THE disappearance of Suzanne (Suzi) Lawrance from Healesville in 1987 was not big news in Healesville, or anywhere, at the time. Not page 1, not even page 3.
An appeal was made on page 10 for the 16-year-old to contact her family who were “upset”, or for anyone who “knew of her whereabouts” to call police.
The pain and tears of those first frantic weeks which turned into months, then years, is never far from the surface when Liz Westwood talks of the daughter she has never stopped loving.
Now remarried and living back in Warburton where she grew up, Mrs Westwood said 20 years on she is still looking for answers, still hoping one day to hold her daughter in her arms and tell her how she has missed her, and how much she loves her.
She dropped Suzi off at Healesville Memorial Hall on the Saturday night, 7 February, just 10 days before her 17th birthday.
The party, possibly a 21st, was her first big outing after recovering from injuries received in a car crash and she was dressed for the occasion.
She had just returned to Healesville High School after a stint in the workforce and Mrs Westwood said things were fine at home.
It’s a story she has told time and time again over the years as Suzi’s disappearance has surfaced during Missing Persons’ Week, in the Mountain Views newspaper as anniversaries came and went, and in other media. But there is no sense that is any easier for the retelling.
Mrs Westwood recalls she wasn’t concerned when Suzi wasn’t there when she got home on the Saturday night.
“It was no big deal in Healesville at that time,” she said. “I could wake up and have half a dozen kids staying over in the loungeroom.
“It was a very different time.”
She went into Melbourne and then to the country music festival in Yarra Glen but was starting to worry when Suzi was still not home by Sunday night.
On Monday she went to the police.
The puzzle of Suzi’s movements remains incomplete. There are pieces – Suzi left the party distressed.
Two boys spoke to her at the gates of Queen’s Park where she declined their offer to walk her home.
She was seen the next morning in Healesville, wearing a pink and white top, talking at a car with some boys.
Later she was seen by a local woman who knew her at the same country and music festival her mother was at. She was with “a lad” not known to the woman.
A dream a week or so ago, probably prompted by the anniversary and Suzi’s birthday, has reignited Mrs Westwood’s longing for answers.
She has had other dreams; disturbing dreams in which Suzi was always a child, “but this one was comforting,” she said.
She dreamt she had found her. She was in Western Australia, where she had lived as a child, and that she was an adult… with her hair twisted up with a clip.
Her Healesville friends at the time will also be adults now, perhaps with children of their own, and Mrs Westwood is hoping someone may be able to answer the questions she has lived with since Suzi disappeared.
Where did Suzi spend the Saturday night – what were her movements after she was seen at Queen’s Park.
Who were the boys she was seen speaking to in Healesville’s main street on the Sunday morning?
Who was “the lad” she was seen with at the music festival at Yarra Glen.
As she talks of Suzi in the present tense, Mrs Westwood says she knows if Suzi was murdered she may never find her.
But she hopes that the belief of 20 years ago will hold true – that Suzi will come back.
Anyone who can help with the answer Mrs Westwood desperately needs to know is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Description: Healesville Victoria 16 YO
Cold Case detective Mark Thomas spoke with a local woman named Suzanne who, like Suzi, walks with a limp, and is about the same age.
The visit followed a call to Crime Stoppers as a result of the story, but Det Thomas said after speaking to the woman they have discounted any connection.
Suzi’s mother, Liz Westwood, now living in Warburton, has not heard from her daughter since she dropped her off at a Saturday night party at Healesville Memorial Hall on 7 February 1987. She was nearly 17.
Although she was seen in Healesville and Yarra Glen the next day, as far as anyone knows she has never been heard from since.
Mrs Westwood, who has worked with other families of missing children over the years, says she contacted the Missing Persons Unit in February and felt reassured when she was told the Cold Case Unit had been given her daughter’s case.
Det Thomas said Suzi’s disappearance has always been an active case and is one of a number they are reviewing.
“People might have thought things weren’t important but over a period of time they may realise this might be important.
“The article has created interest and people are talking about it so any other small snippet which comes to light, we’d like to hear about it,” he said.
“There are people who saw Suzi who we haven’t been able to identify and if anybody remembers seeing her with anyone we would like to know.”
He said investigations looked at both the possibility of foul play and that Suzi simply doesn’t want to be found.
“Disappearing at that age, it would be unusual (not to make contact) but back in those days it may have been easier to go missing if you wanted to,” Det Thomas said.
“There were a number of confirmed and unconfirmed sightings after she was seen at the party and it was treated initially that she would return of her own accord.
“The fact that she hasn’t leaves us wondering what happened to her.”
While there is no evidence to say otherwise, Mrs Westwood holds onto the hope that Suzi is alive.
“I’ve seen children who come back and they say the longer you are away the harder it is to return,” she said.
“In my heart I still feel she could have just met up with someone nice and be living her life. She could be a mum herself and would be a completely different person.”
Anyone with information is asked to phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.