Troubled teen migrant simply vanished
FOR the past 35 years, Emmi Godau has been clinging to the hope that missing daughter Michaela is still alive. Even now, her mind often drifts back and she remembers the smiling face of the 15-yearold who simply vanished from their home.
“She was certainly challenging as a teenager, she was headstrong. She liked her sport and music, but she didn’t like going to school,’’ Mrs Godau said.
When Michaela disappeared just before Christmas in 1982, her stepfather, Herwarth Godau, told police she had simply run away and taken some cash, toiletries and her passport.
But what he didn’t tell police was that child-welfare authorities had intervened several months prior to this amid concerns about Herwarth’s relationship with his 15-year-old stepdaughter.
Initially co-operative with detect- ives investigating the mystery, Mr Godau hired a lawyer when they started to dig deeper into his activities following her disappearance.
While Major Crime detectives believe Michaela is no longer alive, Mrs Godau, 70, believes otherwise.
“I am a positive person and until I’m shown proof, I will always hope she is alive, that she ran away because she did not want to move back to Germany with the family,’’ she said.
“Maybe she arranged somehow that she could stay in Australia. It’s possible she has run away or she could have met with foul play. There is nothing – until something is found, I don’t know this way or that way.
“Maybe I will never get resolution, maybe I will but that’s something I’m still hoping for.’’
Mrs Godau, who has worked as a nurse in Victoria since 1988, said Michaela had a good relationship with her stepfather.
“They got on quite well. When she wanted something, she would always go to him instead of me. She knew she would get her way,’’ she said.
She said her two sons, Axel, who works in Indonesia, and Jack, who lives in Berlin, remembered Michaela fondly.
Major Crime case officer Detective Sergeant Paul Ward said he suspects the circumstances of Michaela’s disappearance may have been “concocted’’ to try and fool police.
The Godau family had been living in Walpole St at Elizabeth Field, now Davoren Park, when Michaela vanished on Sunday, December 19, 1982. She and elder brother Axel had been attending Fremont High School after the family emigrated to Adelaide in late 1981. Younger brother Jack was not yet attending school.
When Michaela vanished, Mrs Godau was in Germany after having left Adelaide in July that year because she struggled to find work as a nurse. Because of this situation, the family had been planning to return to Germany.
Det-Sgt Ward said it appeared that Mr Godau was not coping well with looking after the three children and he also had difficulty obtaining work.
He said Michaela was a quiet girl with few friends. Concerns had been raised by one of her friend’s that there “may have been some issues at home’’ and although not entirely clear what they were, there was some suggestion of friction between her and her stepfather.
“The concerns started at school with her friends. Michaela appeared to be withdrawn at that time and had spoken about issues,’’ Det-Sgt Ward said.
“There were some relationship difficulties between them. The Department of Child Welfare became involved.’’
Det-Sgt Ward said while Mrs Godau was in Germany a decision had been made to sell the family home and a contract had been signed. In early December 1982, the prospective buyer had come to the house to negotiate the purchase of some furniture.
“When that person arrived at the property he had a conversation with Michaela and noticed she had an injury to her eye. It is unclear how that occurred,’’ Det-Sgt Ward said.
“On the night of the 19th, Michaela reportedly went to bed about 10pm and when the family woke the following morning she was gone.’’
Mr Godau reported her missing on December 20, claiming that she had taken $460 in cash, some toiletries,
KEY: Herwarth Godau’s Land Rover was sold before it could be checked by forensic experts.