WHEN you call Strathtay Station, an answering machine picks
A man’s voice says you have reached the home of Charles and
Kathleen Morton, and you are asked to leave a message.
The voice is that of a missing grazier, who vanished from his
40,000ha property, 120km north of Hughenden, two months ago.
Mr Morton’s wife Kathleen, who was visiting family in Germany at
the time of his disappearance, is not ready to delete the recording of
her husband’s voice.
She hasn’t given up hope that he will walk through the homestead’s
The couple married five years ago.
She told the Townsville Bulletin the isolated property has
been “too quiet” since Charlie disappeared.
“I have no idea what has happened to him. Right now I am just
taking it day by day,” she said.
“While I was away we talked morning and night, and texted each
other in between.
“There was no indication anything was wrong at all.”
Her voice breaks as she talks about her husband’s disappearance.
Those close to the case say everything points to the couple having
a very happy and loving relationship.
Mr Morton was reported missing on August 15 after he failed to
answer the phone during one of his scheduled calls with his wife.
Extensive aerial and ground searches at the station and nearby
properties failed to find any sign of the experienced bushie.
It was a huge community effort, with SES volunteers, council
workers, rangers, police and landholders searching bush tracks, fence
lines, dry creek beds, rocky outcrops and timber plantations for days.
Infra-red technology used by the AusSAR (Australian Search and Rescue)
fixed-wing aircraft also failed to find any signs of campfires, or body
Neighbours have previously told the Bulletin that “Charlie
Morton doesn’t just get lost”, describing him as a very capable
bushman and station manager with an intimate knowledge of the land.
Police say the case is “as baffling as the disappearance of Mick
Ayr Police Senior Sergeant Mick Isles left his Burdekin home to
attend a training workshop in Townsville on September 23, 2009, but was
never seen again.
His car was found in bushland five days after his disappearance
but there has been no sign of the police officer, with a coroner
reluctantly ruling in 2012 that he had committed suicide.
Mr Morton’s wife, who has never previously spoken about his
disappearance, is at a loss to explain what happened. The drought is
often blamed for a spike in rural suicides, but Kathleen says their
property has largely weathered the big dry.
“The property is still in good shape. It is just completely out of
character for him,” she said.
Living on an isolated property can be lonely at the best of times.
When a loved one is missing, and there are no clues to explain
why, the silence is deafening.
“If I could say anything to him it would be, please come home,”
“I miss you immensely and want our happy life back.”
Mr Morton turned 47 yesterday. His mother Ailsa Morton said she
was praying he would be found alive “like the woman who walked out of
the jungle”. Innisfail mum and cancer survivor Shannon Fraser was lost
for 17 days in the rainforest near Golden Hole, a popular waterhole
south of Cairns, when she suddenly stumbled out of the forest covered in
cuts, welts, bruises and bites earlier this week.
She was found by a farmer and, while she has been traumatised by
her ordeal, she was alive.
“He (Charlie) knows the area very well. The only reason he would
have got lost was if he hit his head,” Mrs Morton said.
The grazier’s distraught mother said she could not rule out foul
play in her son’s disappearance, saying she now believed that scenario
was more likely than suicide.
“I am at a complete loss (to explain what has happened),” Mrs
“There are just no leads.
“I love him very much and if he does read this, and has just taken
some time out for a while, I want him to know we want him home.
“A lot of people want him to come home. He has so much going for
Mr Morton’s younger brother Jamie said the family needed answers.
“You can’t rule anything out. He is in our thoughts constantly and
we would really like him to come home if he is out there, or let us know
he is OK,” he said.
It is estimated 35,000 people are reported missing each year in
Australia, or about one person every 15 minutes.
More than 95 per cent of them are found within a week, according
to the Australian Federal Police.
Charters Towers officer-in-charge Acting Inspector Graham Lohmann
said police were investigating every scenario in relation to Mr Morton’s
“Since day one we’ve kept an open mind and any and all potential
causes have been investigated, and are still being investigated,” he
“There are any number of scenarios possible, from an accidental
mishap to foul play at the hands of another person.
“There is really no evidence to strongly support any particular