock. The category A explosives could not be directly unloaded onto the dock – they had to be transferred onto lighters and then onto the dock. No lighters were available, which delayed the unloading of the explosives for twenty four hours. In the meantime, dock workers started unloading the oil drums and then to the satisfaction of everyone, the fish meal, which had gone rotten and was putting off a terrible smell.

 

By midday on the 14th of April very few explosives had been landed. About this time the Chief Officer of the Fort Crevier, berthed opposite the Fort Stikine, first notices smoke issuing from one of the Fort Stikine’s ventilators. Approximately half a dozen other seamen saw the smoke, but also did nothing – it was lunch hour, the docks were at a standstill and an atmosphere of tropical languor hung heavily in the air. Eventually three hoses of water were deployed into the No 2 hold, and it was thought that the fire would be put out in a couple of minutes. The smoke however, continued to build, and the Bombay City fire brigade arrived to also lend their assistance. The officer in charge of explosives at the docks, Captain Oberst arrived at the docks at 2.30 pm and asked to see the Fort Stikine’s manifest. When he read about the explosives, and the burning cotton, he requested that the Fort Stikine should be immediately scuttled, in order to eliminate any chance of a major explosion. Unfortunately for Oberst, the water was not deep enough in the dock for the ship to be scuttled.

Someone noticed that the bulkhead between No 1 and No 2 hold was getting very hot, and two exceptionally brave firefighters descended into No 1 hold and moved all of the detonators that were resting against the bulkhead. It was suggested that the Fort Stikine should immediately head back out to sea, where an explosion would not damage the docks. Once again circumstances conspired against this plan – the ships’ engine was being repaired while in dock, making it impossible for the Fort Stikine to head out into the open seas.

By 3.00 pm it was obvious that the situation was getting worse – millions of gallons of water had been pumped into the hull, but the paint on the outside of the ship began to bubble. The seat of the fire had been identified – the aft port-side corner, and the Bombay fire brigade chief gave the order for a gas cutter to be fetched, so that an opening could be cut in the side of the ship and the fire attacked directly. Incredibly, more problems occurred – the fire brigade’s own cutter did not work, and an order had been placed for a cutter to be sent from the nearby Magazon Docks, but this order had been cancelled by a senior docks official. The order was resent, but to no avail.

The running of water inside the hold was fanning the fire, and not suppressing it, as the water raised the level of the burning cotton which floated on the surface of the water until it was just below the ‘tween-decks where the explosives were stored. By 3.45 pm huge flames began to leap out of the hatchway, and within minutes had reached the height of the Fort Stikine’s mast. Captain Naismith gave the order to abandon ship, and the crown which had gathered to watch the attempts to put the fire out now surged towards the dock gates. At 4.06 pm, Naismith had just completed a final check of the ship to see that all crew members had disembarked, when with cataclysmic force, the Fort Stikine exploded, killing Naismith immediately and many people who were still dockside.

great_bombay_exp_maps
Diagram of the ships at the Bombay docks prior to the explosion, and where they ended up after the explosion.

Pieces of flying metal hurtled through the air and landed up to a mile away. The Jalapadma, a 4,000 ton ship berthed next to the Fort Stikine, was lifted right out of the water and deposited on the quay wall. One of the Fort Stikine’s anchors was caught in the rigging of a ship in a neighbouring dock. Eleven ships were now on fire and four were sunk or sinking. This was not the end of it – at 4.40 pm the explosives in what was left of the aft end of the Fort Stikine blew up, throwing debris 3,000 feet into the air. With such devastation, the casualty list was high, although due to wartime censorship and the chaos and confusion after the explosion, figures vary. Approximately 230 dock employees were killed, along with over 500 civilians, although some sources claim that the total death total was closer to 1,500. The Bombay Fire Service took the brunt of the explosion – of the 156 firemen who were present, 65 were killed and 80 wounded. Approximately 2,500 people were injured. It took three days to bring all of the fires under control, and a further seven months before all of the debris were removed and the docks became operational once more. Here is a a contemporary newsreel report, which features the second explosion and the aftermath of the explosions.

Once the fires had been put out, the authorities thoughts turned to what became of the gold that was stored in the steel tank in No 2 hold. It became obvious that all of the gold bars had been scattered far and wide by the explosion. Many civilians returned bars that they had found after the explosion, with other bars found lying on the ground unclaimed. Whenever the dock was dredged, the odd bar was found, with one of the last finds being in February 2011.

Nigel Pickord, “Lost Treasure Ships of the Twentieth Century”, Pavilion Books Limited, London, 1999, pp. 139-146 was used as the major source for this blog post.

The disappearance of David Eason

More than 600,000 tourists visit Queensland’s lavishly tropical Fraser Island each year. The world’s biggest sand island, covering 184,000 square kilometres adjacent to the coast, seldom seems crowded. With its sweeping beaches, towering dunes framing freshwater lakes, and horizons of coloured sand, the island is infused with the primal hush that stilled the lips of the earliest white settlers.

Named after Eliza Fraser, whose ship “Stirling Castle” foundered on the Great Barrier Reef in 1836, the island has long been characterized by poets and novelists as a place of mystery. Perhaps the greatest mystery of all was the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of an English tourist named David Eason. Police, who conducted massive and prolonged searches for the missing man, described the total absence of possessions, clothing or other clues as ‘bizarre’ and ‘beyond belief’.

Eason, aged 46, was an art director of a British advertising company specializing in pharmaceutical products. On the 29th of March 2001 he visited the island as part of a 4WD tour group. Around lunchtime, following several hours of sightseeing, the group’s leader announced that everyone should now head for Lake Wabby, two kilometres inland. From there they would proceed to Kingfisher Bay on the other side of the island, where they would board a tour bus at 3.00 pm and then leave the island.

MapFraserIsland
Map of Fraser Island – Lake Wabby is approximately halfway on the eastern side.

David Eason hadn’t yet experienced enough of the island. Fresh from a grey London winter, he was entranced by the wild crashing surf, endless stretches of dazzling beach, kauri pines and gigantic ferns, and the sting of the tropical sun. He told his companions that he would sunbathe for 30 minutes and before following them on foot to Lake Wabby.

When police individually interviewed the other members of the party the next day, they all shared the same recollection. As they departed, Eason, who was wearing a green singlet, shorts and sandals, had laid back smiling, against a dune and placed a cigarette in his mouth. He seemed relaxed and carefree. Beside him on the sand lay a leather bag containing his expensive camera gear. The time was approximately 1.00 pm.

The tour group waited an extra 30 minutes at Lake Wabby, but with no sign of Eason, they decided to continue to Kingfisher Bay to meet the tour bus. At 6.00 pm, when there was still no sign of him, the tour’s organisers alerted police and park rangers. That night, police officers and volunteers search the island, using spotlights and torches. The next day helicopters and lights places scanned the island from the air – the first of many searches over the following days and weeks.

Particularly puzzling were the results (or lask of them) obtained by 80 State Emergency Service workers who picked painstakingly over an area of two square kilometres surrounding the spot where Eason was last seen. They found nothing: no tracks, no scraps of clothing, no cigarette butts and no leather bag – Eason had vanished off the face of Fraser Island.

Police printed flyers and posters, asking for information from the crowds who had been on the island during the Easter holiday break. No-one could help. The missing man’s sister, Janice Eames and her husband Harvey flew to Queensland from England. They told reporters that they were ‘dumbfounded’ by David’s disappearance- and dismissed suggestions that he might have drowned or committed suicide as ‘just not on’.

EasonPressClipping

According to his sister, David was financially secure and was in a stable and happy relationship with his girlfriend Jo. There was absolutely no reason why he would have harmed himself – and if he had done so on the island, there would have been evidence left behind. Detective Sergeant Bruce Hodges of the Queensland Police force summed up the bafflement of his colleagues. ‘People have gone missing – but usually there is some sort of trace’, he said.

One months after Eason’s disappearance, a nine year old boy, Clinton Cage, was mauled to death by dingoes on the island. Could David Eason have suffered a similar fate? According to police, it was extremely unlikely. Dingoes would have left traces: body parts, bloodied clothing, and they would have not eaten either the leather bag or the camera in it.

After debating and exhausting a broad range of explanations, David Eason’s family was left with only one theory – that he had been murdered. Why, by whom and for what reason they could not begin to imagine. They asked police to treat the case as a homicide enquiry. But with no body, no belongings, no tracks no idea of Eason’s movements, police admitted it would be almost impossible to find the murderer.

For two years there was no new information or leads until the 14th of April 2003, when English tourist Arwen Heaton discovered near Lake Wabby human bones and personal property that was identified as belonging to David Eason.  The scattered bones and personal property were found along the sides and at the bottom of a steep slope.

A coronial inquest was held, with the State Coroner rejecting the theories of homicide (personal belongings were found with the bones) and suicide (stable financial situation and personal relationship). The most plausible theory advanced by the coroner was that Eason was returning to the rendezvous with the tour group when an event occurred which caused him to stumble down the slope, where he died. The Coroner’s best theory was that Eason suffered a fatal heart attack when walking back to the rendezvous, although the possibility that he was suffered a snake bite or other paralysing injury could not be discounted. The Coroner also made recommendations regarding future searches for missing persons, as well as better signage for the walking tracks around Lake Wabby.

While this sounds logical and reasonable, I am still intrigued as to why Eason’s body wasn’t found immediately after his disappearance, especially if the SES volunteers had gone over that area with a fine-tooth comb.

The basis for this blog post was John Pinkney’s book “Great Australian Mysteries” (Five Mile Press, Melbourne, 2003, p. 232-235), along with the exhaustive and thorough inquest of the Queensland State Coroner.