Rose Rain HOWELL
Rose Rain HOWELL
||dark brown/black Mohawk
was last seen in the Bellingen,
NSW town-ship on Friday the
11th of April 2003. When last seen Rose was in good spirits and was organising
her birthday party.
At 5:30pm she was seen hitchhiking north on the Pacific
Highway near the Old Pacific Highway turn-off to Perry Hill and Repton.
She has not
been spoken to or sighted since and there are concerns for her welfare
Aboriginal and is described as approximately 160-165cms tall, short dark
brown/black Mohawk haircut on top and sides of head shaved (zero cut). She
has hazel/green eyes, thin eyebrows, 2 small moles on her left forehead about 1cm apart below hairline, small mole
on left side of neck and olive skin. She was last seen wearing a black tank top, dark grey jeans, black belt with
silver buckle and black boots.
|Reported missing to:
Bellingen Police Station.
Police Renew Appeal For Missing Woman - Coffs Harbour
11 April 2005
On the 12 April 2005, Rose Rain Howell has been missing for 2 years . Operation
Chelonia was established to investigate her disappearance. Police believe she
may have been the victim of foul play.
On the morning of Friday 11 April, Rose left her mother's home in Bundagen,
about 20km south of Coffs Harbour. She went to the library in Bellingen and
worked on invitations to her 19th birthday party, (Monday 21 April 2003). After
Rose left the library an unknown person drove her from Bellingen and dropped off
about 5:00pm at Marx Hill, several kilometres away. It is unclear how Rose left
Marx Hill but it is believed she was picked up by another motorist.
The last sighting of Rose was at 5:30pm on 11 April when she was seen
hitchhiking north on the Pacific Highway near the Old Pacific Highway turn-off
to Perry Hill and Repton.
Rose is 20-years-old, she is described as being of white appearance, about
160-165cm tall with olive skin, hazel/green eyes, thin eyebrows and 2 moles
about 1cm apart below the hairline with another mole on the left side of her
neck. At the time of her disappearance she had short dark brown hair with the
sides shaved and a Mohawk on top. She was wearing a black tank top, dark grey
jeans, a black belt with a silver buckle and black boots.
Anyone with information regarding
the disappearance of Rose Rain
Howell is urged to contact Coffs
Harbour Police on 6652 0299 or
Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000
Appeal from Rose's mother
An outgoing woman with a short, dark mohawk and hazel-green eyes, Rose Howell
was last seen on Friday, April 11, 2003, walking along Perry's Road in Repton,
NSW. Rose turned 20 in April this year, and at the time she disappeared had just
been invited to join a band. Her mother Malila tells her story ...
As my daughter Rose left with friends for Bellingen, I said to her, "Let me know
if you need a lift home."
Rose, my youngest of four, was planning a big party at home on April 21 — the
day after her 19th birthday. We live at Repton, which is about a 15-minute drive
from Bellingen in northern NSW.
Rose spent the day in town making invitations on the Bellingen library's
computer and personally delivering them to her friends. She didn't come home
that night, but she often stayed in town overnight. However, by Sunday morning I
was seriously worried.
Though Rose is a determined and independent young woman, I knew she hadn't run
away — her mobile, electric bass and the rest of her belongings were at home.
She was looking forward to her party and was excited because she'd been invited
to join a band. When she didn't turn up for her appointments in Coffs Harbour on
Monday, I went to the police. They didn't think she'd run away, either.
We found out Rose had been coming home when she vanished. She had hitched to the
corner of the Old Pacific Highway and Perry's Road at about 5.30-6pm and started
walking. Rose was within five kilometres of home — but she didn't make it there.
It was dusk and raining when someone saw her at the top of Perry's Hill. This
was the last time anyone saw her.
I put up posters in Bellingen, describing her — 160-165cm tall, hazel-green
eyes, with a very short, dark mohawk and wearing a black singlet top,
charcoal-coloured jeans and black boots.
The police don't have any clues. Their only lead is an anonymous letter from May
28 last year but no-one came forward when I went on television to appeal to the
The local community has raised a $20,000 reward for accurate information about
All I can do is keep putting up posters and talking to the media. I'll never let
go of hope. Rose, if you're out there somewhere, please let me know. I miss you.
If you have any information, please call Coffs Harbour police station on (02)
- with thanks to WOMAN'S DAY magazine
It's Missing Person's Week and Katya Quigley spoke to the mother of a
Bellingen woman who has been missing since 2003
One of the worst fears for any parent is the thought
of their child going missing. Around 35,000 people are reported missing
in Australia each year - that's one person every 15 minutes. While 95%
of missing persons are found within a week, there are currently 1,600
people who have been missing for more than six months.
It's missing person's week and the slogan for the week this year
is "When someone goes missing. More than one person is lost"
Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay told Elloise Farrow Smith that
there are more than 20 long term missing people on the Coffs Coast. He
said that people shouldn't hesitate to contact police if they are
concerned about a family member or friend who is missing. "What we say
to people is not to wait 24 hours to report that someone is missing. If
they've actually got fears for their safety and their location is
unknown. It's not a crime to go missing," he said.
Rose Howell went missing in the Bellingen area on Friday April 11
2003, she was only 18 at the time. Her mother, Malila Howell, told Katya
Quigley she felt worried about Rose the day she went missing when she
didn't come home or call.
"After three days it was something's wrong, something's gone
wrong, what's going on? Where is she? And then you kind of get desperate
as the time goes past and you haven't got an answer to this right in
your face, really important question and there's no way you can get an
answer," she said.
"She was last seen on Perry's Hill on the evening of the day she
went missing," Malila said. "Some weeks afterwards the police got an
anonymous letter with details in it that they tried to follow up that
intimated that she was dead."
"I went to all her haunts and places that she knew and talked to
all her friends and I put posters up around Bellingen and around the
She said she is always wondering, and thinking about Rose. "You go
on with life because that's what you do and it's like all the time you
carry along this black hole with you," she said.
Detective Inspector Lindsay appealed for anyone who has any
information about Rose Howell to please contact Coffs Harbour police on
6652 0299. He also said that anyone who is missing to please contact
family or friends. "We would appeal to any person that hasn't been in
contact with their family and next of kin for a long period of time to
get in contact."
Malila said that if Rose is listening, she would like to send her
love to her. "If you're alive I'd really like to know that you are and
there's a big hole in life where you used to be but I hope your life is
going well," she said.
Dirty Little Secrets: Long Bay jail prisoner
claims to hold major clue to missing teen
It was less than a week before Christmas in 2012 when detectives from Maroubra
police station in Sydney’s east spoke with a Long Bay prison inmate.
Days before the coronial inquest into Rose Howell’s 2003 disappearance, Crime
Stoppers had received an anonymous call claiming the good-humoured and
independent teenager from the small community of Bundagen on the NSW mid-north
coast had been murdered by a prisoner there.
It would turn out the source of information was the prisoner himself.
Giving evidence at that inquest was Detective Senior Constable Peter Watt, who
had travelled more than 500km from Sydney to the Bellingen court on the north
Detective Watt was put in charge of Rose’s case after an earlier investigation
failed to locate the 18-year-old or establish any real circumstances around her
Rose was last seen alive around 6.45pm on Friday 11 April, 2003, just nine days
before her 19th birthday. She had been hitchhiking north along the Pacific
Highway towards her home in Bundagen – a 30-minute drive from Coffs Harbour. She
has never been heard from again.
In accordance with the Coroners Act 2009, on December 14, 2011 - eight years
after she went missing - Detective Watt officially listed Rose as deceased.
One year later, in mid-December 2012, the inquest was held.
Retired musician, Lawrence Fowler, came forward to say he and his friend Leah
Munro had seen Rose as they drove from Coffs Harbour towards Bellingen on Friday
11 April, 2003.
Lawrence said he thought Rose was heading to Bellingen, and given it was raining
and getting dark, he stopped to offer the teenager a lift. He remembered meeting
her earlier that year in a Bellingen cafe where they chatted about music.
“The girl accepted and got into the car. She then changed her mind and told Mr
Fowler and Ms Munro that she had to go to Bundagen. She then got out of the car
and Mr Fowler and Ms Munro proceeded on their way,” Rose’s coroner’s report
Another witness, William Robb, said he saw a girl fitting Rose’s description
sitting on a wooden bench later that afternoon at a lookout near Perrys Road –
an area just outside the township of Repton and less than 20 minutes from
William was on his way to pick up his daughter from his sister’s house at
Raleigh, about a nine-minute drive away. On his return home, at around 6.15pm,
he said he again saw Rose at the lookout and noticed a car parked nearby.
William said he couldn’t recall much about the car’s description, except to say
it was “white” or “yellow”. He said he continued driving as it didn’t look like
Rose was in need of a lift.
Alan Scott, a Bellingen tow truck operator, also came forward during the
inquest. He had known Rose as she regularly walked past his workshop and said he
remembered seeing her in the “early night time” standing on the bank of the Old
Pacific Highway at Pine Creek.
Alan said she was about 100m to 120m south of the turnoff to Bundagen. When
quizzed over the date, he first said he thought it might have been April 3 or
April 13. He later said it could have been April 11.
It’s worth noting here that the body of 20-year-old Melbourne hitchhiker, Ineka
Hinkley, was found in bushland near a truck-stop also at Pine Creek on
November 6, 1996.
Back to Rose. There were reports of a number of other sightings of the teenager
in the days after April 11, 2003. Though police have been unable to verify them.
As her inquest continued into the second day, it was abruptly adjourned when the
Crime Stoppers call was revealed.
The individual behind that call has only ever been identified publicly as
‘Prisoner A’. Little is known about ‘Prisoner A’ other than he is serving time
behind bars and is also a mental health patient at the Long Bay Correctional
During his first conversation with Detective Watt on December 19, ‘Prisoner A’
alleged Rose had been abducted before being killed. He also claimed he and
another individual were involved in the teenager’s death and that he knew the
location of her body.
‘Prisoner A’ was interviewed by detectives again on March 6, 2013 and one day
later cops searched an area of Coffs Harbour which they thought could be Rose’s
final resting place.
Six days later, the area was searched again with a police cadaver dog. No sign
of Rose’s body was found.
It should be noted here that in the coroner’s report ‘Prisoner A’ was considered
too mentally unstable by doctors to be allowed any sort of leave from the Long
Bay Hospital and as such did not help with the search.
While Detective Watt accepted the prisoner appeared to believe the information
about Rose was true, his account was found to have a number of “significant
inconsistences” between the first and second interviews.
These inconsistencies included the prisoner’s mental state and that he had been
associating with another prisoner who had been receiving “considerable media
attention”. The name of this prisoner has also been kept confidential by
The coroner’s report suggested ‘Prisoner A’ may be using the information he
provided to detectives to obtain “some kind of attention for himself”.
“It did appear to be the case that he had some personal knowledge of Rose and a
sound knowledge of the geographical areas in which the killing of Rose and
disposed of her body was said to have occurred,” the coroner’s report read.
“That knowledge would not, however, be exclusive to ‘Prisoner A’.”
Now, while it could well be the case that ‘Prisoner A’ was delusional when he
came to ring Crime Stoppers back in 2012 and truly had nothing to do with Rose’s
disappearance - a thought has kept bubbling way at the back of my mind since
reading Rose’s coroner’s report – what about the weather.
In the nine years since she went missing until her inquest, NSW had record
amounts of rain, including, in 2012, the wettest March since 1956. While I do
not doubt the thoroughness of the police search, could weather conditions over
those nine years have shifted any remains in the soil?
Perhaps this is just wishful thinking on my part that searchers were in the
right location but looking in slightly in the wrong spot.
Tragically, it is at this point in the series where Rhoda Roberts re-enters.
In July 1998 Rhoda lost her twin sister Lois.
Her bound and tortured remains were found in the thick scrub of the Whian Whian
state forest six months and 10 days after she was reported missing.
On April 30, 2002, six years after Lois’ murder, her family was dealt another
nightmare blow when Rhoda’s cousin and mother-of-two, Lucy McDonald, vanished
from her Lismore Heights home without a trace.
Tragically her daughter returned home from work that evening to find Lucy’s keys
and wallet but no sign of mum.
“Poor Lucy,” Rhoda tells me, her voice drained. “Her body has never been found”.
A spokesperson for NSW State Crime Command says local police conducted numerous
inquiries to locate Lucy, including following up sightings at various places,
including Cowangla, Nimbin, Lismore, and near Tweed Heads. But she was never
After exhausting “all lines of inquiry”, detectives referred the case to the NSW
Coroner with an inquest into her disappearance held in 2008. The NSW Coroner
returned an open finding.
As to where that investigation is up to now, I’m told Lucy’s disappearance
remains under the responsibility of Lismore detectives and that is all I’m told.
families of Lois Roberts, Lee
Ellen Stace, Ineka Hinkley, Margaret,
Rose and Lucy McDonald the search for answers never stops.
“Since the coroner’s inquiry (we haven’t heard) a bloody word from them (the
police). Not a word,” Rhoda tells me.
The inquest into her twin sister’s murder was held 15-years ago and returned an
“The cold case unit (detective) came and spoke to us (back in 1998) and then
they were disbanded … and he basically told us we’d have to wait three years
because there was so many more (cases) they had to investigate before her.”
While the waiting is agonising for Rhoda and her family, a part of her
understands. She says that one of the investigation officers undertook in the
years since Lois’ murder resulted in a husband being charged with the cold case
murder of a local Ballina girl.
“They can have an effect all those years later but we’ve never heard from the
Lismore police since that coroner’s inquiry and yet time and again there are
more girls missing and murders,” she says.
“So, I just think the level of police compassion is zero when it comes to
Aboriginal murder victims.”
Rhoda then mentions Lynette Daley and her six-year wait for justice.
The young indigenous mother-of-seven died from severe blood loss after she was
violently sexually assaulted during a camping trip on a north coast beach near
Iluka in 2011.
In November, it took a jury 32 minutes to convict Adrian Attwater – Lynette’s
then boyfriend – and his friend Paul Maris. Attwater was this month sentenced to
more than 14 years jail for manslaughter while Maris was handed almost seven
years jail for tampering with evidence. Both men were also found guilty of the
aggravated sexual assault of Lynette.
“They knew who the perpetrators were and they still waited six years and they
have no idea what that does to families. They have no idea what it does,” Rhoda
“We will never, ever, ever be the same people we were (before Lois’ murder).
When I ask
the NSW State Crime Command for an update on the status of the victimscovered
in this series, the response is less than heartening.
Lois, Lee, Ineka, Rose and Margaret’s cases are all with the Unsolved Homicide
Team for further investigation. As mentioned, Lucy’s disappearance remains in
the hands of Lismore detectives.
To this day, Terri Blackwell, has much anger. She has ongoing trauma from having
to identify her best friend Lee’s belongings as well as sitting through the
14-day inquest in 2009 at the end of which the coroner returned an open finding.
Without missing a beat, she recalls how the open hearing was told Lee lost her
life to “means other than natural causes”.
If that wasn’t enough, Lee’s family was forced to mourn her death a second time
when, four years after her murder, her bones were finally returned to the family
When I ask the NSW State Crime Command about any hope the families might have
these cases could one day be solved, Detective Chief Inspector Chris Olen tells
me that reality comes down to people coming forward with information. If
officers are presented “fresh and compelling evidence” it will be actively
pursued, he says.
Gary McEvoy, a retired Coffs Harbour senior police officer who supervised
detectives investigating both Rose’s disappearance and Lee’s murder, is more
“Nowadays all documents are scanned so there’s the paper copy and the scanned
copy and there’s a computer case manager. There are quite a few systems that
would still be there now, probably even better than when I was there and it’s
very easy to reactivate,” he says.
“I’m sure the police would encourage anyone with information to come forward and
they would make a prompt assessment of the information and reopen the
investigation if required.”
Which also to me begs the question, what about advances in DNA technology.
Associate professor of forensic genetics with University of Canberra, Dennis
McNevin, tells me it is indeed possible for DNA evidence to be retested after
all this time, though it all depends on the quantity of the sample and how it
has been stored.
“If evidence is stored appropriately, it should yield a DNA profile for many
years,” he says.
“We often obtain DNA profiles from 20- to 25-year-old blood stains in our
who has worked with the Australian Federal Police and trained members
of the Indonesian, Thai and Iraqi police services, says the same “basic
technology” used at the time of the murders continues to be used today, he
points to the fact now a profile “can be generated from one billionth of a gram”
I ask him if evidence was retested today for traces of DNA, would that testing
provide better results, or offer greater possible matches.
He breaks it down for me.
“The only thing ‘better’ would be the sensitivity, that is, the ability to
obtain a DNA profile that might not have been detected previously,” he says.
“Remember, the point of DNA profiling is to restrict a match to one individual -
either the victim or the perpetrator. Things get a little more complicated if
there is a mixed DNA profile - that is, more than one person contributed DNA.
This could be the case if the victim’s DNA is mixed with the perpetrator’s DNA
or if there were multiple perpetrators.”
DNA procedures have been a consistent source of mystery for families of the
victims featured in this series. For those I have managed to track down, they
all adamantly claimed DNA retesting has not taken place in the cases involving
their loved ones.
The NSW State Crime Command could not give a definitive response on whether or
not the DNA in these cases has been retested.
Another blow for the victims' families.
When I ask Terri if she has a message for anyone who has information that could
help detectives solve Lee’s case, her voice is clear and direct.
“Put themselves in Lee’s shoes, like what if it was one of their family
members,” she says.
“How would they feel if someone was nervous or uncomfortable about saying
something? Someone knows something. No one can ever keep something to
themselves. They’ve got to have told at least one person.”
Rhoda has a similar response.
“The more you ‘um’ and ‘ah’, the more this person is out there and they could be
committing this crime time and time again,” she says.
“By keeping quiet, you’re allowing the particularly perpetrator to continue
doing what he or she obviously gets off on. If you’ve got the slightest bit of
information, you might not think it’s anything great, but it could just be that
tiny little thing that triggers something else. And, would you want your
daughter to be murdered?”
speaks these words, I think back to the first time I heard about Lois’
murder two years ago around the fire in a friend’s backyard.
At the time, it seemed unthinkable that anyone could go more than a year, let
alone a decade, without any answers to what happened to their sister, daughter,
mum and friend in Lois. Next year, it will be 20 years since Lois’ murder.
That’s two decades without answers for Rhoda and her family.
Tragically, the families of Lee, Ineka, Margaret, Rose and Lucy each have
experience of what it’s like to perpetually wait for any news as to the killer
or killers responsible for taking their loved one.
It just makes you think again and again – someone, somewhere, must know what
happened to them.