When Francis Ryan was 10 years old, her mum went to work one day and never came back.
Judith Bartlett was listed as a missing person and Francis and her brothers, Daryl and Graeme, grew up thinking she’d abandoned them.
"I had a mother that I thought loved me," Ms Ryan, now 59, reveals. "I had a mother who was my friend. She was my friend and she was my mother and then I was told she'd gone away and I thought she'd left me."
Francis says her brother Daryl has since spent his life "almost hating on women for walking out on him", while their father Ronald, who died last year, thought his wife had simply left them.
But, three weeks ago and almost half a century after Judith’s disappearance, remains found by a bushwalker on a remote Gooloogong property were positively identified as hers.
When detectives arrived on Francis' doorstep with the news, she started sobbing: "Our mother loved us. My brothers and I have found out that our mother didn't leave us. She didn't stop loving us. She was taken by a thief in the night."
Now comes the difficult task of hunting for Judith’s murderer, after tests indicate she sustained injuries before her death. The fact her remains were found more than 200km from her home in Bathurst is also suspicious.
"We want to be our mother's voice," Francis begs. "And we are asking anyone that knew mum… any little memory, if you could come forward and give mum a voice."
Detective Inspector Denise Godden from Canobolas police says: "We are hoping that we can find a large number of answers for the family. Whether or not we get to charge someone after all this time … is a hard question to answer but someone out there knows something."
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