When news broke on Tuesday that a 22-year-old British backpacker had been rescued from a two month hostage ordeal allegedly involving rape and beatings, early reports touched on how the discovery was made by police during a routine traffic stop.
The focus of the news was the horror. Much of the public’s response was horror. And if you spent a good deal of time playing each detail over in your mind like an over-worked record, the coincidence of the police just happening to pull over that very car wouldn’t have been so extraordinary. There was too much else to digest.
But in all our disbelief and cracked hearts, we missed a key player in this story. The woman working at an isolated service station who sensed something was awry and refused to rest until it was settled. The woman who forced police to pull that car over and bring a vulnerable 22-year-old living the plot of a horror movie to safety.
Beverley Page, a service station owner in a quiet western Queensland town, knew something was off when the young woman set foot in her Caltex service station in Mitchell on Sunday afternoon. She had walked inside after filling her car up with petrol but said she could not pay.
“The girl was crying at the time and our person told her to just go outside and have another look for her wallet and take a deep breath and come back in,” Page told the Courier Mail.
“When she was in the shop, she was crying and shaking the whole time – she was really upset.
“There were two marks on her neck, along with the black eyes.”
We know now, of course, that detectives allege the backpacker was repeatedly raped, held against her will for two months, and endured a 1500km journey through the outback in a four-wheel-drive after meeting her attacker at a music festival. Police also allege the duo were in a relationship before it soured to the point of violence, and a 22-year-old man has since been charged with up to 20 offences relating to her ordeal.
So, after going back to a car she had been held against her will in for months to suss out how she would pay for the fuel, the young woman came back inside to Page. She said she had contacted her ex-boyfriend to help with money.