It was July 1999, when a teenage girl with long brown hair and a sprinkling of freckles on her nose and cheeks, walked out of her family home and shut the door behind her.
Hayley Dodd was 17 years old and she’d decided she wanted to go on an adventure.
Hayley’s parents did not know it at the time, but she had a plan. She was going to meet up with one of her closest friends, Lisa, and then hitchhike from Mandurah, in the south of Perth, to Dongara, northwest of Perth, to hopefully work as a labourer on a shearing team.
The two girls were staying at a caravan park in the time before they began working, when one night Hayley decided she wanted to visit friends in Moora.
The town was about 200 kilometres away, and Hayley was going to hitchhike there.
“Hayley was happy, excited, looking forward to it,” Lisa would later report. “She told me she was coming back.”
Lisa gave her a small pocket knife in case anything went wrong, and with a “kiss and a cuddle” said she’d see her when she returned.
But Hayley never returned.
She was first picked up by a truck driver who dropped her at a service station in Badgingarra, a town on the way to Moora. He described her as “happy and bubbly,” and remarked she looked about 14 years old.
Passersby saw her walking along North West Road, just before 11:45am. And then no one ever saw her again.
One man did.
For 14 years, there were no answers. The police had their suspects, but no solid leads.
LISTEN: Kathy Kelly lost both her sons, and speaks to Mia Freedman about grief on No Filter. Post continues below.
A man named Francis Wark, who had long been a person of interest, was known to have owned a property near where Hayley went missing and had since been serving a 12-year sentence for physically and assaulting a 31-year-old woman who he picked up in Queensland.
Immediately following Hayley disappearance, police searched the car Wark had been driving – an old ute borrowed from a friend.
They had found a seat cover, which they packaged and sent to a forensic laboratory. Until September 2013, that seat cover had gone unexamined.
It wasn’t until the cold case was reviewed, and the seat cover searched, that the police found something embedded within it.
One of Hayley’s earrings.
The distinctive earring was an Egyptian ankh shape that Lisa had provided a detailed drawing of in 1999.
Wark was consequently charged with Hayley’s murder, but plead not guilty.
Before the trial had even begun, Margaret Dodd, Hayley’s mum, had no doubt Wark was the man responsible for Hayley’s murder. In 2015, while he was in jail serving his sentence for a different assault, she decided to write to him, begging for answers.
It seems a small request, given all that Margaret has lost.
She did not receive a response.
What followed was a two-year ordeal that seemed to punish the family far more than the alleged offender.
“It’s destroyed us,” Margaret Dodd told Mamamia in 2018.
Court time, she explained, made the family “edgy”, and required them to travel long distances and pay for their own accommodation.
Margaret is the full-time carer of her husband who lives with crippling arthritis.
“It’s a Catch 22 really,” she said regarding the possible discovery of what happened in the final hours of her daughter’s life.
“Because knowing what happened will stop your imagination running through what you think happened.
“Whereas knowing what happened can also devastate you because it’s horrific.”
The evidence presented throughout the trial was compelling. There was, of course, the earring. There was also Wark' history of picking up lone female hitchhikers and physically and sexually assaulting them. There was the timeline, with the state alleging that Hayley entered his car between 11:40am and 1:36pm in Badgingarra. Wark had been on his way to Perth.
But there were some unusual details about what happened when Wark arrived in Perth. He had not packed any toiletries, or unpacked his groceries, which the state claimed was evidence Wark was in a hurry.
On January 21, 2018, Wark was found guilty of murdering Hayley Dodd in the WA Supreme Court, and handed a life sentence.
He showed no emotion as his sentence was handed down.
Supreme Court Justice Lindy Jenkins told Wark, “By your actions after you murdered Ms Dodd, her family has been denied the opportunity to give her a decent burial,” thus prolonging the pain and suffering of Hayley’s friends and family.
But then, two years later, Wark's conviction was thrown out. The WA Court of Appeal ruled that the judge had made an error of law in finding him guilty, by discounting his alibis due to a lack of evidence.
A retrial was ordered.
And for the second time, Margaret Dodd turned up to court everyday.
This week, after lengthy deliberations, a jury acquitted Wark of murder, but found him guilty of the less offence of manslaughter. We cannot know their reasons, but the charge of manslaughter suggests they weren't satisfied he had intended to kill Hayley.
Wark, who maintains his innocence, continues to refuse to reveal the location of Hayley's body.
In March 2018, Margaret Dodd had 'no body, no parole, laws passed by WA Parliament. That means that Wark will not be granted parole, until he tells the family where Hayley's body lies.
"There are times when I just want to get on my hands and knees and dig," Margaret told Mamamia in 2018.
All she wants is to know where her daughter is - a girl who will forever in her mind be 17 years old.