Barbara Carol BROWN



DOB: 1955 - 22 years when missing
HAIR: Blond BUILD: 5'3" (162 cm)   EYES: Blue
Barbara Brown was last seen at Beecroft Sydney on 17th of May 1978. She had recently arrived in Australia from the United States. She had previously been hitchhiking around New Zealand, Tasmania and Victoria with a girlfriend from Canada. They parted company in Sydney. Barbara set off from Beecroft intending to hitchhike to Queenland, then going across to Perth. She was never heard of again.

Barbara was from Texas in the USA. She saw hitchhiking as a perfect way to combine travel with meeting people despite everyone warning her of the dangers of hitchhiking. She made many new friends. When she arrived in Sydney she split from her friend and travelled alone.
On May 17, 1978, she set off from the Beecroft home of the brother and wife of her Melbourne boyfriend Chris.  She never returned. Chris' brother believes she was murdered after hitching a lift with the wrong person.

Barbara waved goodbye to Sydney and set off to see Australia. She hasn’t been seen since

Neil Mercer - SMH

Barbara Brown was just 23 years old when she disappeared from suburban Beecroft 46 years ago on Friday.

A friend, Peta Bigum, waved the young American backpacker goodbye from the balcony of her home in Chilworth Close.

Brown walked around the corner and out of sight, heading towards the train station to continue her travels around Australia. She was heading to Queensland. She was never seen again.

Her disappearance sparked media attention in early June 1978, when her distraught father, Shell Oil executive Ronald Brown, flew out from Houston, Texas, to look for his daughter.


NSW Police organised a press conference at which Ronald Brown and Barbara’s Australian boyfriend, Chris Bigum, appealed for anyone who’d seen her to come forward.

Despite dozens of reported sightings, it was to no avail. No trace of her has ever been found, and her heartbroken father returned to the US.

“It’s as if she’s fallen off the face of the earth,” Peta Bigum told the Herald this week.

“She was a beautiful girl, full of life, she just wanted to be friends with everyone.”

After the initial flurry of newspaper stories, it appears Barbara Brown was forgotten.


But not by everyone.

For the last five years, two women living in Cheltenham, next door to Beecroft, have been fighting to keep her memory alive and trying to find out what happened to the vivacious woman.


“It haunts me,” said Jolien Deller, a teacher who also runs The Humans of Beecroft and Cheltenham Facebook page.

“This girl has gone missing in a strange land, and no one seems to care.”


Deller says part of her motivation is the fact that, as a child, she was the victim of multiple crimes.

“I didn’t really get justice. I try and seek it for others and those who have been forgotten.”

Along with her friend and neighbour, Georgia Cameron, she’s been contacting the media and searching Trove and newspapers for relatives and friends the young woman made during her travels.

They found Chris Bigum, now 78 and an adjunct professor at Griffith University. He told the Herald this week he met Barbara Brown while they were both holidaying in New Zealand in late 1977.

She came to Melbourne, where he was a lecturer at a college of advanced education.


“She was a free spirit, we hit it off big time,” Bigum said.

His brother Tony and Tony’s wife Peta, who happened to be in Melbourne, had then given Barbara a lift to Sydney.

She’d stayed just the one night in Beecroft before heading north, possibly getting off the train at Hornsby to hitch her way up the coast.

Bigum said both he and his brother had warned Barbara against hitchhiking, but she’d had a positive, safe experience doing just that in New Zealand and thought Australia would be the same.


“This is a lovely girl who has gone missing, and no one remembers. She deserves better.”

Jolien Deller

He travelled to Sydney to attend a press conference but had just one phone conversation about the matter with a NSW Police officer. He was never asked to make a formal statement.

“It was a fairly traumatic gig for me when she disappeared,” he said.

His sister-in-law, Peta Bigum, said she, too, had never been asked to make a statement, while her husband Tony had, but he couldn’t recall all the details because it was so long ago.

Deller and Cameron, a copywriter, are still wondering about the skeletal remains found in Beecroft near the M2 back in 2019 – very close to where Barbara Brown was last seen.


Some media reports said they were human, possibly Aboriginal. It appears they are still unidentified.

According to a 1978 newspaper article, Barbara was last seen wearing a blue jacket and light blue jeans. She had a yellow backpack, an orange tent and a blue sleeping bag tied to the backpack.

If she had lived, she would now be 69, and Jolien and Georgia sometimes wonder about the woman she would have become.

“It’s sad. This is a lovely girl who has gone missing, and no one remembers. She deserves better,” said Jolien.