Bizarre case of missing grazier


Update: Missing man, Hughenden

QLD Police are continuing to seek public assistance to help locate a man reported missing from the Hughenden area.

The alarm was raised on the morning of August 15 after family were unable to contact the 46-year-old man who was alone at the property located about 120km north of Hughenden.

Charles Morton (pictured) is described as Caucasian in appearance, approximately 174cm tall and of proportionate build with brown hair.  It is unknown what Mr Morton was wearing at the time of going missing.

A search involving helicopters, motorcycles, four wheel drives, State Emergency Service personnel, local residents and police has so far failed to locate the missing man.

Police are asking anyone who sees Mr Morton to contact Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.



Emergency services are still searching for a man who went missing from Hughenden last week

    POLICE have a launched a large scale air and land search to find a Hughenden cattle farmer missing since Friday.

    Charles Morton, 46, was reported missing on Friday morning by a neighbour after family were unable to contact him on his property about 120km north of Hughenden.

    Mr Morton’s wife, who is on an overseas holiday, was the last person to make contact with him. They spoke on the phone on Thursday at 7.45am.

    State Emergency Services personnel, police, National Parks and Wildlife and local residents are among those searching for the man on motorcycles, four-wheel drives and helicopters.

    Townsville Inspector Roger Whyte said they were focusing the search on Strathtay Station, Mr Morton’s 40,000ha property.

    “Police are still conducting inquiries as to the reasons why he is missing and at this stage we are concentrating on trying to locate him on his block,” he said.

    Mr Morton lives alone on his cattle property and was noticed missing after a concerned neighbour checked on his homestead. Flinders Shire Council mayor Greg Jones said concerned community members had joined the search.

    “It is very remote country (Mr Morton’s property) and if you are not from there, it would be really easy not to be found,” he said.

    “His mother is a longtime resident of the town and she is out there searching too.

    “They did a headcount of his horses and bikes and everything is there.”

    Insp Whyte said it was a “bizarre” case and they called to the public for any assistance.

    “The concern for his welfare is growing,” he said.

    Mr Morton is about 174cm tall and of proportionate build with brown hair.

    It is unknown what Mr Morton was wearing when he went missing.

    Police are asking anyone who sees Mr Morton to contact Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.


  • Intense hunt underway north of Hughenden for missing grazier

  • IT is like trying to finding a needle in a 40,000ha haystack, but searchers have vowed to keep looking for a cattle grazier missing for four days.

    Dozens of SES personnel, police, parks and wildlife rangers, landholders and community members have been sleeping in swags and getting up at first light to search for Charles Morton.

    Mr Morton, 46, was reported missing on Friday morning after his wife, holidaying in Germany, was unable to make contact with him on Thursday evening.

    Inspector Roger Whyte said rescuers would continue their search of the property today, but hopes were fading.

    “We are very concerned for his welfare,” he said.

    Insp Whyte said police were also investigating other “signs of life”, such as any movements on his bank account.

    But he said there was no evidence to suggest Mr Morton had left the property.

    Strathtay Station is about 120km north of Hughenden.

    It is a cattle grazing and fattening property dotted with heavy timber forests.

    The area received a few millimetres of rainfall over the weekend, so there is likely some water for him to drink, but the early mornings have been cold and frosty.

    “We don’t really know what he was up to before he disappeared, but at the end of the day most landowners are reasonable bushmen,” Insp Whyte said.

    Mrs Morton made telephone contact with the grazier on Thursday morning but he did not pick up the phone when she made her scheduled call later that night.

    She contacted a neighbour who checked the property and called police.

    Insp Whyte said Mr Morton was reasonably fit and believed to have set off on foot.

    But police could not rule out whether he could also have left on a motorbike or on horseback.

    “We had the AusSAR (Australian Search and Rescue) fixed-wing aircraft up, which has heat-sensing equipment, to see if we could spot any campfires or that sort of thing, but unfortunately that proved fruitless,” Insp Whyte said.

    “But we will keep trying (to locate him) until we have exhausted all avenues.”

    Insp Whyte thanked searchers for their tireless efforts in the tough conditions.

    Mr Morton is described as caucasian, about 174cm, with a proportionate build. He has brown hair.

    Anyone with information on Mr Morton’s whereabouts can call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

    Two months on, there is still no sign of missing grazier Charles Morton

  • WHEN you call Strathtay Station, an answering machine picks up.

    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 front door.

    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 heat.

    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 Isles”.

    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,” Kathleen said.

    “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 Morton said.

    “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 him.”

    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 disappearance.

    “Since day one we’ve kept an open mind and any and all potential causes have been investigated, and are still being investigated,” he said.

    “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 scenario.”