The Missing Files by Scott Bainbridge
Scott Bainbridge’s books are always eagerly anticipated and enjoyed. They are inevitably topical, local, and extremely well researched and written.
Scott is a highly regarded investigative journalist who fearlessly searches for clues to the nation’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
He unearths new facts, some of which turn into fresh leads in notorious cases that have become cold. He does so despite the fact his investigation may bring him into close contact with the country’s murky underworld. And yes, these dark and dangerous links do exist, even here in relatively safe New Zealand.
Apart from shocking glimpses into the criminal underworld, it is striking that many of the missing in this book were in some way themselves victims - or fringe-dwellers – long before they became central figures in celebrated murder mysteries. And there are other ongoing themes of false leads and missed evidence; of suspect profiling and failed opportunities to find and convict the true perpetrators. Of course the corollary to this is the fact that murderers remain at large, and the families of the missing never achieve resolution or closure.
As a teenager, the sister of one of my closest friends disappeared and her case remained unsolved for almost 50 years until a very belated coronial enquiry established the most likely killer and his motive. All my life I have remained fascinated by this cold case and incredulous that in a small place such as Tasmania that no-one came forward with clues which would lead to a conviction.
The coronial enquiry established that a series of blunders by police occurred. First, they wasted valuable search time by believing the victim – a stable, hard-working and happily engaged young woman - had willingly run off. This gross error was coupled with a blind belief by the top cop of the day conviction that he knew the killer was so fixed that even when the murderer admitted guilt, the records of interview were discounted and hidden away.
These unbelievable blunders resulted in a killer remaining at large until another young life was taken. But even then, the family of a young woman in her prime who went missing without trace had no closure. And they relived the horror of their loved one’s disappearance every time a new theory or rumour surfaced.
For this very personal reason and the fact that I admire the great perseverance and discipline that investigative journalism requires, I have deep respect for Scott Bainbridge’s books.
Apart from this, he is an excellent writer and this book is a cracking read.
The Missing Files is sold exclusively through Paper Plus, Paper Plus Select and Take Note.
Reviewer: Peta Stavelli