Belinda Peisley mystery: Police excavate beneath Katoomba home

UPDATE 11.45AM WEDNESDAY: The excavation has finished, after hitting sandstone under the house on Tuesday afternoon and being unable to dig any deeper. Police are waiting on the results of forensic testing on the clothing found buried under the house on Monday. 

UPDATE 9.25AM TUESDAY: Forensic investigators have found undergarments in Belinda Peisley’s clothing size during the dig underneath her former home.

The Homicide Squad’s Detective Chief Inspector Grant Taylor said the items were taken to police laboratories, where they are undergoing comprehensive forensic examinations.

“Yesterday’s find is of great interest to Strike Force Belonidae investigators – the undergarments are consistent with Belinda’s clothing size,” Det Ch Insp Taylor said.

“We will await the results of the forensic analysis, which includes DNA testing, to determine whether new lines of inquiry can be explored.”

UPDATE TUESDAY AM: Forensic officers found “items of interest” following a forensic excavation and search at the former home of a Blue Mountains woman who went missing more than 20 years ago.

Police started digging with shovels under the former home of Belinda Peisley on Monday morning and are planning to divide the large backyard into sections and start digging it up on Tuesday.

By Monday afternoon, a NSW Police spokeswoman confirmed that “items of interest have been located”.

The nature of the items is unknown. Police are having them forensically tested.

UPDATE 2.30PM: Police have started a forensic excavation underneath the Katoomba home of Belinda Peisley, who has been missing since 1998 on Monday, December 3.

Police started digging with shovels under the house on Monday and were to divide the large backyard into sections and start digging on Tuesday.

“We reviewed the material we had and we determined from the information we already had in our possession that it was opportunistic for us to conduct these forensic tests today,” Detective Chief Inspector Grant Taylor told a media conference outside the Katoomba home.

“We’re hoping to find some forensic evidence here today, if it’s not the remains of Belinda, other pieces of forensic evidence that we did not have the technology to use back 20 years ago.” 

He said police had put together a series of bits of information that when put together sparked their interest to conduct the forensic tests.

“This is a high priority case. We would love to get to the bottom of what happened and find Belinda especially. We would like to give her a proper burial if we can,” Detective Chief Insp Taylor said.

The Katoomba home had since been rented out, but the tenants moved out a month ago, so police have been able to access the home uninterrupted.

It’s expected the excavation will take three days.

Police have urged anyone who may have further information on Belinda’s disappearance to contact Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000.

UPDATE 12 noon

Belinda Peisley's father Mark Wearne has told a media conference outside the house that he was “very grateful” for the “very heavy police presence” there.

“I’d like to see every copper in NSW be here.”

He said the wait for more evidence had been painful for the family.

“It’s just one foot in front of the other (every day),” he said. “The inquest ... I was hoping for a lot more.”

Police have started a forensic excavation underneath the Katoomba home of Belinda Peisley, who has been missing since 1998 on Monday, December 3.

Belinda Peisley, then aged 19, was last seen in the Katoomba area on Saturday 26 September 1998.

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.

In 2013, the NSW Coroner found that Belinda had died around the time of her disappearance but returned an open finding on the cause and manner of death.

Detectives from the Homicide Squad continue to investigate Belinda’s disappearance and suspected murder under Strike Force Belonidae.

As part of their ongoing inquiries, strike force detectives will commence a forensic excavation and search at Belinda’s former home. 

The forensic excavation is led by forensic investigators from Crime Scene Services Branch, with the assistance of Blue Mountains Police Rescue, the Public Order and Riot Squad, and Blue Mountains Police Area Command.

It is expected the excavation will take three days, ending on Wednesday, December 5. 

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? aired on August 7 during national missing persons week and raised more questions about her disappearance.

Ms Peisley’s father Mark Wearne, who was part of the film, told the Blue Mountains Gazette at the time of the film’s airing that 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”.

A $100,000 reward remains in place for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Ms Peisley’s disappearance.

Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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