BARWICK - LOCATED
National Missing Persons Week: The search for Ursula Barwick
"It's never too late to find your missing person."
That's the message Melissa Pouliot has for suffering families after
her missing cousin, Ursula Barwick, was recently found following a
Ursula, aged 17, had died in a car accident on the Hume Highway, near Tarcutta,
in 1987, only weeks after she went missing.
Ursula had been living in Sydney under a new name, Jessica Pearce, and it was
that name her new friends provided to investigators after the crash.
The authorities failed to track down her family and Ursula was buried in Emu
Plains cemetery under the name of Jessica, where she lay undiscovered until Ms
Pouliot re-sparked the search.
The Merimbula-based author wrote the crime fiction novel, Write
About Me, as a way to honour Ursula's memory, but it created the
momentum that saw the case
reopened by police and Ursula found.
Ms Pouliot chronicled this journey through a series of novels and last week
unveiled her fifth, Found,
which was launched in Canberra.
Ms Pouliot will launch Missing Persons Week 2017 – the annual national campaign
to raise awareness of the issues and impacts surrounding missing persons – in
the Bega Valley this week.
The theme of this year's campaign is "Still waiting for you to come home".
Like Ursula, 25,000 of the 38,000 people reported missing in Australia each year
are under the age of 18.
Teens aged between 13 and 17 are six times more likely to go missing than the
rest of the Australian population.
Young women are the most susceptible.
While the majority of missing people are found within a short period of time,
there are more than 2000 listed as long-term missing, which means they have been
missing for more than three months.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said for every missing
person there were family, friends and colleagues left behind, still waiting for
them to come home.
He said, in some circumstances, disappearing might be viewed as the only option
to escape a bad situation, but in some extreme cases, a young person might have
become a victim of crime.
Commissioner Colvin said young people went missing for a range of reasons,
including miscommunication, misadventure, or because of a misunderstanding.
While Ursula has been found, the police case finally closed, and a memorial held
at the Emu Plains Cemetery earlier this month, Ms Pouliot said the family's
"The long journey of her death is not over yet," she said.
"We are still trying to join dots that connect Ursula and the fictional
character of Jessica Pearce, who she created for her new friends in Sydney."
The details and circumstances of Ursula's death are now with the NSW Coroner.
Ms Pouliot said she hoped for clear answers to the many unanswered questions.
But she said Ursula had left a clear legacy for the families and friends of
"[Ursula's] legacy, the thing that will inspire others for many years to come,
is that it is never too late to find your missing person."
To view Australia's national register of missing persons, visit the National
Missing Persons Coordination Centre website at www.missingpersons.gov.au,
where information about support services across Australia can also be found.
Anyone with information relating to a missing person is urged to contact their
local police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.