By LOREN O’KEEFFE
The last time I wrote for Mamamia the story (which you can read here) eventuated in an interview with Channel Ten.
A woman who works at a medical centre in QLD had asked her husband to record that night’s episode of The Project – there was a segment on sustainability she wanted to see. When she sat down and watched the whole episode the next day, she realised the man she’d spoken with two weeks prior was a Missing Person from Victoria. My brother, Daniel.
After reporting it to Crime Stoppers three weeks earlier, the woman called them back to see if the missing man she’d met had been found, only to be told it was none of her business. Thankfully still curious, she returned to our website on 3 January 2012, and called our hotline. As she very clearly explained the encounter from five weeks earlier, I knew – for the first time since his disappearance – that Dan was alive.
He had called himself James (Dan’s middle name), said he was from Melbourne and the woman he spoke with had paid enough attention to his facial features, mannerisms and demeanor that I flew to Brisbane immediately. I did not inform police, aware that there may be accompanying CCTV and that the Privacy Act may obstruct my viewing it (as it had for Mum regarding footage from the day Dan actually went missing).
I was able to view the CCTV footage and confirm that my gut was right – it was Dan. Mum, Dad and Dan’s partner flew up immediately and we spent two months searching South East Queensland. This remains the only confirmed sighting we have had of Dan, and despite our testimony and indisputable evidence, we’re still waiting on a police video expert’s analysis. If/when that happens, Victoria Police might consider giving carriage of Dan’s case to Queensland Police. But it’s been a year – Dan could be anywhere in Australia now. Hence my all-consuming social media campaign, Dan Come Home.
I said to myself I’d never do this – write to you like you’re actually reading. I read posts addressed to you on Facebook and sigh – you’re not actually reading it. Are you? You never used to be interested in social media – much preferring RL interactions. Plus, I can’t imagine you’re in a space that facilitates much interweb activity. I think it’s peace and tranquility you were seeking to win your battle against the depression and anxiety.
I had to write you messages like you might actually be reading them when I went up to Brisbane in January, trying to find you after the sighting. The staff and volunteers at hostels, services, shelters etc said all they could do under the law was give you a note if they saw you.
I gave them your photo, a poster and some business cards, then I’d write you a quick note with genuine hope that you would soon read it. That was hard. I never heard back, and I often thought ‘oh, I can’t see Dan passing through here – it’s not his kind of place’ anyway. But I do question my understanding of you nowadays, since I don’t really know you anymore right now.
It’s been over a year since I saw you, Dan. That’s the longest I’ve ever had to go without seeing your smile and hearing that laugh. I’m terrified that those sights, sounds and effortlessly hilarious ‘Dad jokes’ of yours will fade before I see you again. I wish I had more videos of you being you.