$500,000 reward offered to help solve a 43 year old cold case

Tasmania Police is offering a $500,000 reward to anyone with credible information that can help investigators find Darlene Avis Geertsema and uncover the truth about what happened to her the night she disappeared from her Devonport home 43 years ago.

Darlene, 30, was last seen leaving the family home in Best Street, Devonport around 10pm on Monday 23 October 1978 in her 1977 red Holden Sunbird registered number AS 4119. Her vehicle was located locked and abandoned in a car park on Victoria Parade in the vicinity of the Devonport Oval on the morning of Wednesday 25 October 1978.

Darlene was a mother of 6 children. Her four eldest daughters were living in Queensland at the time of her disappearance, leaving Darlene to care for her two youngest children, including her daughter, Kathryn, then 8.

Today, 43 years later, Kathryn is calling on anyone with information about what happened to her mother on that night to come forward.

“I remember my mum as a caring person, always collecting different animals. She always used to brush my hair every night before bed. I had very long hair, and she used to do the 100 strokes. I spent a lot of time with mum cooking,” Kathryn said. 

“We were her world… It was out of character for my mum to leave…she wouldn’t have walked out on us for sure, I know that in my heart. She would never have walked out (for us to) never hear from her again…she would have never left me and my brother.”

Kathryn said the impact of losing her mother at such a young age had been devastating, especially missing milestone life events such as weddings and the birth of children.

“It would have been nice to celebrate with her.  It’s really hard because your mum is your best friend,” she said.

“We are fighting for answers. She is somewhere, and (to know where she is) would bring closure to us so we can get on with our lives. I know it’s 43 years ago, but we’re begging anyone with information to come forward. You might think it’s trivial – but if anyone they can remember anything please come forward and help us to get closure.” 

An investigation into Darlene’s disappearance was carried out in 1978 however police were unable to locate Darlene and could not ascertain a motive for her disappearance at the time. There have been no confirmed sightings of her since Monday 23 October 1978 and her body has never been found.

Detective Sergeant Felicity Boyd said that a review into the circumstances surrounding Darlene’s disappearance commenced in July 2013.

“As a result of detectives re-interviewing witnesses and obtaining fresh information, new evidence established that Darlene’s relationship with her then de facto partner was characterised by family violence, and in particular, that a verbal and physical altercation took place the night she disappeared,” she said. 

Detective Sergeant Boyd said the disappearance would remain under investigation until Darlene’s body is found or the person or people responsible for her disappearance were brought to justice.

“We have explored several scenarios to explain Darlene’s disappearance and whilst we maintain an open mind into the circumstances, we do not believe Darlene left the family home voluntarily. She would have never, ever intentionally left her children behind and would have never, ever stopped writing to her family,” she said. 

“We have conducted extensive investigations and it has become increasingly apparent that Darlene is more than likely deceased and that she died in very suspicious circumstances.”

An inquest into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance will commence in the Launceston Magistrates Court on Monday 13 December 2021.

Detective Sergeant Boyd believes that the $500,000 reward for information could be life changing for someone. 

“Someone out there knows exactly what happened to Darlene that night. Whilst we have canvassed alternate explanations for her disappearance, we have not been able to find Darlene and we need help from the public to uncover the truth and bring her home,” she said.

“We owe it to Darlene’s children and family to find the answers behind her disappearance and someone out there holds the last piece of this puzzle.”

Anyone with credible information about this case is urged to come forward. You can provide your information anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or by reporting it online at crimestopperstas.com.au.