Missing person – can you help?

A 'Missing' poster in Rye High Street hides a fascinating story

It’s fascinating what you can learn by strolling down Rye High Street, as in the window of Adams there is a collection of posters bursting with information about a variety of local events.

In amongst them is a “Missing” poster (pictured) which I was curious to read about and which led me along a fascinating journey and an incredible story, the findings of which I felt should be shared with our readers.

The missing person is Florabella Natalia Marion Remakel, previously known as Marion Barter and who has been missing since 1997. There are many references and theories relating to her disappearance, which is still a mystery, but her daughter, Sally Leydon has never given up the search for her.

In August 1997, Marion, then 51, had been in the UK for the past five weeks having given up her job in Australia, sold her house and with plans to take a ride on the Orient Express.

Marion, a teacher by profession, was very successful in her chosen field, so much so that she was awarded a prize for being the best teacher in Queensland, Australia. This new notoriety coupled with an unproven allegation relating to improper behaviour left her mortified, it changed her personality and, with her daughter’s blessing, she decided to get away from it all.

Sally was very close to her mum and was due to marry in the following October. They always kept in weekly contact but now there were just letters and postcards. “I’ll definitely be back for the wedding” Marion had told her, “I’m going to take a break now, I’m not going to keep writing postcards to everyone”.

There was no word from Marion for six weeks which was out of character and when Sally’s brother Owen didn’t hear from her on his 23rd birthday, alarm bells rang and panic set in.

Marion’s bank confirmed to Sally (after quoting it was against privacy laws): “Your mum’s overseas? Five thousand dollars has been withdrawn every day in Byron Bay for the last three and a half weeks.” Sally and her fiancé Chris frantically drove to Byron Bay to look for her and the bank employee there said “her picture rang a bell” but no-one else had seen her.

Sally reported her as missing to the local police, and a week later an officer rang to say they had spoken to Marion “who doesn’t want anyone to know where she was or what she was doing”. This didn’t make any sense.

A friend who worked in customs checked her passport and confirmed she had returned to Australia on August 2. The Salvation Army were asked for a second opinion and their subsequent letter verified the police report.

Marion didn’t turn up when Sally and Chris married, when Sally gave birth to Ella in July 2001 she was heartbroken that Marion wasn’t there to meet her grandchild. In March of the following year, Owen, Sally’s brother, took his own life. A devastating blow and the question still remains, did Marion know her son had passed away?

More questions need answers, had Marion been murdered? Had someone stolen her identity? Later, the Salvation Army wrote to apologise admitting that neither they, or the police had ever sighted Marion. There was no proof that the person who contacted them by phone was Marion.

In 2007, a new detective was assigned to the case and a year later confirmed Marion had changed her name to Florabella Remakel. A customs card attached to her passport stated Florabella was married, living in Luxembourg and visiting Australia for three days.The police decided to close the case as Marion was deemed to be missing of her own accord yet there is still $20,000 in a UK bank account. If she were still alive why would she not have used the money?

Marion changed her name on May 15, 1997 – before she had even gone on the trip to the UK. Since her disappearance she had not contacted social security or Medicare and in 2011 Marion was removed from the missing persons register.

This story has always had twists and turns and in 2013 the mystery deepened still further as someone left a mysterious message on Sally’s Facebook page which read: “Natalia is alive but you (sic) never see her again. It was not her intention to disappear. She was forced.”

It is not clear if this post was genuine or posted by an internet troll, Sally followed it up but it was removed shortly after appearing.

After 22 years of searching, Sally and her family have never given up hope of finding her. Marion will now be 73 years old, if you think you recognise her or have any information which may help  with so many unanswered questions then please make contact direct via the following email address: theladyvanishes@seven.com.au

The next time you walk along the High Street look around you, there is so much which is obvious to see and admire but look a little closer and you may discover something even more fascinating.



Image Credits: Nick Forman .


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