Missing is a haunting 4 part observational series on Missing Persons and the agencies charged with the burden of locating them. From war-torn Sudan to Parramatta, Missing reveals what few have glimpsed: the machinery, the people, the heartbreak, and the extraordinary successes involved with the phenomena of Missing by exploring live cases, long-term missing, refugees, and people taken from their families. Exploring not only missing persons cases, but the very subject of ‘Missing,’ of dislocation and its ramifications.
Episode 1 The Police Unit
“There’s no set time to report anyone missing… it’s ‘as soon as there’s concern for someone’s safety and welfare.’ That might be five minutes, it might be five days”
-Sgt. Sean Lamerton NSW Missing Persons Unit
30,000 people are reported missing every year in Australia, one every eighteen minutes.
Most fictional depictions of missing persons cases bear little resemblance to what happens on a day-to-day basis in a missing persons unit. In the weeks leading up to Christmas a documentary crew filmed the New South Wales Missing Persons Unit to capture the reality… a reality more complex and unexpected than any fiction. The result is a compelling half hour unravelling live cases from the time they are reported to the unit until the cases are closed.
A young man left his house at 4 o’clock in the morning to go fishing for the day. Three days later his boat is found overturned and washed up on a beach. A police ground and helicopter search have not succeeded in locating him and there are grave concerns for his safety.
Three months ago a woman reported that her husband, a man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Missing. The unit receives a call from a man in response to a missing persons poster who claims he has seen him… between interviews with his wife and the investigations of the unit, he is located and the results are not good.
Episode 2: Long-term Missing
For the families of the long-term missing there is no end to the grieving. Time does not heal. Long Term Missing focuses on two families trapped in a cycle of hope and despair. One is the family of Kylie McKay, a mother of two who disappeared from her home in the middle of the day leaving her keys and wallet on the kitchen table and the back door unlocked. The other is that of Susan Isenhood, a beautiful young woman who disappeared while hitchhiking up the central coast of New South Wales. The strength, generosity of spirit and, most of all, hope that these families have is remarkable. This only makes the experience more harrowing when one of them is found
There are 500 long-term missing cases in New South Wales. The missing persons unit keeps the unidentified remains of 130 people in a place called ‘the bone room.’ Many of these cases can be solved if only the remains can be identified, but their nuclear DNA has entirely degraded, making identification through the traditional methods of DNA testing impossible. Recently, the Missing Persons Unit has begun using the new technique of mitochondrial DNA testing. Through mitochondrial DNA testing one of these cases will be solved.
Episode 3: Red Cross Trace
Every war, every upheaval, every disaster results in more and more missing persons every year. The tracing services of the Red Cross are often the only means of locating them.
For four years after fleeing Sudan, Mary and her family lived in a refugee camp in the dangerous border region of northern Uganda. She now lives a rather typical life with her family in suburban Melbourne, but she fears for the safety of her siblings left behind in the camp 2 years ago She no longer knows where they are or even if they are still alive. Mary’s only hope for finding them is with a Red Cross Message.
Today there are more than 1.2 million displaced people living in northern Uganda, and their situation continues to deteriorate as warring factions escalate in their attacks upon these camps where people have only 25% of the water they need to live. In a world with mobile phones and e-mail where communication is taken for granted, these camps are a glaring exception. Here there are no phone lines and no post offices. Looking for just a few people is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
The crew follows this hand-written message from the Red Cross offices in Melbourne, through Geneva and arrives into Kampala, Uganda when the news breaks that the Lord’s Resistance Army has massacred 186 Sudanese refugees in Lira, the region where her family is believed to be. It is feared that the presence of the documentary crew will endanger the life of the Red Cross worker who will hand-deliver It into the camp, so the Ugandan Red Cross arranges for a VHS video camera to be hired locally with a cinematographer who will film the last leg of the journey up the Nile river, then by motorbike in the hope of finding Augustine, Alex, and Jessica.
Episode 4: Link-Up
10,000 Aborigines are seeking lost families as a result of government policies which succeeded in removing Aboriginal children from their parents in order to place them with white families, or in institutions.
Link-Up is the Aboriginal organisation charged with the overwhelming task of reconnecting these people with lives long thought lost. NSW Link-Up caseworker George Ellis is one such person. Placed in a home himself, as a child, George, like all Link-Up employees first approached Link-Up as a client. We follow him through the heart-wrenching searches of two men and one family.
Ron Smith was not removed from the care of his mother, but when he, as a child, came home one day to find that his baby sister had been taken it nearly destroyed him. When his brother was born he steeled himself against feeling the love he gave his sister again, because he couldn’t stand the pain of such a loss. His brother was taken at the age of 2. Ron has been looking for his brother and sister for 12 years, but there is new evidence which may help his search.
A Generation of the Hamilton family was raised on a ‘half-caste’ mission on Groote Eylandt. When Japanese forces bombed Darwin during World War 2, they were packing into rail cars and taken to New South Wales. None of that generation has been able to return until now, with the assistance of Link-Up.
Brian Marshall was taken from his family and placed into Kempsey boys home at an early age. All of the efforts he and his parents made to communicate with each other were blocked by the warden of the home. His parents died before he ever had a chance to see them and now he’s searching for their last remnants, letters from his father kept by the Warden.