Police to search new sites for body of pregnant mother in Tasmanian cold case

Updated April 08, 2019 17:39:52

Police believe they know where the body of missing Tasmanian mum Helen Munnings is.

Key points:

  • Tasmania Police is offering a record $300,000 reward for information on Helen Munnings’ disapparance
  • Ms Munnings was believed to be pregnant with her second child when she went missing in 2008
  • Four detectives are now assigned to the cold case

Ms Munnings, 20, went missing in the seaside city of Burnie in Tasmania’s north-west on July 23, 2008.

Police are treating her disappearance as murder.

Officers say they will start searching at a number of sites around Burnie within weeks.

“At the end of the day, the family deserve closure,” Detective Inspector Rob Gunton said.

“They deserve to know exactly what happened to Helen.”

Upping the pressure on those behind Ms Munnings’ disappearance, police have announced a $250,000 reward for information leading to a conviction. A further $50,000 is understood to remain on offer from a local business.

That $300,000 is a record reward for Tasmania.

Commander Debbie Williams said there were people in Burnie who knew what happened to Ms Munnings.

“We’ve got some leads that we believe will offer a fresh opportunity for some information coming forward — that’s the reason [the reward] is coming up now,” she said.

“We will be looking at all opportunities we can to identify and convict a person in relation to Helen’s disappearance.”

Ms Munnings’ mother Karel Black has been campaigning for an increased reward for information for a decade and has welcomed the record sum on offer for information leading to a conviction.

“It’s good and we’ve got our fingers crossed … it’s given us a lot of confidence and a lot of exposure and hopefully the right person sees it,” Ms Black said.

Helen Munnings had a two-year-old son and was believed to be pregnant with her second child when she left her Burnie home on July 23, 2008, telling her family she was going to a doctor’s appointment.

She never returned.

A 2013 inquest found that she died on or about that date and while it could not rule out suicide, found it was unlikely.

The coroner found that she had met her boyfriend and father of her child, Adam Taylor, late that afternoon.

“Hopefully [the reward and renewed investigation] will bring some sort of justice for Helen and her unborn baby,” Ms Black said.

“Police have always claimed there’s a small group of people who are aware of what’s happened and have got information.”

Reward will motivate people to come forward, police say

Detective Gunton said the people who have the information of what happened to Helen Munnings and know where her body is, are those who may have been part of the investigation since the day the young mother vanished.

“I believe that there are people in the community who are well aware of what happened to Helen and for whatever reason they’ve not yet come forward or have decided that that wasn’t information that they would share with police at that time,” he said.

“Recent circumstances would indicate that an increase in the reward may be a driving factor… to motivate those individuals to come forward.

“I can’t go into the specifics of that but suffice to say personal circumstances and circumstances of various individuals change over a period of time and we have information that would suggest that that may be the case in this matter.”

It appears that those changing circumstances have already started the flow of information.

Four detectives are now assigned to the cold case, which police say is a reflection on the information that has been coming in over the past few weeks.

“The size of the team will be dictated by the amount of information that comes forward as a result of this,” Detective Gunton said.

“We would ask them to come forward if we haven’t previously spoken to them or if we have previously spoken to them and they now feel that they have information that may advance the matter, we encourage them to come forward and contact us.”

“The matter has been going for some 11 years now … and it will continue until such time as we successfully resolve it.”

In the 2013 inquest, the counsel assisting the coroner said that Adam Taylor was a person of interest in the disappearance.

Police have confirmed that he remains a person of interest, but refused to comment on how many persons of interest they have in their sights.

The identification of possible burial sites and the record reward money are the most significant breakthroughs in the history of the 11-year mystery.

“The investigation would have been in the thousands of hours over the years,” Detective Gunson said.

“The matter has remained an open investigation … it’s continuously focussed on and any new information is continually followed up and has been.”

Topics: law-crime-and-justice, crime, community-and-society, police, burnie-7320, tas, launceston-7250

First posted April 08, 2019 16:24:52

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