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“I Can’t Think Of A More Important Story”

The journalist behind a new podcast about William Tyrrell reflects on the case that continues to grip Australia


By Caroline Overington

William Tyrrell was a three-year-old boy who went missing from outside a house in the township of Kendall in September 2014.

No trace of him has been found.

I’ve written that sentence around a thousand times in the four, almost five years since William went missing and I still can’t believe it.

How can it be that a small boy is there one minute and just gone the next? How can be that nobody saw anything?

That nobody heard anything?

Not a cry, not a car boot slamming shut, not so much as a twig snap.

It’s about as mysterious and horrifying as a crime can be, torture for everyone who loved him.

And so many people loved him.

 

It’s about as mysterious and horrifying as a crime can be, torture for everyone who loved him.

William was a foster child, in the care of foster parents when he went missing.

I knew that, pretty early on. Within days, probably of him going missing, although it wouldn’t be revealed to the public, for years.

Children at risk, and children in care; children raised in intuitions, and children who don’t get the love they need when they’re little, and children who grow up neglected … their stories have always, and long been the ones I’ve wanted to tell.

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Nowhere Child is a new podcast from The Australian newspaper

I’ve written books about children raised in foster care, children caught in custody battles; children abandoned by their mothers.

One of the most poignant scenes I came across when I was writing Last Woman Hanged – it’s about the first and last woman to be executed at the Darlinghurst Gaol, in 1889 – was the one in which her little daughter, May, was called to give testimony at her trial.

May gave the evidence sent her mother to the gallows.

She didn’t mean to, but she did.

That’s a true story.

Later the same little girl tried banging on the door of the governor’s house, to plead for her mother’s life, and he would not even come out to see her, and I wept writing that scene.

Louisa was hanged and her daughter went into care, and she grew up, and got married, and had a daughter of her own, and what middle name did she give her?

Louisa.

Trauma in families … I’ve long believed that it reverberates through generations, but also through the walls, and down through our shared history.

Trauma in families … I’ve long believed that it reverberates through generations,

It impacts on all of us, and if you’ve ever known or loved a person who knew deprivation – emotional, not financial – as a child, or who perhaps lost a parent at a young age, you’ll know precisely what I mean.

We carry the wounds of childhood into adulthood.

Often we try to foist our pain onto others, and on it goes, from one generation to the next.

William being missing and being a foster child … I can’t think of a more important story, certainly not anything emanating from Canberra. It’s more important than politics, more important than economics, more important than anything going on abroad.

He’s three years old, he’s missing and he was a foster child, so he’s everyone’s responsibility, and if there is a way to keep his story – his face, his plight – in the news, I’ll always take it, and so for years I wrote, and I wrote, and then this new way of telling stories – the podcast – came up and I grabbed it.

And I hope you’ll listen. Because we can’t just let this fade into our terrible history, in which children just seem to disappear.

He was three when he went missing. He’d now be eight, and he’s our responsibility, until he’s found.

Caroline Overington heads up the podcast Nowhere Child, which investigates the disappearance of William Tyrrell. You can listen or subscribe to it here

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BY Caroline Overington

Caroline is a Walkley Award-winning journalist and the Associate Editor of The Australian

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