My Little Police Mystery – plus a pictorial tribute to my childhood home.

At last, here’s my explanation for some of those earlier cryptic comments about why I was away and why I was so grumpy about notions of pastoral idyll.

Be warned, this is quite long. Feel free to skip ahead to pictorial tribute at the end.


Don’t you just love surprises?

Surprises like birthday presents, like the sixpence in the Christmas pudding, like a new rose.

Like taking the kids to the Royal Easter Show and having a great days and then getting a phone call at lunchtime

from my sister-in-law

letting us know there’d been a robbery

of Dad’s home

(that’s Dad who is still in Sydney with us in his fourth month of serious illness including three weeks on life support)

in the sweet little country town of only 1000 people where we all grew up.

Where everybody knows everybody.

Where our parents contributed tens of thousands of volunteer hours to improve services and facilities.

You know. The one with the fruit trees and the morning sun and the dew drops all glistening…

Here’s a reminder

And now wait, there’s more!

They stole his car, maybe used it to transport some of his tools and tv, then brought it back covered in mud and crashed it in the side paddock. Just near the fruit trees in the pic in that link above.

But hold on. I’ve been keeping the best ’til last.

They stole my mother’s ashes.

Let me just repeat that for the hard of hearing.

They STOLE my mother’s ashes.

Admittedly, they probably didn’t do that bit on purpose. But – assuming they could read, which may be way too big an assumption – the box is topped with a large silver plaque with her name on it, and two sticky labels, also with her name, and the address of Rookwood Crematorium.

And she was a pretty well-known person up there.

So well known that, a week after the robbery, with the support of police, we released the information to the media and appealed to the community for the return of her ashes.

Her Order of Australia medal and engagement ring would have been nice too.

But still. It was the ashes that were important – and completely worthless to anyone else.

We didn’t really expect a result. But it was great that I got the front page of the regional daily, and the best rating tv news, and another local weekly paper, and three radio stations.

She’d been their Mayor for eight years, after all.

And getting media interest has been my job for a lot longer than that.


So in the meantime, I’ve been dealing with Dad’s insurers. Same company for building, contents and motor vehicle.

Their motto: “We can’t help but help”.

So how come I have to deal with three separate claims assessors?


And then we go away to Dubbo for the second week of the school holidays with the kids and we’re having a great time and we’re driving back on the Thursday and my brother calls. He’s heading up north to Dad’s place to start cleaning up. The phone cuts out. Country reception is pretty bad.

While we’re driving along and waiting to get back into range, I look at the Prof and the Prof looks at me. I don’t have to be back at work until Monday and my usual reasons for not travelling are sitting in the back seats, fully sated on Mummy time over the past six days.

I leave for our home town with my brother at 6am the next day.


You know how I said I love surprises?

The surprising thing is that I really don’t.

To whit: I badgered radiologists with both pregnancies to make sure I knew what all three kids’ genders would be. Who has time to wonder about that shit?


So we get to Dorrigo after a fabulously easy seven-hour drive.

We check out the wreck that the thieves left, and we have a laugh about the rooms where we can’t tell the difference between ransacked and normal.

I go to the bathroom.

I’m walking out and a glint catches my eye on the top of the washing machine.

Time stops.

I call my brother. The one who found the place first when it had been robbed.

I call him into the laundry and ask him if that was there before.

It wasn’t.

They’d brought back the ashes.

Now Mum would have found most of this pretty funny. But she was such a lousy housekeeper that I’m pretty sure she’d have been a bit miffed to be left in the laundry.


We called the police.


Shouldn’t we just have gratefully stashed them away once more?

While the box wasn’t damaged, there were two long strips of sticky tape holding the lid down.

They weren’t there before.

There might be fingerprints, or DNA. Or there might not. All kinds of morons watch CSI now, and they know to wear gloves.

But also the box, which I picked up only after it was in a proper evidence bag, felt only about half as heavy as I remembered when I collected it from Rookwood.

It’s been opened, it’s lighter, you do the maths.

Wednesday update: the police couldn’t find fingerprints, bad; but they’re pretty sure the box wasn’t opened, good.

I’m choosing to believe the sticky tape was some weird thief precaution. Same kind of weird that has someone steal a car, damage it, and bring it back to crash into the paddock from whence they stole it.


So I’m now back talking to the media.

And what to say?

I can’t bring myself to thank whoever let themselves back into my family home to return what MAY be all or part of my mother’s ashes.

If they think their conscience has been served, they are wrong.

They didn’t bring back her Order of Australia medals, or my grandad’s war medals, and they didn’t return all the loot and then eat shit and die on the doorstep so as far as I am concerned? This. Is. Not. Over.

The restraint I had to show in the first interviews so I didn’t offend the idiots and make them do something bad with her ashes? It’s gone.

And if I’m not imagining it; and they’ve done something to that box and its contents?

Watch out, fuckers.

Did I mention this media work I’ve been doing for a long time?

I’m really good at it.

Stay tuned.

And now, for the Pictorial Tribute to this little gem of a town. You may be picturing shanties and seedy streets, pawnbrokers and junkies on the streets. You’d be wrong. I’m not taking the chance of naming it again, although if you look back through comments you’ll find it. But it’s relatively popular with tourists and people who have visited always tell me how lucky I was to grow up there.

So, as a public service, here are some identifying features to ensure that if you ever have the misfortune to pull over in this town, you will recognise the need to keep your purse close and your children closer…

Historic war memorial and the popular Top Pub. I once shared a bar with Jack Thompson here. But no one would talk to him, because movie stars must be snobs, and they hate snobs in this town.

Part of the World Heritage Listed Rainforest and National Park. I suggest you go no further into town than this. Oh and by the way, locals don’t visit here, except on school excursions. Because if you visit here you must be a Greenie. And they hate Greenies.

One of many stunning waterfalls. Local people are inordinately proud of them. As if they could somehow take personal credit for having inaccesibly high cliffs and lots of rain. Too much rain gives you toe rot.

The alleged Steam Railway Museum. Some people travel all the way up there just to see it. They don’t realise that it’s not open yet. Because even after 25 years of working on it, it’s not perfect. This is what happens when you put steam geeks in charge of a tourist attraction and surround them with locals who have two left thumbs and one set of grandparents.

The town library. It used to be in the middle of the main street but they’ve moved it to the edge of town. I can only guess that too many people were getting access to books.

And finally, I stumbled on this in Google images and thought I should try to end on a kinder note. This was where the Prof and I had our wedding dinner. I’m trying to think happy thoughts about it now. It’s sort of working. Mostly because it was the only time I ever saw Mum and Dad dance together.

Thanks for bearing with me. I’d have given you more pics but Blogger seems to have decided enough is enough and, for once, it’s probably right.

mtc (when I’ve caught my breath)