By LUCY ORMONDE
I first met Loren O’Keeffe in January of 2007. We were both studying abroad for six months at a Japanese university.
We weren’t particularly close, but as two of just a handful of Australians in the small town, we’d sometimes share an Asahi beer and talk about life back home.
Once we’d returned from Japan, I didn’t hear from Lauren until late July of 2011, until a desperate Facebook post caught my attention.
Lauren’s younger brother Dan was missing…
Dan was 24 years old when he disappeared.
On Friday morning he was talking to his dad in the kitchen of the family’s Geelong home. A few minutes later he was gone. And none of his loved ones knew where.
At 10.00pm that night, the family officially registered Dan as a Missing Person.
“He was last seen wearing a grey hooded jumper, light pants and ugg boots,” they wrote. That text formed the basis of Missing Person posters that were distributed via social media to friends and family members around the state.
At the time that Dan disappeared, I was working for a newspaper in the south-west region of Victoria. Police believed Dan might have travelled in that direction; that he could be sleeping in an abandoned farm shed or seeking refuge in a homeless shelter. So I contacted Loren to see if there was anything the newspaper could do to help.
Over the next few weeks, we ran stories appealing to the locals to keep an eye out for Dan.
“Daniel is currently suffering from depression, but is friendly, approachable and talkative,” Loren told me in an interview. “He is 24 years old, approximately six feet tall, with short brown hair and hazel eyes. He will have a beard by now”.
Unfortunately there were never any confirmed sightings in the area and two years later, Dan is still missing.
His family remain desperately searching for answers.
In the two years since her brother’s disappearance, I’ve watched Loren lead the way in creating awareness of missing people in Australia. She started with a Facebook page dedicated to looking for Dan (the page now has almost 37,000 likes). She’s since used that page to share the information of other missing persons. She’s appeared on numerous TV shows and in newspaper articles.
In December 2011, Loren wrote a piece for Mamamia titled “Dan, Where are you?”
The worst (and most common) question to answer is ‘What does your gut tell you?’. Those ‘feelings’ people get in the movies; they’re not guaranteed. I have no idea what, how or where. It plagues our minds – we just don’t know.
The only thing we do know is that Dan is in Australia. He left without ID, money, his watch or any other belongings, besides his phone (which wasn’t answered the whole day of his disappearance and has been off since that night). He’s just walked away from it all.
Considering someone goes missing every 15 minutes in Australia, we’ve been fortunate with media coverage. I’ve quit my job to manage it, but we’ve had people all over the country putting posters up in their local shops, metropolitan train stations, along major highways. That kind of support has been overwhelming, but Dan is still missing.
This close to Christmas and without even one lead, we’ve been forced to offer a reward. I worry it’ll attract the kind of people who could lead us on a wild, emotional and time-wasting goose chase, but it’s a risk we have to take.
If you can help me ﬁnd him, by means of social media, donation or physically putting a poster up, I’d be so grateful. I promise – he’s worth it (just as I’m sure your brother, son, boyfriend or nephew would be).
More recently, Loren has established the Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN) – a group that aims to create awareness of missing persons in Australia.
According to the group’s website: “All MPAN initiatives promote a greater understanding of the issues surrounding why people go missing, with a focus on empowering the public to make a difference by simply keeping a look out for our mothers, brothers, sons, daughters and friends. ”