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"Okay. See what you can do and call me back."
There was a call the next day. Sean took it. I headed off to the extension and the
call had ended by the time I got there. Sean left immediately afterwards. I phoned my
contact and found it was his day off. I passed on my information and assumed it would
be put to use.
Within hours, I received a telephone call from a lady describing herself as a private
investigator. She said Sean's uncle had disappeared and she had been hired by his
wife who had reason to believe that he had been murdered and the police were
dragging their feet.
The circumstances of Uncle's disappearance were bizarre. His abandoned station
wagon had been found beside the road near the Doomadgee Aboriginal to wnship in
Queensland's northern gulf country. A table and chair stood beside it and a half-eaten
meal was on the table. The police claimed to have used Aboriginal trackers but they
were unable to throw any light on what had happened. Uncle had vanished into thin
Uncle's wife didn't believe a word of it. She believed he had been having sex with
young Aboriginal girls and had paid the ultimate price. In her view the police were
dragging their feet because Aboriginals were involved. Accusing them of killing her
husband could be politically explosive and damage a police officer's career.
It was time for me to ask questions.
"How do you know Sean had been staying with me?"
"The police told me and I don't believe a word of it."
"You're saying I'm colluding with the police?"
"I'm saying I don't believe a word you say."
"Why should I believe anything you say?"
"Phone the police and ask them."
I phoned the police and was told that the woman was indeed a private investigator .
She was being paid by Uncle's estranged wife who evidently had a soft spot for him
despite the break-up of their marriage. The story about the abandoned vehicle was
correct. I could expect a call from the investigating team who would brief me on what
to say if the private detective lady contacted me again.
I didn't have long to wait. The lady soon phoned and asked if I had checked out her
credentials. I said I had and her manner changed. She was far more chatty. I had
been told to expect that. She would now try to get me to divulge what I knew (virtually
nothing) and I should try to get as much information out of her as I could.
I eventually convinced her that Sean had been staying with me . That was on about
the third telephone call. She kept phoning back to check my story. On each occasion
I managed to get another snippet of information from her, which I passed on to the
investigating team.
Her final telephone call was to say that the case was closed as far as she was
concerned. Sean had arrived back home in Chicago and had crossed into Canada a
few days later. She shared my suspicion that he had helped Uncle disappear. Why
Uncle would want to disappear was a total mystery. He was not financially indebted to
his wife as the police had first suspected and the stories about the young Aboriginal
girls didn't make sense.
A month or so later, a uniformed police officer rang my bell. I'd not seen him before
but I recognised his voice. He was officer-in-charge of the Doomadgee police station
at the time of the investigation and he had dropped in to say hallo and thank me for my
assistance. He said the case was the strangest he had encountered in all his years in