**Shirley's age according to official government records was 64 at the
time she went missing but her immediate family says she was actually 73.
Shirley Williams was last seen at 5.35 pm on Monday, 28th December
2020 at the Coober Pedy Hospital SA. Following her hospital consult
Shirley self-discharged and left the hospital on foot. When she
failed to return to her primary place of residence her family became
concerned and reported her missing to the Coober Pedy Police.
Extensive searches by police, SES volunteers, Aboriginal trackers
and family were undertaken over the pursuing days however Shirley
was not located. Despite extensive enquiries made to date by police
Shirley’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Shirley was last seen wearing a grey coloured hooded jumper with
purple sleeves (as pictured)
Anyone with information which may assist in locating the whereabouts
of Shirley is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Family of missing Coober Pedy elder Shirley Williams seeks more
resources for search
The family of a 64**-year-old Coober Pedy elder, who has shown signs
of dementia and has been missing for more than a week, is pleading
for more resources to be devoted to the search for her.
SA Police say the last confirmed sighting of Shirley Williams was at
the Coober Pedy Hospital on Monday, December 28, 2020, before her
family reported her missing on Thursday, December 31.
A police aerial searched for Ms Williams was conducted on Sunday and
yesterday, but was called off this morning, leaving a group of 30
authorities and 20 family members to continue the land search.
Coober Pedy is an opal mining town in outback South Australia, where
mine shafts in the ground are common.
Ms William's nephew, Jonathon Fatt-Clifton, said while the family
appreciated the assistance so far, they were concerned about the
speed of the search.
"The family realise that it's Christmas, and we appreciate
everything that is being done," he said.
"But I think the emergency around this, with Aunty Shirley having
signs of dementia, she's in her 60s, we just would like every
possible resource given to this situation so that we can do the best
we can to find this little old Aboriginal lady.
'She may have got disoriented'
Mr Fatt-Clifton said despite Ms Williams showing signs of illness,
she had not been lost before.
"She had signs of dementia, but she could hold a conversation, she
could talk, she could communicate with people," he said.
"But we just don't know with dementia, maybe one of these particular
days she may have got disoriented.
"The family knew that's what she would do, and would keep an eye out
Mr Fatt-Clifton said Ms William's family realised she was missing
around Tuesday or Wednesday last week.
"There were whispers among the family about Aunty Shirley not being
spotted around town, and family were asking have we seen her," Mr
He said the family initially thought she might have been given a
lift to another part of the state, but it soon became apparent she
Police, family seek public help
SA Police Superintendent Paul Roberts said Ms Williams was wearing a
grey hoodie, grey pants and at her last confirmed sighting at the
Coober Pedy Hospital, which she left without being officially
"Shirley left the hospital of her own volition," he said.
Superintendent Roberts said other possible sightings of Ms Williams
in the town after December 28 could not be confirmed.
He defended the police response to the first missing person's
report, saying that as the hospital is within the township, a land
search was deemed sufficient.
"A family member that's a tracker has been doing some searching
independent of ours, and we've had a police officer embedded with
the family to support them, and make sure we're all working
Both the family and police are pleading with any tourists or locals
who were in Coober Pedy over the New Year's period to come forward
if they have CCTV, dash cam footage or any information that may
assist with the search.
Family of missing Indigenous elder asks why authorities aren't doing
more to help find her
Aunty Shirley Williams was last seen leaving the Coober Pedy
Hospital after a check-up on 28 December and was reported missing on
New Year’s Eve.
Published 8 January 2021 at 1:49pm
By Peta Doherty
The family of an Indigenous
Coober Pedy elder who lives with dementia and has been missing
for 11 days in remote South Australia is questioning why more is
not being done to find her.
Aunty Shirley Williams was
last seen leaving the Coober Pedy Hospital after a check-up on
28 December and was reported missing on New Year’s Eve.
The Williams clan matriarch is aged 64 by government records but
nearly a decade older, according to her immediate family, who are
“losing our minds” trying to find her.
“We need help every day because time is running out," niece Stella
Williams told SBS News. “We don’t know what that old lady’s
situation is right now, we really need help.
Police have called off a
formal land and air search but said the investigation into the
disappearance was continuing.
“SAPOL uniform staff and
detectives from Port Augusta and Adelaide remain in Coober Pedy
to support local staff with this active investigation,” local
area commander superintendent Paul Roberts said.
Aunty Shirley’s daughter said
she couldn’t bear to think of her mother lost and confused in
“We’ve been searching every
day from morning to sundown. We’re not going to give up,”
Jillian Williams said.
Jillian and her siblings
followed the tracks of their mother’s recognisable “small
steps” to an old opal mining field, about 20 kilometres
northwest of Coober Pedy.
They fear she became
confused and set out for an old family home in Andamooka,
nearly 500 kilometres from Coober Pedy.
For their mother’s
younger sister, Maureen Williams, the police search effort
was too little, too late.
“She’s an old lady with
dementia and we are worried about her,” she told SBS News.
“Nothing was done enough
to find her. I miss her."
Last Friday the
Williams family said they went to the Coober Pedy police
station to ask police for more assistance.
They feel let down the
formal operation did not get underway until Sunday
afternoon and that police were “searching everywhere we
have already searched.”
They even appealed to
the South Australian Police Commissioner for help on
“The family would like
to invite the police and the emergency services to join
their search. They would also like to invite the South
Australian Commissioner of Police to provide some search
and rescue support,” a message from the family in the
town’s local paper read on Sunday morning .
said local police began investigations immediately.
“The investigation and
initial local search was upscaled into a broader search
operation when those local enquiries had not located Ms
Williams,” the local area commander for South
Australia’s far north said.
“The search effort
included local police, police from metropolitan
Adelaide, specialist search coordination, ground
searches and aerial searching.
staff from Whyalla, Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Roxby
Downs and Coober Pedy supported."
Still, Stella Williams is
convinced her aunty would have been found if the operation had
“She doesn’t walk fast, she
walks slow,” she said.
“And we would have found her
by now if everything was a bit earlier.
“It’s been days now and she’s
been out there in the dark, in the cold and it’s been raining.”
Aunty Shirley’s only son Jason
said more needed to be done.
“That’s my mother who’s out
there in the middle of nowhere, she’s a human being like us,” Mr
Superintendent Roberts said he
was comfortable the investigation had been conducted to a high
He said he understood family
members remained concerned, as police were, but said they had
been consulted throughout the investigation.
SHIRLEY WILLIAMS LOCAL COOBER PEDY RESIDENT – STILL MISSING
Shirley Williams aged 73** and suffering from
the onset of dementia did not return home after a medical check up
at Coober Pedy Hospital on Monday 28th December 2020 onward but was
sighted twice on Thursday 31 December 2020.
During that morning Shirley was seen in the Catacomb
Road area; at the Kempe Road creek area; and during that afternoon
she was seen “walking purposefully west”on the 17 Mile Road, near
the corner of Kempe Road (Oodnadatta Road).
Temperatures for those three days was high.
On Friday 1 January, daughter Jillian Williams
requested assistance from the police for her missing mother. The
Williams family and friends had already begun their own search of
the local area, but said there were too few of them searching such a
Saturday morning 2 January the family appealed to the
community for help in their search via the Coober Pedy Regional
Times FB page. The search involved tracking the mother’s small
foot-prints along the side of 17 Mile Road and along a dirt road
that led to an area known as Crocodile Harry’s, or the Kenda Flat
The Williams family and close friends set out on
Saturday morning to continue their search with local resident Jason
Wright who volunteered with his dirt bike and a drone.
Saturday afternoon 2 January saw the arrival of a
police initiated search plane at Coober Pedy.
Sunday morning 3 January Police enlisted the support
of local Emergency Service crews and followed leads that the family
and locals had recommended including Ryan’s Hill, Flat Hill Road,
Coober Pedy Area School, Kenda Flat Opal Field, Dead Horse Gully
Field and a number of other locations.
Jillian Williams (daughter of Shirley) issued the
following statement expressing the family’s gratitude for offers of
“We would like to thank all of those people who
offered to join our search on Saturday and those who have come
forward with information.”
“We have a further request and that is, if people are
aware of abandoned houses, buildings or sheds, please take the time
to have a look. Shirley was in the habit of stopping to look at old
memorabilia and might have taken shelter, fallen asleep or had an
“Also if you could check any old open cuts, dugouts
that may be empty or open.”
“Thank you also for your messages of comfort and
concern. As soon as we know anything, we will tell you.”
The Williams family told SBS News, that they feared
she became confused and set out for an old family home in Andamooka,
nearly 500 kilometres from Coober Pedy.
As of the 21 January, Shirley Williams had not been
A Police spokesperson told the Coober Pedy Regional
Times on Thursday 21 January,“Police hold serious concerns for the
welfare of missing woman Shirley Williams. A large scale area search
involving emergency services was conducted over several days earlier
this month but unfortunately nothing was located.”
“The investigation into her whereabouts remains
active and ongoing with Detectives from the Port Augusta CIB
conducting enquiries every day, including speaking to interstate
policing counterparts and Elders.”
“Anyone with information is asked to contact the
Police Assistance Line immediately on 131 444.”