Six days without a clue, police scale back Elisa search

The search continues for missing person Elisa Curry at Airey's. Police search the Paincalak Creek in  boat at Aireys inlet.  5th October 2017. Photo by Jason South
The search continues for missing person Elisa Curry at Airey's. Police search the Paincalak Creek in boat at Aireys inlet. 5th October 2017. Photo by Jason South
SPECIAL 0000 hfm000904.002.001.jpg Pic by Heath Missen. S

The Age.  Aireys Inlet Lighthouse

SPECIAL 0000 hfm000904.002.001.jpg Pic by Heath Missen. S The Age. Aireys Inlet Lighthouse

Eleven people have disappeared since Elisa Curry went missing from her holiday home along Victoria's Great Ocean Road on Saturday night.

None attracted the attention Ms Curry did.

By Friday afternoon, most had been found, but 17-year-old Jawad Walker, 44-year-old Pablo Blanco, 15-year-old Trisha Pido and 37-year-old Kath Bergamin were still missing.

Inspector Peter Seel, who has been the public face of the search for Ms Curry, 43, says the public interest is because the case is so unusual.

"It's a lady with three children who has vanished and there's just been no indication of what may or may not have happened to her; that captures the imagination of the public," Inspector Peter Seel said.

Inspector Seel, a policeman for 29 years, is a former homicide detective who investigated the murders of police officers Gary Silk and Rodney Miller.

He has never had a missing persons case like this.

Aireys Inlet is a beautiful hamlet for the wealthy, but its land remains unforgiving. The bush is dense, its tracks are rocky, there are cliffs and rough seas.

Ms Curry, a law and economics graduate, marathon runner and full-time mum, was last seen going to bed at 10pm on Saturday. Sometime between then and 9am on Sunday, she vanished.

"It's been unusual in the sense that we've had nothing to start from apart from the house. We've got no direction of travel, we've got no times that she may have left, we've got no description of clothing she may or may not be wearing, we've had no phone contact," Inspector Seel said.

"Generally in these types of cases you get something you can utilise."

What police know is Ms Curry watched the AFL grand final at the house with a friend. Her husband David and three children, aged between seven and 12, were at the game and were staying in Melbourne that night.

The friend left and at some point in the night her neighbours, a married couple, came over. They both left, but at 10pm, something prompted the wife to return. She saw Ms Curry get into bed before heading back home.

The couple, who have given statements to police, aren't talking to media and Inspector Seel will not say what Ms Curry discussed with her neighbour that night, only that it was a personal matter.

At 10.30pm, Ms Curry switched off her phone. It was never turned on again, and is still missing. Ms Curry also shut down her Facebook page before she disappeared.

There was no sign of foul play, no sign of a scuffle, no hints that she wanted to harm herself or create a new life. Nor were there clues suggesting she had gone for a walk or a run and met with an accident.

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An ashen-faced Mr Curry, a senior executive at the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, made an appeal on Tuesday as the search and public interest intensified.

"Elisa, if you're out there, can you please contact us. If anyone has seen anything, just please contact us," he said.

It's the only public statement he has made and when asked if anything could be read into his manner, Inspector Steel said it was wrong to draw any conclusions.

"Everybody reacts in a different way in different circumstances. It's unfair people get judged in how they react in stressful situations," he said.

Loren O'Keeffe's brother Daniel was missing for five years. His family believed he was living with homeless people in Queensland. Instead they found his body under their home; he had taken his own life.

Ms O'Keeffe, who started the Missing Persons Advocacy Network, said public appeals were necessary, but could leave families feeling exposed.

"It's such a bizarre scenario to feel so heavily reliant upon public awareness [and] then be so incredibly vulnerable and exposed to so many members of the public when you're already in the thick of such physical, mental and emotional chaos," she said.

Detectives are taught to keep an open mind and Inspector Seel would not speculate on what happened to Elisa Curry. Everything, he said, must be based on evidence.

The problem is, there is so little of it.

Searches from the land, sea and air have yielded nothing, as has an investigation into her life and those she was close to.

Inspector Seel said he had to tell the Curry family that from Saturday they would not see as many police around.

"That doesn't mean we've given up," he said.

Rope crews will scale cliffs and police divers will continue to search the ocean.

"It's not a case of stopping and that's it."

Jon Minney, Ms Curry's friend for more than 20 years, said earlier in the week that he wanted to imagine she was far away somewhere and happy, but as the days wore on that scenario became less and less likely.

"The likelihood of finding a missing person alive, especially out in the bush, is very remote," Inspector Steel said.

Anyone who sees Ms Curry or has information is urged to phone triple zero.

Missing Persons Advocacy Networkmpan.com.au

Lifeline: 13 11 14lifeline.org.au

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467suicidecallbackservice.org.au

beyondblue: 1300 22 4636beyondblue.org.au

This story Six days without a clue, police scale back Elisa search first appeared on The Age.