Elizabeth HERFORT


Alistair Herfort with the plaque beside Commonwealth Avenue in honour of his sister Elizabeth, who went missing from the spot  in 1980. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Alistair Herfort with the plaque beside Commonwealth Avenue in honour of his sister Elizabeth, who went missing from the spot in 1980. Photo: Jamila Toderas


Year of birth - 1962
Build: Slim
Height: 160 cm
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Blue

Elizabeth Herfort was last seen at the Australian National University Bar, Canberra ACT. Between 9:00pm and 9:45pm on the 13 June 1980, a person fitting her description was seen hitch-hiking on the south bound carriageway leading to Commonwealth Avenue in Canberra. It is believed that this same person was then given a lift in a motor vehicle along Commonwealth Avenue to the intersection of Coronation Drive in Canberra. Elizabeth has not returned.



— PHILIP CASTLE   Sunday TIMESTYLE  Sunday 11th November 1984

"JUST tell me where my daughter's body is so that I can bury her and start living again," the mother of Elizabeth Herfort, Mrs Anne Berry, said. Elizabeth has been missing for four years. Elizabeth, then 18, was last seen about 9pm on Friday, June 13, 1980, hitchhiking south on Vernon Circle in Civic. She had just left the ANU union bar.
"She has been murdered," Mrs Berry said. "I don't care about catching the offender. I don't know how she was murdered but I would like to know where she is . . . the police have said she could be anywhere. I have thought in the Brindabellas . . . I need to have her body found so that I can look ahead instead of looking back all the time. I have a very vivid imagination and I am a very emotional person . . . I watch the weather reports and when it snows there I imagine Lizzie out there somewhere with nothing to cover her. Or if it rains I think Lizzie is getting wet . . . and all sorts of things go through my mind. I think of her as just a skeleton now. It is horrible. It's almost impossible to describe."
Mrs Berry does not believe Elizabeth ran away. Nor do the police and the circumstances don't point to it either. Police agree that Elizabeth has probably been murdered. Mrs Berry now lives in Brisbane. Her first marriage to Mr Norman Herfort, a retired RAAF Squadron Leader now living in Bermagui, ended after 17 years. They had four children: a daughter, who lives in Canberra; two sons, one lives in Denmark, the other in Tasmania; and Elizabeth, who was born in Penang, Malaya, on September 3, 1961, when her father was serving at the RAAF base at Butterworth. Mrs Berry's second marriage to a well-known Canberra garage owner, Mr John Coppin, ended after a boating accident off Green Cape at the South Coast on October 1, 1977. Mr Coppin, his wife and another man were tossed into the sea after their small fishing boat was struck by some freak waves. Mrs Berry managed to scramble to safety to some rocks and watched her dead husband float past. The other man drowned also. She is presently suing a life-jacket company. At the time of Elizabeth's disappearance Mrs Berry was a widow. Her third marriage to Wing Commander Brian Berry was breaking up, she said. The disappearance of her daughter had made it almost impossible to get her life together. She has suffered psychiatric problems and has received treatment.
Police have a suspect. They call him "Harry The Hat". (Harry is not his real name). He has been interviewed many times. He attended the Woden Police Station on one occasion, and, according to Detective Senior Constable Bob Peters, introduced himself as the man "you believe killed Elizabeth Herfort". He has never sought legal representation and has co-operated with everything the police have asked of him. He has made no admissions about being in any way involved with Elizabeth's disappearance. A car with his number-plate registration was seen where Elizabeth was believed to have been last dropped off. The witness, who took the number, said also that he had seen a man wearing a hat who was acting aggressively towards a woman next to the car. Unfortunately, the witness had not come forward until two weeks later. "Harry" has denied being there, and said his car was locked away all that night.
At the time of her disappearance, Elizabeth had been living at home with her mother in Collings Street, Pearce. She was unemployed. At 1.30pm on June 13, she asked her mother if she could borrow her Toyota Celica to go to Southlands shopping centre at about 1.30pm. That was the last time her mother saw her alive. Elizabeth had told her mother that she planned to go to the ANU to meet some friends about 2.30pm. In the mean- time, Mrs Berry had gone out with a friend. When she returned at about 2.45pm the Toyota was parked in the drive. She presumed correctly that Elizabeth had gone by bus to the ANU. She said that if she had only waited an hour she could have had the car and not have had to hitch-hike. Elizabeth had had little money with her. She had withdrawn her last $1.50 from the bank that afternoon. Her boyfriend had gone to Bowen, Queensland, to look for work. She had planned to join him in the next week. Witnesses confirmed that Elizabeth was in the ANU bar that afternoon and early evening. She had been with a group of friends having some slow drinks, some games of pool, smoking a small amount of marijuana which was passed around, and talking about her boyfriend. She seemed normal and happy. A male schoolfriend, who lived in Red Hill, was apparently the last person who knew her to see her alive. At about 8.45pm he asked her how she was getting home. She said she would catch a bus from Civic. The friend assumed that they would walk to the bus interchange together. He went to the lavatory, but when he came back she had gone. He went to the bus stop but did not see Elizabeth on the way nor at the bus stop.

When Elizabeth had not returned by the next day, her mother reported to the Woden Police Station that her daughter was missing. Police appealed for witnesses, and a number came forward. One person had picked her up near the Canberra Theatre and dropped her off on Commonwealth Avenue, just before the Coronation Drive, where he was turning off. That was about as far as the police got for about two weeks. Other leads came to nothing. More than 100 ACT Emergency Services volunteers and police searched bushland and pine forest areas around the ACT. Fearing a possible connection with the disappearance of Karen Rowland whose body was found on May 13, 1971, near the Air Disaster Memorial in the Fairbairn Pine Plantation, the police thoroughly searched that area. Then, on June 28, a man contacted police and said he had seen a man acting aggressively toward a young woman at about 9.45pm on June 13 about 80 metres back from the lights on Commonwealth Avenue near the Coronation Drive intersection. The man, who had been a Queensland police officer for a year, had slowed down and was going to stop, but then decided not to become involved. He did, however, record the car number plate and a description of the car. He said the man had been wearing a hat. He said he had not reported it earlier because he had been studying for his accountancy exams and had not paid much attention to the news. He had not connected the missing girl and his sighting until he overheard some work colleagues talking about it on June 27. The car number plate given by the man was traced to "Harry The Hat". Those who knew "Harry" said he always wore a hat. His car was very similar to that described by the witness. "Harry" has since left Canberra.

One of the investigating officers, Detective Sergeant Rick Ninness, said there was other information that made "Harry" a strong suspect, but he has not ruled out other possibilities — it would be folly for a detective to ignore other suspects. "We have never found the body," he said. "That makes it difficult. The longer it is the harder it becomes. We have simulated the last apparent sighting and used a similar car to that described. We are waiting for the breakthrough. Even in one hour a body can be taken a long way from Canberra to some pretty rugged country." He believes Elizabeth was picked up, possibly sexually assaulted and buried or dumped somewhere. Because she was affected by alcohol she may not have been very alert. Because she was small (160 centimetres tall and of slight build) she may have been forced or enticed into a car. The driver may not have intended to kill her but if a struggle had developed the situation could have got out of hand. Sergeant Ninnes has recently been posted to Brisbane. One of his main regrets about leaving the ACT is the unsolved case — despite months of investigation.

Mrs Berry supports the police's supposition. She said her daughter was an athletic girl who played squash and had won trophies in swimming and softball. She had represented the ACT as a softball pitcher. She had wanted to settle down with her boyfriend and buy a block of land on the North Coast of NSW. MRS Berry is well known in Canberra. She was an actress and member of Canberra Repertory. She said her friends had been very supportive and she particularly wanted to thank those many volunteers, Salvation Army officers and police officers who had searched for her daughter. "I had these wild impulses to get into my car and jut go and look," she said. "I'm glad they did that for me. Those thoughts used to frighten me." She has sought psychiatric help. She has been told to take one day at a time. She said that about one year after Elizabeth's disappearance she had an apparition of her at about 9am when she was waking up. Her daughter had said to her, "I'm happy Mum. . .I'm all right, Mum." She tried to close her eyes but the apparition left. Other members of the family have had similar experiences, she said. She can't sleep properly. She had kept Elizabeth's room as it was for months afterwards. Her husband had encouraged her to open up her room and "let Lizzie go". That had helped. She used to put flowers out on the 13th of every month. She still observes her birthday. Her only wish is that someone would tell her where her daughter's body is. "I appeal to the person who knows. Please tell me, even anonymously, where have you left my daughter?"
Man says he can't recall saying he had 'killed' girl
By RACHEL HILL  Friday 1st September 1995  Canberra Times
A 34-year-old man who had been prone to making up "bravado building-type stories over the years" told the ACT Coroner's Court yesterday that he could not remember telling one about a missing Canberra girl.
It had been alleged that Mark Ellis, of O'Connor, and Stephen Vann Pickering, of Scullin, bragged about killing Elizabeth Herfort. Miss Herfort was last seen by friends at the ANU Bar on Friday, June 13, 1980. Her body has never been recovered.
Chief Coroner Ron Cahill heard evidence from two different statements given by Mr Ellis to police on September 11, 1994. Mr Ellis said he made the second statement because he had been "trying to be helpful" but said yesterday that the information had been "highly unreliable".
The court heard from Mr Ellis's second statement that he had told Mr Vann Pickering a story while walking in Kingston. Mr Ellis had told Mr Vann Pickering how he had picked Miss Herfort up from the ANU Bar, repeatedly
raped her, killed her and wrapped her body in a mattress. He had then dumped her body off a bridge into a river on the south coast. He had not thought Mr Vann Pickering had taken him seriously. He had enjoyed "shocking" people with his stories and said he might have been "having fun pulling this guy's chain". In evidence yesterday, Mr Ellis said he could not remember telling the story to Mr Vann Pickering but, even if he had, there was "absolutely no basis of fact" to it and he "couldn't stress that more clearly". He said he had met Mr Vann Pickering "one or two times" during the 1980s. Mr Ellis had known of Miss Herfort's disappearance and recalled the publicity surrounding it but did not know what she looked like.
Mr Ellis apologised to the Herfort family saying that he might have made "flippant remarks and didn't anticipate the consequences". The court has heard that Mr Vann Pickering had told his former girlfriend a similar story about the abduction but, when questioned in court, said he had heard the story from Mr Ellis.
The inquest will continue on a date yet to be fixed.


Friday 13 June 1980 Elizabeth Herfort 28 Years Missing

By Paisley June 12, 2008   - The Riot Act

9pm Friday 13 June 2008 marks 28 years since my friend Elizabeth Herfort was last seen. 

I knew Elizabeth from my school days at Phillip College.  She was one of my classmates and we ‘hung’ in the same large circle of friends.  She was an intelligent, thoughtful and kind girl.  She was a very nice person.  In 1980 we were finished year 12 and had moved on to University.  Elizabeth was studying at ANU as were others in our group that Friday night.  I was studying at Art School.

I remember that day so clearly.  Some of our group started to arrive at the Union Bar about lunchtime, others, including Elizabeth, arrived later after lectures finished.  We stayed until the bar closed at 9pm.  There was no live music planned for the Refectory or upstairs in the bar so we all said our goodbyes and went home our seperate ways.  Although we had been at the bar for several hours we drunk slowly and chatted a lot… and I don’t recall anyone in our group being drunk.  Binge drinking was uncool and we were more interested holding sophisticated, intelligent discussions on topical issues.

Elizabeth lived on the Southside and in those days buses were few and far between after 7pm.  Canberra was a quiet place and kids felt safe hitching home.    

Elizabeth was a happy girl, with plans and dreams for the future.  It is impossible that she simply chose to ‘drop out’… it was not in her nature. 

In the years that have gone past I  can’t help but think of the fear and horror she must have felt later that night.  I wish there was some sort of warning of the events that would unfold.  There wasn’t.  It was just a happy Friday night’s get together for a group of friends, just like others we had shared.

The night previous to Elizabeth’s disappearance two nurses disappeared after an evening spent at the TollHouse Hotel in Parramatta and I can’t help but wonder if this is more than coincidence.

Please, at 9pm on Friday night pause for a moment to think of Elizabeth.  The family and friends she left behind would all like to help her find peace at last.

If anyone has any information regarding Elizabeth (no matter how insignificant it may seem to you) I urge you to contact CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000.


Still no trace of Canberra teenager Elizabeth Herfort

Young girl's mystery disappearance "haunts" family 36 years on



Monday, 13 June 2016, Publish time:7:40am

Today (Monday, June 13) marks 36 years since Elizabeth Herfort went missing, yet despite the years that have passed, police and family members remain hopeful that someone will come forward with information that will lead to this case being resolved.

Elizabeth was last seen on June 13, 1980 at the Australian National University (ANU) Bar in Canberra. 

Between 9pm and 9.45pm that night a person fitting Elizabeth’s description was seen hitch-hiking on the southbound carriageway leading to Commonwealth Avenue. 

It’s believed this same person was then given a lift in a motor vehicle along Commonwealth Avenue to the intersection of Coronation Drive. 

Elizabeth failed to return home that night and has not been seen or heard from since.

“Police will always maintain hope that this case could come to a resolution if someone were to come forward with more information,” Criminal Investigations Detective Acting Sergeant Tristan Thexton said.

“It’s been 36 years ago since Elizabeth disappeared, someone could have seen something or heard something but has yet to come forward with that information.”

“We are appealing to those people to please come forward with your information no matter how small you believe that information may be, it could be the missing piece that helps us solve this case.”

“The lack of resolution or closure is one of the hardest aspects of a long-term missing person’s case and it’s something we know Elizabeth’s family has lived with since the day of her disappearance.”

Anyone who believes they have information regarding the disappearance of Elizabeth Herfort, is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or via the Crime Stoppers ACT website. Information can be provided anonymously.