Natasha Ryan went missing for five years. Then she was found hiding in her boyfriend's cupboard.

The woman at the centre of one of the 1990s most bizarre missing persons cases has recently died, with her body found on a Rockhampton golf course last Sunday. 

Natasha Ryan, 40, was discovered after her husband called authorities, notifying them of her disappearance. 

It wasn't the first time she had vanished from her loved ones' lives.

Ryan became a loving mother of four, a nurse and member of her Queensland community, but for five years from 1998, she was missing and presumed dead.

Just 14 when she vanished, Ryan's family reported her missing to Rockhampton police in August 1998. 

It launched a major investigation to find the missing teenager, with countless police hours and money put towards their efforts to find her. Some estimates suggest as much as $400,000 went toward locating her.

Fears grew that Ryan had been murdered. Around the same time, a number of women in the area had disappeared, later found to be victims of serial killer Leonard John Fraser.

Fraser even confessed to the crime of murdering Ryan and was charged. 

Image: Queensland Police.


Ryan's family thought she had died and held a memorial service in her name. However, she was very much alive.

Following a police tip-off, Ryan was found hiding in a cupboard in her boyfriend Scott Black's house in the northern area of Rockhampton in April 2003, nearly five years after her disappearance. 

She became colloquially known as "the girl in the cupboard".

It was discovered that Ryan had a relationship with Black, a milkman when she was 14 and he was 22, and had run away with him. The pair had lived a low-profile life together, still located very close to where she grew up. She was pale when she was found, having rarely left the home, except for trips to the beach at night alongside Scott.


While many wondered why Ryan had left her family home to be with Black, she never publicly explained why.

"I'm never going to say publicly why I left," she told New Idea magazine in November 2007.

"I know why I left. I'm not sure my mum and my sister completely know all the reasons.

"I'm not sure it would make any difference saying why I left - I feel whatever I say wouldn't be good enough for the pain I've caused my family."

When Ryan was found, it was halfway through Leonard John Fraser's trial, which was taking place in Brisbane. Despite his original confession including Ryan, the defence did not file for a mistrial. 

He was sentenced to three prison terms for the murders of Beverley Leggo and Sylvia Benedetti in the Rockhampton area, as well as the manslaughter of Julie Turner. All the crimes took place between 1998 and 1999. 

As a result of being found out, Scott Black was given a 12-month jail term for perjury, after lying to a court about where Ryan was. She was fined $1,000 after being found guilty of causing a false police investigation. 

Ryan would go on to do an interview with 60 Minutes, where she said she was happy to be free of her life in hiding. 


"I feel really excited that I don’t have to hide any more. I feel free," she said, adding that when she ran away from home she "didn't want to be there in that life."

Ryan said she hid for so long as she was afraid of the consequences of her actions and potential jail time. 

"I do deserve severe punishment for what I’ve done."

Image: 60 Minutes.


In 2008, Ryan went on to marry Scott Black. She told Woman's Day at the time, "I’m sick of being known as Natasha Ryan – ‘the girl in the cupboard’. I made mistakes and I’m sorry that I hurt my family, but now I want to start a new life."

She went on to become a nurse and was working in radiology while also being a mother to four children. 

However, on Sunday June 2, Ryan was found dead in central Queensland. 

Her husband called police when she went missing, which sparked another wide-scale search for her. She was later found on Rockhampton golf course, with police describing her death as "sudden and non-suspicious".

A report will be prepared for the coroner.

"I don't know anything more than... the public reporting. This is obviously a tragic story and my sympathies go to her family and loved ones," Queensland Premier Steven Miles said on Monday.

Locals said Ms Ryan would be remembered as a wonderful wife, mother and nurse.

"Fly high Tash, the angels will love you. We all did," Sue Dodt posted on social media.

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Feature image: Nine News.