WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article contains names and descriptions of people who have died.
The sun is rising on the morning of Saturday, January 16, 1988, and light rain drizzles over Tamworth, a city in northeast New South Wales.
A freight train driver pulls out of Tamworth, heading to Sydney, and keeps his eyes up ahead. He sees something in the distance - a pile of clothes, perhaps. But as he edges closer he realises that lying on the train tracks, about seven kilometres outside of Tamworth, is the body of a young man.
By the time he pulls the brake, it’s too late. The body disappears under the train. He doesn't see what happens to the man. But he can imagine.
Soon after, Glenn Bryant, a Tamworth station master, receives a phone call. There’s been an accident. When he arrives at the scene, he is the first to discover the body of 17-year-old Mark Haines.
But it's nothing like he expects.
This isn't the first time Bryant has been called to a body on the tracks. He has come to know what it looks like when a person is hit by a train weighing 300 tonnes. For starters, there's blood. Usually lots of it.
But when he edges towards this young man, sludging through the muddy ground, he notices there is barely any blood. Mark has sustained a clear head injury, and there are several cuts. The lack of blood is perplexing.
And there's more that baffles him. Looking down at his own muddy shoes, he thinks it's strange that Mark's shoes are clean. How did he walk to the tracks in the rain without getting his shoes dirty? And then there's the white towel. Beneath Mark's head, is a towel propping him up. How strange, to lie down on a train track, and fold yourself a makeshift pillow.
Speaking to the ABC more than 30 years later, Bryant said: "Very strange that a person would be on the track with a towel under his head. [It] had to be placed there by someone or something... There was no way the train contributed to his death.
"I felt that he was put there by someone whilst he was dead, to try and make it look like he had committed suicide."
Not long after Bryant, the police arrive. The train tracks where Mark's body lies, somewhat symbolically, divides Tamworth into two. An Aboriginal community resides on one side, and a largely white population on the other. Mark himself was a Gomeroi man.
It's 10 days out from January 26, 1988 - an especially fraught day for the Indigenous community. The date will mark the bicentenary of British invasion. While Mark's family mourns, putting pressure on police to search for answers, the rest of Tamworth will be alive with celebration. The white population will cheers to an Australia they 'founded' 200 years ago. The Gomeroi population will reflect on their violent dispossession, aware that one of their own was killed, and still all these years later, no one cares.
Listen to Mamamia's true crime podcast, True Crime Conversations, where we explore what happened to Mark Haines. Post continues below.