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Darrell Baldock preparing a poster of his missing daughter, Samantha.

Darrell Baldock preparing a poster of his missing daughter, Samantha.

Darrell Baldock's daughter, Samantha, went missing July 18, this year but unless you live in South Australia, there's a good chance you've never heard of her ...

It took until Friday last week for the remains of what Samantha's family believes is her body to be found in mangroves near the Port River at Osborne, a coastal suburb in the north-west of Adelaide.

"It hasn't been officially confirmed," Mr Baldock said on Thursday, "but we know it's her."

While the country remains captivated by the disappearance and murder of Melbourne ABC employee Jill Meagher, Mr Baldock and his family are awaiting results of forensic tests to confirm the identity of the body found near a walking track at Mutton Cove.

At this stage, police do not believe foul play was involved.

"From the items that were there, well, if the police told me tomorrow the DNA tests said it wasn't her, I'd tell them 'you better go back and check.' We know it's her," Mr Baldock said.

Like many of families of the 35,000 Australians who go missing every year in this country, the Baldocks were initially frustrated with the length of time it took for the police to take her disappearance seriously.

"There were some problems early on; the police were slow to get started but that's just the system. They have so many go missing," said Mr Baldock, who now has nothing but praise for the diligence and care shown by South Australian Police.

"The family of the missing person always wants answers yesterday, but then the police started to realise we were dead serious and that for Sam to go missing was not in the normal range of her character," Mr Baldock said.

Samantha's fiance, Lance Leighton, said: "It wasn't like she was some teenage girl who'd run off to stay with a friend for a week. She was a 43-year-old woman, who'd lived with me for years and had a medical problem."

The Australian Federal Police estimate that, of the 35,000 people reported missing annually, 20,000 are under the age of 18 and 95 per cent of all persons are located "within a short period of time".

They are, however, approximately 1,600 long term missing persons in Australia; "those who have been missing for more than six months", says the AFP.

Mr Leighton was the last person to see Samantha, the manager of two disability care facilities, alive when he left for work at 5am on Wednesday, July 18, and she told him she would be going into work to spend time with a patient.

Because of the differences in their schedules, it wasn't until the next day, Thursday, July 19, that the alarm was rasied when Sam didn't turn up to practice as singer with her band, Lonely Machine in the Corner.

"I reported her missing Thursday night, but it was pretty late, so the ball didn't really get rolling until the Friday morning," said Mr Leighton, "so by that time it had already been 48 hours."

Mr Leighton began ringing friends and family "asking 'have you seen her, have you seen', I just couldn't work it out," he said.

With the help of friends, Mr Leighton began putting signs up around the local area on the Friday, walking along main roads with posters of Sam's image, as well as postering the main freeway exits in and out of Adelaide "in case she'd gotten in a truck or on a bus," he said.

He then began contacting the media.

Four days after she was last seen, ABC News, South Australia, ran this story, with Channel Nine Adelaide following up the day after with this story.

The Nine newsroom said they'd monitored a Facebook page set up to publicise Samantha's disappearance, as well as comments on the SA Police Facebook page and said "it was the tone of those comments" that convinced staff "this was just not another missing person who didn't want to be found".

"It really did seem to us it was out of character, so we chased it up," they said.

"We really pushed," said Mr Baldock, who did not hear of his daughter's disappearance for two days because he was working on a farm and was having problems with his mobile phone.

"I got home with a suitcase full of dirty clothes and the phone rang and I was told 'Sam's missing' and I turned around and packed my bag and got straight back in the car," Mr Baldock said.

In those first few days following Samantha's disappearance it was her fiance, then family who drove most of the search activity.

"We had hundreds of people looking," Mr Baldock said, "we thought she just has to be out there."

In the nine weeks since her disappearance, the Baldocks and Mr Leighton distributed more than 13,000 fliers, rode trains until transit guards knew the family by name and, searched tirelessly.

"Where they found her body, it feels like just about the only place in Adelaide we didn't search," said Mr Leighton.

Mr Baldock says he's not a fan of social media but ackowledged the power it has to capture the media and public's attention in cases like his daughter's.

"The reality of it was, it was all to no avail. It didn't help find her, it didn't bring her back; all it did was give us hope," he said.

"From that point of view it's been great. If she had been alive, I'm sure we would have found her. It's better to have hope and at least try. Even if you don't get them back safe, at least you know you tried."

Mr Leighton agrees.

"If there is someone out there who is missing, you'd find them," he said of the awareness generated by social media.

Samantha Baldock's loved ones have visited the area where her body was found to say their farewells but her father says "the official goodbye won't come until we get the news" from police positively identifying her remains.

He said he's told Adelaide police if they ever get another missing person similar to his daughter, "tell them to ring us" because his family could help with many dos and don'ts when it comes to using social media to help find a loved one.

He said the public nature of such appeals draws "glory hunters", people who may not even know the missing person, but become passionate and involved in the cause.

"It became a bit of a circus for a while there, but now we've found her, it's time for social media to back out," he said.

Mr Leighton said it was imperative that the families of the missing "fight for them".

"It's easy to fall in a ball and give up, but you have to be strong if love someone. I know she would have done exactly the same for me," he said.

75 comments so far

  • At the risk of sounding insensitive to Ms Meagher's plight I do find it interesting how some missing person's cases are immediately acted and seized upon by the media while others appear to get little to no attention. The two cases have several similarities and yet this latest one was making national headlines before the handbag was found or the video footage released, while the former may never have been reported outside SA except for the coincidental discovery of a body as juxtaposed by Sam.

    Couldn't Resist
    Date and time
    September 27, 2012, 6:41PM
    • I thought the same thing. Obviously it's because she's white, very attractive and photogenic.

      Date and time
      September 27, 2012, 7:44PM
    • Guys,
      Jill Meagher also worked for the ABC. It's not about how she looked.

      Date and time
      September 27, 2012, 8:11PM
    • @ George, yes, agreed. The ABC thing isn't relevant - she's not anyone with a public profile.

      I remember years ago, during the continually massive coverage over the Maddie McCann disappearance, a muslim toddler, Rahma el-Dennaoui, went missing from Lurnea in Sydney. A friend and I commented that she would hardly get a mention within a few weeks after the abduction. And we were right.

      Date and time
      September 27, 2012, 9:09PM
    • This isn't about her looks. It's about the circumstances in which she disappeared. They were highly unusual. 20,000 of the 35,000 people who disappear every year are under 18 year of age. She's 29. 95% of people are found within a week. If they're found, they no longer need to be looked for, hence no media attention. Of the 1600 who remain missing for longer, the majority have mental health issues, drug problems, or dementia. She had none of those. Less than 0.08 percent of those 1600 are thought to be the result of a crime. That is why it got media attention. It was worth it.

      Date and time
      September 27, 2012, 9:43PM
    • It now seems to have a name: Missing White Woman Syndrome:

      "the disproportionate degree of coverage in television, radio, newspaper and magazine reporting of an adversity, most often a missing person case, involving a young, white, upper-middle class (frequently blonde) woman or girl"

      Date and time
      September 27, 2012, 10:22PM
    • I am sorry there was not a happy ending for the Brixtons. Jill's attacker may not have been caught without the social media, which may mean other people have been saved from dangers. Unfortunately being attractive is helpful - I doubt an uneducated, overweight, female with straggly hair and missing teeth would evoke the same sympathy, however I strongly believe they should. I can't even understand why Crimestoppers says there are no missing people cases unsolved in VIctoria, I am sure that is not true. People who go missing deserve publicity, their families deserve it. If people go missing because they are depressed and someone kind hearted asks them if they are okay because they have seen them in the media, even a slim hope it may prevent them ending their life is a hope I would give to any of my relatives any day, did this situation eventuate.

      Date and time
      September 27, 2012, 11:05PM
    • The ABC thing is relevant. Its got nothing to do with her "public profile". It had to do with her friends at work and their access to the media.

      Date and time
      September 28, 2012, 9:31AM
    • I'm astounded that the above haven't linked her involvement with the ABC as the primary reason why it has been in the media spotlight!
      The ABC have been driving the media story about her and the commercial stations have picked it up for fear of appearing to not care or not be relevant

      Date and time
      September 28, 2012, 10:05AM
    • You do sound insensitive.
      Then you compound your insensitivity with a pseudo attempt to sound semi- intellectual.

      Date and time
      September 28, 2012, 10:12AM

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