true crime

In 1997, Marion Barter disappeared. Years later, a cryptic message said she was 'forced to'.

The disappearance of Gold Coast teacher Marion Barter has baffled police for 27 years.

The 51-year-old mother of two went missing in 1997 after quitting her job and telling family and friends she was going on an overseas holiday to Europe. Apart from a few postcards and phone calls shortly after she arrived, no one has heard from her since.

Marion's family raised the alarm when she didn't contact her son for his birthday. It was completely out of character.

An investigation would later find that Marion had changed her name to 'Florabella Natalia Marion Remakel' a month before she left for Europe in 1997. She had also sold her house and withdrawn a large sum of money from her bank account, telling her loved ones she planned to downsize when she returned to Australia after her holiday.

All of these facts made police assume she had disappeared of her own accord. For years, her children were told this, Marion's son passing away before he could find out if that was the truth.

Finally in 2021, an inquest into Marion's disappearance took place, the court officially declaring her dead. But whether or not she met with foul play remains unclarified.

Watch: Reflections following the inquest into Marion Barter's disappearance. Post continues below.

Video via 7News.

Fast forward several decades, and many are still desperate for answers as to what happened to Marion — in particular, her daughter Sally Leydon. The case was also the focus of podcast The Lady Vanishesheralded in a similar vein to the Teacher's Pet podcast.

Previously, Sally told The Lady Vanishes that she vividly remembers the moment she reported her mother's disappearance to authorities. 

"I rang the bank... and said to the lady on the phone, 'My mum's travelling overseas by herself, we haven't heard from her in a while and we are concerned for her. Can you check to see if she's using her account?'

"The standard answer was, 'I'm really sorry, I can't tell you anything due to privacy' but then she paused and asked, 'Did you say your mum's overseas?' which I said yes to. And then she said, 'Oh my god, money is coming out of her account in Byron Bay.'"

Upon learning that thousands of dollars had been siphoned from Marion's account in both Byron Bay and then Burleigh Heads in Queensland, Sally reported her mum missing and police began to investigate. But they found no trace of Marion.

A passport check revealed that her passport had returned to Australia in August 1997.

Police now describe Marion's disappearance as "suspicious" and there is a $500,000 money reward for any answers.

For five years, the team behind The Lady Vanishes have been investigating Marion's disappearance, drawing in millions of listeners and amateur sleuths. All want to know the same thing: what happened to Marion Barter?

Marion Barter with her two children, prior to her disappearance. Image: Supplied/Sally Leydon.


Alison Sandy is the Executive Producer of The Lady Vanishes and the Freedom of Information Editor for Seven Network Australia. Speaking on Mamamia's news podcast The Quicky, Sandy said the investigation into Marion's disappearance has recently centred upon one man who was in Marion's life.

His name is Ric Blum.

"It's staggering the amount of information that came out [of the podcast and the subsequent inquest]," says Sandy.

"Lies and deception were the two words that the coroner used, and she was very critical of [Blum]. When we first discovered him, it was just jaw-dropping — all the bombshell evidence about his connection with Marion."


The podcast managed to track down a series of women who all had very similar stories to Marion's — all were victims of romance scams, where they sold their homes and moved overseas. Many of these women say they were scammed by Ric Blum, a convicted conman.

Blum has a history of regularly changing his name and identity, including using one alias Fernand Remakel — the same last name as the one Marion changed to a month prior to her disappearance.

The inquest found that Marion and Ric Blum had been romantically involved before her disappearance. The coroner also said that Ric likely "knew more than he was saying" to police.

Listen to Mamamia's news podcast The Quicky delve deeper into this case. Post continues after audio.

Ric was determined not to be a reliable witness, as he denied knowing any of the women he allegedly scammed. He admitted he knew Marion, but claims he had nothing to do with her disappearance. The coroner did not find he was involved with Marion's death and there was no evidence to support any finding about the manner and cause of her death.

Marion's daughter Sally has tried to find answers herself too, searching for someone who left a mysterious message on her Facebook page back in 2013.

The author of the message, who identified themselves as Clark Hunter, wrote: "Natalia [referring to Marion's changed name] is alive but you (sic) never see her again. It was not her intention to disappear. She was forced."


The reason behind Marion's sudden name change has never been ascertained. Sally was quick to chase up the strange Facebook post, but not long after, the author deleted their messages.

For Sally and her family, having confirmation from the coroner that her mother is deceased provides a small level of closure, she told The Lady Vanishes podcast.

"The police wouldn't give us the brief of evidence on the basis of privacy, having to guard Marion's privacy. That was because she wasn't determined to be deceased. Now that she is determined to be deceased, Sally can go and get a death certificate and she is hoping to do further investigations based on that," Sandy told The Quicky.

"The wheels of justice turned slowly. We owe it to Sally, we owe it to Marion."

As Sally said to 7News: "I hope the police want to look into that a little bit further. It's a very long, arduous journey. It's not easy. We're not finished yet. I would like to see justice served. Someone knows something."

Ultimately, the coroner determined that the NSW Police cold case unit continue its investigation and decide whether there's enough evidence to refer Ric Blum to the Director of Public Prosecutions for charges.

In the meantime, Marion's family hope they can find out what really happened to their loved one.

Anyone with information regarding Marion Barter's disappearance is urged to contact Crime Stoppers

This article was originally published in 2018, and has since been updated with new information. 

Feature Image: Supplied/NSW Police.