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ACCORDING to her husband, Colleen Adams walked out of the door of their modest Yorke Peninsula home moments after telling him their marriage was over.
Carrying two suitcases containing her belongings, she got into a vehicle driven by another woman and they drove off, he has told detectives.
That was just after 7am on November 22, 1973. Ms Adams, 24, has never been seen again.
While Geoffrey Adams has repeated the same account to detectives each time he has been interviewed, it appears at odds with the information they have gathered.
While it appears the couple were having marital issues, a plethora of indicators suggests Ms Adams was not planning to leave their Maitland home.
She had been planning for Christmas, even telling her younger sister, Heather Johncock, in a letter written shortly before she vanished that she had bought a “special” gift for her husband.
But even more tellingly, Ms Adams loved her two children dearly. Her life revolved around her girls, Marie and Kaye, and, according to her family, she would never abandon them. Kaye was just 18 months old and Marie, 3.
Major Crime case officer Detective Brevet Sergeant Michael Newbury is conducting fresh inquiries in the case following a comprehensive review of the file.
“We have an open mind as to what has happened and how it has happened, but we are of the opinion Colleen has been murdered,’’ he said.
“We do not hold out hope she is just missing and will turn up.’’
While the case is complex and has presented detectives with many contradictions, there is significant information that she did not leave voluntarily.
While on his account Mr Adams was the last person to see Colleen, he never reported her missing. On December 19 – 27 days after she vanished – her mother, Vera Milbank, lodged a missing person report with police.
Police investigations have discovered information which suggests the couple’s marriage may have been under strain in the months leading up to her disappearance.
Neighbours reported loud arguments and Ms Adams had spoken of such issues in letters to relatives.
The pair married in late 1969 when Ms Adams was aged 20. They had met just a year earlier. He was a Maitland local while she grew up at Bute, in Mid North.
Mr Adams was employed by a local painter and his social circle involved the local Lodge group, while Ms Adams had no friends outside of the Yorke Peninsula community. Her life revolved around her two daughters and extended family.
Det Bvt Sgt Newbury said Mr Adams had consistently maintained each time he was interviewed that his wife left their Bagnall Ave house voluntarily.
“Geoffrey has told us he was out the night before at a Lodge meeting and she was at home with the children,’’ he said.
“He said he went to bed about midnight, woke at 7 the next morning to find her dressed, packed with two suitcases and ready to leave.
“He said it took him by surprise. He said at that point she told him she wanted nothing more to do with him or the children.
“He said she made disparaging remarks towards the children, she walked out, and there was a woman aged about 40 in a vehicle. He said he had never seen her or the vehicle before.
“He said she got in and left and he never saw her again and has no idea how to track her down.’’
NOT surprisingly, Ms Adams’ mother had immediate concerns about her daughter’s welfare. When she lodged the missing person report on December 19, she told police Ms Adams hadn’t told anyone she was leaving and her behavior was completely out of character.
In 1974, detectives made some follow-up inquiries in Maitland and Adelaide but could not locate Ms Adams. The file remained an open missing person report until 1979 when the case was declared a major crime because there was no trace of her and she had made no contact with any family.
At that time, Major Crime detectives spent several months in Maitland and Wallaroo, where Mr Adams was living, interviewing people over Ms Adams’ disappearance.
It was during these inquiries some light was shed on the mystery as people spoken to by police voiced their concerns about the Adams’ relationship.“They said the relationship was dysfunctional,’’ Det Bvt Sgt Newbury said.
“The marriage appeared happy at first, but possibly around the birth of the first child it started to fall apart.
“Certainly Vera noticed this along with the other people. When police interviewed people they all said the same thing, something was wrong with the marriage.’’
Neighbors had also reported “yelling and screaming’’ coming from the house with many of the witnesses stating “there was significant unrest in the relationship’’.
Detectives discovered Ms Adams had told several friends she was under the impression she had to be out of the marital house by November 1973. Mr Adams had also mentioned this to his friends.
“It’s quite clear from the different reports that came in that November was the deadline,” Det Bvt Sgt Newbury said. “She has told people this but to this day we do not know why.’’
Investigations also revealed Ms Adams went to a welfare officer on November 1, 1973, and said Mr Adams was “trying to kick her out of the house’’.
“She was concerned about that; she had two children she couldn’t support and she had no income,’’ Det Bvt Sgt Newbury said.
“That was the extent of her concern, like ‘What do I do and what are my rights?’ because she did not know where this was heading.
“She rang back on November 5 and said things were all right. She essentially told them ‘Thanks for your help, I’m OK now’.’’
Curiously, on November 14, Ms Adams attended her local bank and withdrew her savings – $41.14 – and closed the account.
“To this day we don’t know why. It could be a complete coincidence. She attended in person, her signature was verified by the clerk,’’ Det Bvt Sgt Newbury said.
“But it does fit into the concern we had that in November she clearly had these concerns about leaving that place.’’
PERHAPS the last clue came the week before she vanished. In her last letter to her sister, Heather, Ms Adams gave an insight into the insta-
STRAINED MARRIAGE: Colleen Adams with husband Geoffrey and daughter Marie, left; the missing person report lodged just before Christmas 1973; their family home in Maitland, right; and part of the letter she wrote to sister Heather just before she disappeared.