It’s been 20 years since 19-year-old Belinda Peisley disappeared from Katoomba and her family still has no answers.
It took eight years for the police to report Ms Peisley’s death to the coroner, and in 2012 a coroner’s inquiry found she died in or around Katoomba, but couldn’t say how. The case was referred to the Unsolved Homicide Unit for re-investigation.
Ms Peisley was last seen on September 26, 1998 and her remains have never been found. She had inherited a significant amount of money before her disappearance, and was addicted to heroin.
An ABC documentary Who Killed Belinda Peisley? which airs on August 7 during national missing persons week, raises more questions about her disappearance.
Ms Peisley’s father Mark Wearne, who is part of the film, told the Gazette he didn’t believe his daughter’s disappearance had been adequately investigated.
“There are questions this documentary will not answer and there are holes it leaves. Did the police – the homicide squad – look at any other persons of interest? Were all these people’s [persons of interest] alibis tested?”
He said there also could be a link between the disappearance of Leura woman Maureen McLaughlin in 1992 (her body was found in Lithgow later that year) and Kellie Carmichael from Geelong who was last seen in a Katoomba hostel in 2001.
“They were women of similar age and similar social situation and were all travelling in the same circles,” Mr Wearne said.
“The common thread is the drug scene in Katoomba.
“Was there a serial killer operating in the Blue Mountains at the time?”
Mr Wearne said he has not been contacted by the homicide squad since 2013.
“There is so much that could have been done,” he said. “It’s been very difficult”.
Mr Wearne raised one of Ms Peisley’s two sons, Cody, until he turned 16 and, Mr Wearne recalls him frequently asking what happened to his mother and when he would see her again.
“How do you tell a six-year-old that, that there’s a strong possibility that his mother’s been murdered? … I evaded the subject when he was very young.”
Documentary-maker Helen Barrow followed the case for more than seven years, taking her cameras into the homes and lives of Ms Peisley’s family, neighbours, friends, witnesses and persons of interest, and into the courtroom each day of the inquest, to follow her story.
“We started filming in 2012 and 2013 and the coroner and counsel assisting agreed to further filming in 2018, and the NSW police declined to be involved in the documentary,” Ms Barrow said.
A NSW Police spokeswoman said: “Despite extensive investigations and numerous ground searches by local police and the Homicide Squad over the years, Belinda has not been located.
“Investigators identified numerous persons of interest and explored various lines of inquiry, which were tested during a coronial inquiry.
“The investigation into Belinda’s disappearance and suspected murder will be formally reviewed under the new unsolved framework in coming months.”
A $100,000 reward remains in place for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Ms Peisley’s disappearance.
Mr Wearne has appealed for anyone with information, no matter how trivial, to come forward. Call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.