The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and its National Missing Persons Coordination Centre are joining international best-selling crime writer Melissa Pouliot this evening to launch her latest fiction novel, Found.
Ms Pouliot is the only Australian family member of a missing person to cope with the complexities of not knowing the whereabouts of a loved one by writing fiction. Her cousin, Ursula Barwick, went missing in September 1987, when she boarded a train from Tuggerah Station to Sydney. Ursula was 17.
In 2009, Ursula became one of the first people in Australia to have her image age-progressed by the National Missing Persons Coordinator Centre. Four years later, Ms Pouliot released her first book, Write About Me, and the investigation into Ursula’s disappearance was re-launched by Kings Cross detectives of the NSW Police Force.
In 2015, Ursula’s profile was featured during National Missing Persons Week. An influx of information provided to Crime Stoppers (1800 333 000) allowed police to pursue new leads into the circumstances surrounding Ursula’s disappearance.
A former journalist and advocate for missing persons, Ms Pouliot has now written five books inspired by Ursula’s disappearance. She describes to her audience the roller-coaster of hope and hopelessness experienced by the families of missing persons. She was 15 when Ursula disappeared.
“I remember the trauma and the emptiness of waiting for her to come home,” Ms Pouliot said.
“It feels like an ambiguous loss where you’ve lost somebody but there’s no closure.
“Writing in the fictional world has been an important part of my journey. It started out as a way to keep remembering Ursula, but then it got bigger – it became about helping people understand what ‘missing’ means.”
Thirty years later, Ms Pouliot confirmed Ursula’s death as a result of a car accident shortly after she was reported missing.
“I want to thank the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre for sharing Ursula’s profile with the community, who then provided the information police needed to solve this mystery. My family is also eternally thankful to the Kings Cross detectives who worked tirelessly to find the answers we were so desperately seeking.”
Found picks up the story of teenage runaway Annabelle Brown, who vanishes in the rugged Blue Mountains west of Sydney, in a shroud of mystery and intrigue. Twenty-seven years later, with no body, no clues and no leads, the case remains unsolved; but Detective Louise Whadary, determined to solve this cold case, discovers some hidden clues.
The launch is being held in Canberra. It precedes National Missing Persons Week, which commences this Sunday (30 July).
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