Karmas disappeared last year, leaving his family with no
idea as to his whereabouts. Photography: Adrian Cook
ALMOST one year ago, Jenny Karmas came home to find her
husband of 26 years had simply disappeared.
Every time I stand at my kitchen window, I see it: my husband
Sam's boat. It was his dream to own one and I can still hear him
asking, "Does anyone want to come out fishing with me?"
He loved to share his enjoyment of it, but I'll have to find a
new home for it now because I don't think Sam will be using it
again; 11 months ago, he walked out of our home, leaving the doors
open and his wallet and keys on the bench, and never came back.
Life has been in limbo ever since. Whenever the phone rings, I
wonder if it's the police with some news. We live in a safe,
suburban area. Sam was a devoted husband and father, and a
much-loved neighbour. I tell myself, "People like Sam don't
mysteriously disappear. He'll walk back through that door one day."
But he never does.
Some people live their whole lives without meeting someone as
special as Sam. I was blessed. I met him at 18; he was pretty much
my first boyfriend. Four years later, in 1985, we married and bought
a two-bedroom house in Punchbowl, in south-west Sydney.
A self-employed builder, Sam could see its potential and we
planned to make it bigger for when we had children.
We wasted no time starting a family. Rebecca was born in 1986,
followed by Daniel three years later and Sarah a year after that.
Sam was so proud of his children - he took photos when they scored
goals in sporting matches, and when Rebecca was the first in the
family to go to university, he had her degree printed onto a gold
Sam drew up the plans for the house - a space for a big table
so we could all eat together, a kitchen looking out over his vegie
garden and four bedrooms. By the time he started doing the work,
Rebecca was 14. That was partly because he could never say no to
helping out a neighbour. When we did begin renovating, the whole
family was involved.
The kids still look back on that time with fondness. It was a
big family project; we were all painting, sanding or cleaning
bricks. But there was still time for laughs. For a while, we had a
big floor area with no walls, similar to a stage, and the kids would
perform shows while Sam video recorded them.
When the house was finished, it was a real family home, built
with real family love.
Every time I thought life couldn't get any better, it did -
especially in 2010, when Sam and I were finally able to take a trip
back to his native Greece together. I'd never seen him happier. He
showed me the place where he was born, I met his relatives and we
toured the islands. It was a perfect time.
And then, out of the blue, on August 11 last year, Sam
disappeared. It was a normal Thursday. We ate breakfast together and
he told me he was staying home to order materials for a job. I
readied myself for work and kissed him goodbye. "See you, darling.
Have a lovely day," he said.
When I came back at about 5.30pm, his ute was out the back and
his toolbox and the shed door were wide open. "Hi, Sam. I'm home," I
called. When he didn't reply, I assumed he was busy and hadn't heard
me. We were due to go out at 7.30pm, so I prepared dinner and then
called out again: "Sam, dinner's ready."
Still nothing. I went outside to look for him. He couldn't
have gone far. He wouldn't have left the house and his toolboxes
I tried his mobile. It was switched off. I thought he'd
forgotten to charge it, although it was strange he hadn't left me a
message. I figured he was dealing with an emergency and went to the
meeting by myself.
When I returned, there was still no sign of him. By the
following morning, I knew something was wrong. I called his brother
and sister and we walked around the neighbourhood, knocking on doors
and asking if anyone had seen him during the day.
The last time anyone saw him was at about 2.30pm. In typical
fashion, Sam had been helping a neighbour move furniture and fix
some locks. Then he'd said he had to go somewhere and walked off. No
one knows where he went.
We called the police. The children and I were numb. We huddled
together on the couch, frightened and bewildered. We kept looking
out the window. When anyone walked past, we wondered, is that him?
So many thoughts raced through my head, I couldn't sleep. I
knew something bad must have happened but, at first, I was sure he'd
return. Maybe someone had tied him up somewhere and the police just
had to find him. But as the days turned to weeks and the weeks
became months, my hopes faded.
Life is strange and complicated when someone's gone missing. I
tried to tell our health insurance company to stop taking the direct
debit for Sam out of our account, but I couldn't say he'd passed
away, especially with no death certificate.
I listen to the news with sharper focus. Every time there's a
report about a body or human bones being found, I think, is it Sam?
Are they going to call me? I'm relieved when they don't, yet I know
I'm postponing the inevitable. One day, they'll call.
I experienced the same feeling when police divers searched the
Georges River, where he used to take his boat. I wanted them to find
something, but I also hoped they wouldn't, because that would mean
he was definitely dead and then we'd have to deal with that.
We haven't had any sort of memorial. Friends have said they'd
like to give thanks for Sam, but I don't want to do anything because
the police might find a body and then we'll have to organise a
funeral. But I think the time is coming when it would be a good
thing to do so people can express their love for Sam and what he's
done for them.
The house still looks the same as the day Sam walked out. I've
packed up his clothes, but I haven't thrown them away.
I still have his tools, his truck and his boat. I know it's
part of moving on, but these things are hard to sort out.
Big celebrations come and go, such as Sarah's 21st birthday,
and we think of him and wonder if there's a chance he can still
think of us, too. We spent Christmas with his family and, as I
watched the kids play on a blow-up water slide, I found myself
smiling: "Oh, Sam would have so been in there playing with them."
Despite everything, my faith has helped me cope. I hope my
prayers will be answered. Someone knows where Sam is and I pray
they'll say what happened to him.
Anyone with information on Sam should call Crime Stoppers on
1800 333 000. National Missing Person's Week runs July 30 to August
5. Visit www.missingpersons.gov.au.
Missing but not forgotten
* Every year, 35,000 people are reported missing in Australia.
* 85 per cent of missing people are found within a week of being
* Today, an estimated 1600 people have been missing for more than