"Devoted mother" Roxlyn Bowie had plans to hold a party for her son's second birthday but disappeared before the little boy's milestone, a coroner has heard at Dubbo.
After more than 30 years of grave concerns and fears her family hopes to find some answers.
The suspected death of the 31-year-old wife and mother at Walgett in 1982 is the subject of an inquest at Dubbo.
On its opening day yesterday Ms Bowie's two children and other family members gathered.
Also present at the inquest was John Bowie, her husband, who the inquest heard was at the time described as a "womaniser" and was later convicted of forging his wife's signature on a document during the sale of a parcel of land.
Counsel assisting the coroner Sergeant Paul Bush said Ms Bowie was a "devoted mother" and because they had no phone connected, a constant letter writer to her parents who lived in Sydney.
The first of four people sworn into the witness box yesterday was Detective Inspector Russell Oxford.
A number items including letters purportedly written by Ms Bowie announcing her intention to leave her husband and children were tendered to the inquest.
One letter beginning "Dear John" was found at the Bowies' Euroka Street home on the night of Ms Bowie's disappearance while another letter addressed to her parents bore a postmark from Coonamble from the Monday after her disappearance on Saturday June 5, 1982.
"At the heart of the investigation is the authenticity of the letters," Detective Inspector Oxford said.
"A woman devoted to her children (to have left that note) - her family couldn't get over that and they still can't.
"And I share their concerns."
Detective Inspector Oxford said he believed the letters - which had been analysed - were in Ms Bowie's handwriting, which presented three avenues of inquiry.
He said they had either been written under duress, written by Ms Bowie before someone else took advantage of them or written before the 32-year-old had genuinely left her family.
He said the lack of Ms Bowie's DNA on the stamp and envelope containing the letter to her parents was "one of the most puzzling" aspects of the case and went to "the heart of the matter".
At the opening of the inquest Coroner Mary Jerram set out the inquest's purpose.
"(It) may not be able to find the cause, manner or that Roxlyn is dead, although I hope that is not the case," she said.
"I'm really sorry we meet in these circumstances. . .
"I hope if we're not able to give you all the answers that you know that people still care."
Margot Rule described cousin Ms Bowie as someone who "loved her children dearly" and was in constant contact with her parents.
Christine Maddocks, the sister of Mr Bowie, said Ms Bowie "doted on" her daughter and son and would not have walked out on them.
Ms Bowie's daughter Brenda Boyd told the inquest there was a reason why she remembered being tucked in on the night of June 5, 1982, when she was aged 6.
"That was the last time I saw my mother," she said.
The inquest continues.
Husband has history of violence: inquest
- Daily Liberal
The husband of missing woman Roxlyn Bowie was violent in a subsequent marriage and said he had killed two young boys who tried to steal from him while in Vietnam years earlier, Dubbo Coroner's Court has heard.
Anne Bowie, a former wife of John Bowie, provided the testimony to the court yesterday, also saying he had once told her his first wife had run off with another man.
She was one of six people to give evidence on the second day of an inquest into the disappearance of Roxlyn Bowie at Walgett in 1982.
The mother of two young children was last seen at the family's Euroka Street home on June 5 of that year. On the opening day of the inquest the court had heard Roxlyn was a "devoted mother" and that Mr Bowie was at the time described as a "womaniser" and later admitted to giving her a "backhand" on several occasions.
Appearing via audio-visual link yesterday, parts of Anne's testimony brought some members of Roxlyn's family to tears. Mr Bowie was present in the court.
Anne, a nurse, met and began a relationship with Mr Bowie, an ambulance officer in Sydney within two months of the disappearance of Roxlyn. They married in 1984, but later separated, and divorced in 2008. Yesterday when questioned by counsel assisting the coroner Sergeant Paul Bush, she said "it wasn't a good relationship".
She said Mr Bowie had affairs with other women and there was "violence in the relationship".
Anne told the court the disappearance of Roxlyn wasn't often discussed.
"(John) would avoid the subject or get angry," she said.
She also recalled "at one point he told me Roxlyn had run of with the bank manager".
When asked by counsel assisting if he had ever said who the bank manager was or anything else, Anne said no. Anne was also questioned about the presence of a blue suitcase, two watches, engagement ring, other jewellery and other items at the unit they shared.
The witness was directed to a statement she had made to police in 1988, and she told the court Mr Bowie did have three rifles.
"He had one when we were purchasing our home at St Clair but my mum took out the part that makes it shoot," Anne said.
Counsel assisting asked Anne if she knew Mr Bowie had been in the army and if he had talked about his service.
She said he had talked about being in Vietnam, that he had several wives there and that he had killed two young boys there when they had tried to steal from him. When asked if the violence in their marriage had been isolated incidents, she said it "went on and on".
'I'm not sorry (the relationship) is over," she said.
"I don't have to worry about being belted up."
The inquest continues.
Husband tells Inquest told Roxlyn Bowie's 'personality changed'
- Daily Liberal
The husband of missing woman Roxlyn Bowie has told a court at Dubbo she was not scared of him because she had no reason to be.
John Bowie yesterday gave evidence at an inquest into his wife’s disappearance from their home at Walgett in 1982.
He faced intense questioning about their relationship, the night of her disappearance and the weeks after before coroner Mary Jerram, and rejected claims by former wife Anne Bowie that he was violent.
Earlier yesterday forensic document examiner Annalise Wrzeczycki from NSW Police had provided evidence about two letters purportedly written by Roxlyn announcing her intention to leave her husband.
Mr Bowie told the court he had been in the army, including seeing active service in Vietnam and later became an ambulance officer.
He told the court he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2002, linked to his service in Vietnam.
The court heard the Mr Bowie married Roxlyn in 1971.
Mr Bowie said the death of their prematurely-born second daughter Sharlene in 1977 aged nine days had affected them both.
He said his wife’s personality changed and he knew she didn’t like Walgett, where he was later posted.
Roxlyn would be “chirpy one minute” but have “mood swings”.
He admitted to having affairs during his marriage to Roxlyn.
Mr Bowie told the court that on the night of June 5, 1982, he had told his wife he was going to the pub.
He said she said if he went, she wouldn’t be there when he got back, but that she had said that several times before.
As Mr Bowie provided an account of the night, counsel assisting the coroner Sergeant Paul Bush asked him if he was a bit mixed up or making it up as he went along, but Mr Bowie rejected that.
He admitted that saying Roxlyn had run off with the bank manager was just something he had said to his former wife Anne, but he said he had also told her he did not know where Roxlyn was.
He said he had not made efforts to find his wife after he tried on the first day she went missing because he did not have the money and he had the kids and work.
He said he had asked Roxlyn’s family to look for her.
Anne Bowie had told the inquest on the previous day that her husband had been violent, but yesterday Mr Bowie said she had been the violent one, not him.
When asked about Roxlyn’s disappearance Mr Bowie said the only factor that may have contributed to wife’s disappearance was his “drinking, womanising and working”.
When asked at the end of the session if he knew anymore about Roxlyn’s disappearance, he said he knew nothing more.
Earlier yesterday Walgett resident Errolyn Dunn told the court Roxlyn and her children used to visit, but Roxlyn was “always watching the clock” and said she had to be home when her husband got home.
The inquest came to a sudden halt in the middle of the day when Margot Rule, the 86-year-old cousin of Roxlyn, collapsed and the session was adjourned for the ambulance to be called.
The inquest continues.
Missing mother 'ended my childhood': Roxlyn Bowie's daughter speaks out
The daughter of Roxlyn Bowie has told of baking cakes and other
happy childhood days that ended abruptly with the disappearance
of her mother.
Brenda Boyd, who was aged six the last night she saw her mother more than 30 years ago, told a coroner's court at Dubbo yesterday her "life changed forever when my mum wasn't there anymore".
Delivering a statement she had written with younger brother Warren, she at times broke into tears before continuing what Coroner Mary Jerram said was "a terrible story".Brenda spoke on the fourth and final day of an inquest into the disappearance of Roxlyn, then aged 31, from Walgett on June 5, 1982.
She said her "most affectionate" mother had always been happy to hear about her day at school and they used to bake cakes together.
Brenda said her favourite memory of her mother was watching the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana together at home. "Mum made me a veil so I could be a princess as well," she said.
She recalled at times her mother and father had argued and that her father had once tipped dinner down her mother's top.
She also told of the immediate loss she felt on June 6, 1982, the day aged six years and nine months she was told her mother had left.
"I remember eating a pie and crying so much I couldn't swallow," she said.
"I didn't understand why."
She said the subsequent marriage of her father, John Bowie, to Anne Bowie - a relationship that started within two months of her mother's disappearance - was violent.
"I remember my father pulling Anne butt-naked through the house," she said.
"I remember pushing my wardrobe against the door of the bedroom so they wouldn't get Warren and I."
She spoke of a significant milestone her mother was not there to share.
"I was 10 when Warren started school," she said.
"I remember getting him ready and walking him to and from his classroom because he was only in Kindy."
She recalled that sometimes when her father and Anne were fighting they would lock the two children out of the house.
"We'd have to sleep in the car," she said.
"We'd ask the neighbours for food.
"We had good neighbours."
Her father had other girlfriends and made other moves - Brenda told the court she had attended 13 schools and Warren had attended 16.
She recalled "Nan and Pop" whom "Warren and I loved dearly".
The couple whose only child was Roxlyn had given them the best memories of this time, taking them to the Royal Easter Show every year and on other excursions, the court heard.
Brenda said she and her brother had both suffered depression.
She said the two of them had had no contact with their father for many years.
Hearing from Roxlyn's friends during the inquest had given them "comfort and reassurance that she was the wonderful mother we remember".
Brenda thanked Detective Inspector Russell Oxford for his investigative work and "for giving Roxy a voice".
She also thanked Coroner Jerram for "letting the witnesses speak so freely" during the inquest.
Roxlyn Bowie met with foul play: coroner
A coroner has found a woman missing for 32 years is dead and that it was “highly likely” Roxlyn Bowie met with foul play”.
At a Dubbo court yesterday the death of Roxlyn Bowie was referred to the unsolved homicide squad.
Coroner Mary Jerram said the mother of two was last seen on June 5, 1982 at Walgett and found that she died on or about that date.
But the evidence heard at the inquest which began on Monday did not allow her to identify more about the death, and letters purportedly written by Roxlyn announcing her intention to leave remained “a puzzle”.
The coroner also said she agreed with the submission of counsel assisting the coroner Sergeant Paul Bush that there would be difficulty in accepting some of the evidence of John Bowie, husband of Roxlyn at the time of her disappearance.
“I put very little weight on it,” she said, adding she accepted Mr Bowie had been open about some of his behaviours including drinking and extramarital affairs.
The findings were delivered yesterday after three days of hearing factual evidence.
Counsel assisting had earlier yesterday said there were some issues it was fair to say were not able to be established at the inquest.
“Unfortunately the passage of time and the frailty of memory are against us,” he said.
The coroner said every witness had provided the most overwhelming evidence she had heard that Roxlyn was “utterly devoted” as a mother.
She said a tiny question mark remained on a letter, sent to Roxlyn’s parents and bearing a postmark from Coonamble on the Monday after she was last seen.
“Unfortunately the passage of time and the frailty of memory are
A forensic document examiner had provided evidence to the
inquest and the coroner noted
tests on letters were not yet finished.
Roxlyn did not access the family car and the possibility of her hitchhiking did not match the person they had heard about at the inquest, the coroner said.
She said she would not dwell on it, but that Mr Bowie was in possession of guns when they were at Walgett.
Mr Bowie had been convicted of forging his wife’s signature on a land transfer document in 1984, something he had admitted to the inquest.
The coroner said Detective Inspector Russell Oxford had been on the case for 25 years and was devoted to finding answers for Roxlyn’s family.
The coroner said the mother of two was a “timid woman” and that how she had with “no money and no access to a car” “simply vanished” was “beyond comprehension to me”.
“It’s highly likely to me she met with foul play,” she said.
The coroner said that left them with the letters as a puzzle and that there was no evidence that they were not Roxlyn’s writing.
“They remain a stumbling block,” she said.
In referring the case to the unsolved homicide squad, the coroner said she would ask that the forensic report on the letters be completed as quickly as possible.
The Roxlyn Bowie mystery: Part I
Brenda Boyd was just six years old when her mother dropped off the face of the earth. Now, 36 years later, she has returned to the family home in Walgett, the place where she remembers her mother kissing her goodnight for the very last time.
The Roxlyn Bowie mystery: Part II
Roxlyn Bowie tip-off leads NSW investigators to comb Walgett dam
Ground-penetrating radar technology will be used to search concrete slabs in northern NSW after detectives received a tip-off about the suspected murder of Roxlyn Bowie, who went missing 36 years ago.
The 31-year-old mother-of-two vanished from her family home in Walgett in June 1982.
A coronial inquest in 2014 found she had died but the cause of death was not determined and her body has never been found.
Dozens of police have descended on the town to search two locations after receiving a tip-off about Ms Bowie's disappearance.
A massive dam on private property is being excavated and concrete slabs are being searched using ground-penetrating radar equipment.
Detective Superintendent Daniel Doherty said the industrial site was quite close to both Ms Bowie's family home and where she was last seen.
"I know it was being built around that time and that the concrete slabs were, [from] my understanding, being laid around that time," he said.
Police said the new information was provided to them when they re-opened their investigation into the case.
They said the search could take weeks.
A $1 million reward for information on the suspected murder was offered earlier this month.
At the time, Ms Bowie's daughter Brenda Boyd said she hoped it would encourage those with information to come forward.
"It's not fair that we've gone most of our lives without knowing why she was taken from us," she said.
"I urge people to put themselves in my position and realise just how important it is that we find the truth."
Detective Superintendent Doherty said Ms Boyd had been "very stoic", but was no doubt experiencing mixed emotions.
"She's looking forward to justice as much as we are," he said.
"While she wants justice and wants to find some evidence … if we did find any remains of Roxlyn it makes the grief very raw, but also will help maybe lessen that burden of grief."
Ms Bowie's son Warren has died and Ms Boyd said it was a tragedy he would never know what happened to his mother.
Detective Superintendent Doherty also praised the Walgett community and said its members had been "incredible in their support and assistance".