SUNDAY will mark six months since Beverly Roberts first spoke to the Stawell Times-News about her brother, Russell Martin, and the circumstances of his disappearance.
For over 40 years, Bev Roberts has laid in bed at night, wondering what happened to her brother.
Russell Martin has been missing from his home in Stawell Victoria, since January 1977, on or about January 18.
During the six months since the Stawell Times-News published a story after Mr Martin was the feature of episode 158 on the podcast from Casefile: True Crime series, Victoria Police has confirmed a number of times the investigation to the cold case was still open, but they wouldn't be providing a narrative on the case.
Taking a look back into the events which happened more than 40 years ago, despite Mr Martin's disappearance in January, police records indicate that he was not listed as a missing person until May of that year.
Over the years there has been numerous investigations, rumours and stories about what happened to Mr Martin and in 2002, Coroner T.J. McDonald, after hearing many days of evidence, concluded that "...the disappearance of Russell Martin on or about the 20th of January 1977 was associated with suspicious circumstances and that he died on or about that date from causes that were not natural".
The case is still of interest to Victoria Police Homicide and Suspicious Missing Person Squad detectives, however, it has been family members who have recently revived the interest of the community in the case.
It is the specialist work of Valentine Smith, chief executive of Missing Persons Network, a small network of former police investigators, journalists and scientists, who share knowledge regarding the tragic investigative genre of missing persons.
Mr Smith, a former Detective Senior Sergeant of Victoria Police, said the focus of family and searchers often shifts from knowing what happened to just finding the remains of their loved one and bringing them home.
"In the old cold cases like Russell's, family members tell me, 'we just want to find them - we just want to lay their remains with family so that we can have somewhere to visit them. We just need to know where they are," he said.
Mr Smith said in these cases, there are often a number of people who know where the body is.
"Time works against them, as people mellow and become more compassionate they provide the information that was shut tight decades before," he said.
"My experience is that it is also like a horse race - who is going to come forward and connect first, who is perhaps, going to be seen as doing the right thing?"
Mrs Roberts, who is now in her early eighties, is heartbroken at not knowing where her brother is and increasingly worried about the prospect of dying before she had the opportunity to say goodbye.
"I just want to find him and lay him to rest. I don't want him lying out there somewhere," she said.
With her health failing her, Mrs Roberts made an emotional plea to the residents, past and present, of Stawell.
"As we get older, we accept a loss - it's a natural part of life - but this kind of loss, ambiguous loss, torments," she said.
"It doesn't get easier to cope with over time as a standard bereavement can.
"I am constantly thinking of Russell and re-living our childhood and the simple life we had as children playing together and sharing our joys and pains. I just want to say goodbye and tell him I love him."
Founder and chief executive of Missing Persons Advocacy Network Loren O'Keeffe has also felt the tragic loss of a younger brother.
"The years that Dan was missing were devastating, but being able to grieve next to him once his remains were found was so healing, and brought much-needed peace to me and my family," she said.
"I know some of what Bev is feeling and my heart breaks for her. I just wish the wider community would understand and allow Bev and Russell that peace."
The investigation of missing person cold cases requires complex and detailed attention. With over 38,000 people going missing each year in Australia, many cases slip through the investigative cracks.
Information, on this case, can be provided to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or via their encrypted submission form on the Crime Stoppers website crimestoppersvic.com.au
"There are ways and means of providing secure and anonymous information, but still be able to claim recognition at a later stage if you want to," Mr Smith said.
Valentine Smith is contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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