Sarah Anne McMAHON
Above - Sarah with younger sister Kate
Detectives with Sarah's car
Crimestoppers WA -
Sarah McMahon was 20 when she disappeared after leaving work in the Perth suburb of Claremont on Wednesday, November 8, 2000. She lived with her parents Danny and Trish and younger sister Kate. Ten days later, her white Ford Meteor sedan was found in the car park of Swan Districts Hospital. A bag containing personal items was on the front seat, her empty wallet was in the boot and her mobile phone was on the ground nearby. Her mum Trish tells her story ...
"We haven't seen or heard from Sarah since November 8, 2000, when she left for work in the morning. Apparently she received a call at work from a friend who was "suicidal" and intended to visit the mysterious caller. The police believe she's been murdered and we have all tried to accept this as a possibility, but in our hearts we know she is out there somewhere. At the time of Sarah's disappearance she was depressed ... a romance had soured, university had lost its appeal and she had a mobile phone bill for $800 she hadn't mentioned to us. Sarah felt as though she was in rough waters being tossed this way and that, and she had mentioned to a family friend that she wished she could just "go away and start again". We thought a visit to her older brother Paul and his family, who live near Melbourne, might break the cycle, but unfortunately that wasn't so. I visited Melbourne and Sydney putting up posters, giving out photos and talking to anyone who was willing to listen. Two years ago, a couple who had taken a photograph of Sarah rang to say they had distributed it at a youth seminar. The father of one of the children worked in security at Newcastle nightclubs, and he came across a young man who recognised her and confirmed her name when shown the photograph. But that was it. There have been no further sightings or news. We, Sarah's family, believe with all our hearts that our darling daughter, sister and granddaughter is out there. We will never believe otherwise. We love you, Sarah, please let us know you're all right. May the sun shine warm on your face, and until we meet again may God hold you in the palm of His hand."
If you have any information, call Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.
What would you do if someone you loved suddenly disappeared without a trace? That’s the heart-breaking scenario faced by the sisters of missing Perth girls Hayley Dodd and Sarah McMahon. As time passes, Hayley Dodd’s sisters, Rae Ann and Toni, have been forced to accept the worst; that their fragile sister has fallen victim to a serious crime. Kate McMahon firmly believes that her missing sister, Sarah, is still alive but has simply chosen to start a new life in the East.
GEORGE NEGUS: But not all brothers and sisters, of course, are
quite so lucky. Right now, in the aftermath of the Bali bombing, there
are any number of them bearing probably permanent spiritual and
emotional scars. The brothers, sisters and parents too, of course, of
siblings missing, presumed dead. In this same horrible context Jane
Cunningham recently met a couple of incredibly brave young women living
with a terrible burden virtually impossible to share with anyone else.
JANE CUNNINGHAM: In the vast loneliness of country Western Australia, it seems that you can disappear without a trace.
NEWSREEL: Volunteer searchers and a ten-person police task force failed to find any trace of the shy 17-year-old. Hayley Dodd disappeared whilst hitchhiking near the midwest town of Moora in July 1999.
TONI STEPHENSON, HAYLEY DODD'S SISTER: I didn't want anyone to see me cry or that I'd been hurt so much. I was angry at the same time - "How can someone do that? Whoever's done something to her, if they see it on TV or anything, they won't see me crying, they won't see me hurt or anything. I won't let them get to me."
JANE CUNNINGHAM: It's been more than three years since Hayley Dodd vanished. Her heartbroken family have been waiting this long for answers. They still wait today. There is no absolute way to convey the depth of the grief felt by the families of missing people, but if you're watching this in a room with people you love, imagine if one of them, without warning, completely disappeared. And imagine the pain of never knowing why.
TONI STEPHENSON: It's a pain that you can't discuss - Unless you've been through the pain yourself, you can't describe it. No-one else can say, "I can feel what you're going through," unless they've gone through it themselves. They can try and imagine what the pain is like, but they can't imagine what that is, living day in, day out not knowing where she is, not knowing what she's been doing, what she would be doing now if she was here. Would she be married and have children, or would she be going to school, or would she be going to uni or have a job? What would she be doing? Would she be travelling round Australia? You wonder all the time.
JANE CUNNINGHAM: As time passes, Hayley's sisters Toni and Rae Ann have been forced to accept the worst, that Hayley has fallen victim to a serious crime. They have all but given up hope that they'll ever see her alive again.
TONI: Every time they find a body, on TV or anything, I always just hope that it is. People say, "Why do you hope it's your sister? "Don't you want her to come home?" But I know she's not coming home, so for her body to be found is more important.
JANE CUNNINGHAM: Do you ever sort of think about what might have happened?
RAE ANN DODD, HAYLEY DODD'S SISTER: Oh, sometimes I do. When I see people being raped and stuff on the news, that makes me think about it. That makes me upset to think people can do that to other people - especially when they've done it to your sister, if that's what's happened.
TONI: I cry myself to sleep at night at least twice a week, because I'm just, like, I want my sister back.
RAE ANN: We usually go down to her wishing well. I wish she'd come back safe and sound, but not much chance of that happening. And I don't really wish that much at the wishing well.
JANE CUNNINGHAM: 15-year-old Kate McMahon has spent the past two years without her sister Sarah. Like the families of more than 30,000 Australians who go missing every year, she faces the agony of waiting and hoping.
KATE McMAHON, SARAH McMAHON'S SISTER: It happens to everyone else's family but not yours. And I think the reality of it happening to your own family, it's - it's quite a bit of a shock.
JANE CUNNINGHAM: There were no warning signs. One typically sunny November day in Perth, Sarah McMahon simply didn't come home. Suddenly, and very traumatically, that special bond between Kate and her sister was severed.
KATE: It's left a huge gap. I miss her so much. I just, um, I just think of how good friends we were just becoming then and how good friends we could be - how much good friends we could be now. 13 years with someone else in a - in a, um, house - everything was together. And now that suddenly was just cut short. My childhood, sort - sort of has been, um, marred, I guess you could say, by this whole situation. And, um, it's - it's hard. There's some days you don't want to get out of bed or go to school, but I think you have to make yourself do these things, um, for, um, yourself and just to, um, get Preoccupied.
JANE CUNNINGHAM: The year before she disappeared, Sarah's mum Trish, a school drama teacher, wrote a play about the devastated family of a missing girl. In a strange twist of fate, it was Sarah's sister Kate who played the missing girl, rehearsing the role and then comforting a family grieving from the same scenario. Do you visualise her coming home?
KATE: Yes. A lot.
JANE CUNNINGHAM: Do you?
KATE: Every day, you wake up, you think, "This could be the day. It could be the day she might come strolling through." I just think she's gonna come just wandering down the driveway, walking through the door, acting like nothing's happened. I just think that's how she'll do it.
JANE CUNNINGHAM: Kate's play does have a happy ending. The missing girl comes home. In reality, though, her turmoil continues.
KATE: Until someone gives me evidence or tells me that Sarah is for sure, it's 100 per cent positive, that something - Sarah has passed away, something has happened, I don't think I will ever believe on - on word of mouth, I suppose, from the police.
If you have any information that you think might help trace either Hayley or Sarah, please go to http://www.wa.crimestoppers.com.au/reporting/section or call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 (Tasmania 1800 005 555)