WHERE is Donny Go­van?

The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By Ivy Jensen

For fam­i­lies who have lost loved ones – in miss­ing per­sons or un­solved mur­der cases – it’s the stuff of night­mares.

Four lo­cal cold cases have re­mained shrouded in mys­tery — from a 2000 un­solved mur­der in Mathoura to the dis­ap­pear­ance of a grand­fa­ther of nine three years ago.

A fifth is a case where all the play­ers are al­legedly known but some­how the sys­tem has failed to de­liver jus­tice.

Last year, 13,164 Vic­to­ri­ans were re­ported miss­ing.

Of those 99 per cent are found or re­turn of their own ac­cord – it is the 1 per cent that are the con­cern.

And it is for that 1 per cent we will run a se­ries of sto­ries in the next few weeks to try and jog peo­ple’s mem­o­ries, or ap­peal to peo­ple who know more than they have let on, to try and give these fam­i­lies some an­swers.`

WHAT hap­pened to Donny Go­van?

It’s a mys­tery that has baf­fled his fam­ily and po­lice for six years.

When the then 16-year-old van­ished from an Echuca camp­site, never to be seen again.

Po­lice be­lieve Donny may have drowned in the river, but his fam­ily still hold out hope he’s alive some­where.

On Au­gust 31, 2012, Donny trav­elled to Echuca to spend a week­end camp­ing by the river, about 1km north of Braund Rd, with older sis­ter Rachael O’Keane and four other friends, all from Ballarat. He left his mo­bile phone and wal­let at home. About 8.30pm the fol­low­ing day, Septem­ber 1, Donny be­gan to act para­noid and er­ratic.

He begged his sis­ter to drive him home to Ballarat, but she had been drink­ing, so she of­fered to take him the next morn­ing.

Then without warn­ing, he bolted down an un­sealed track be­fore dart­ing into dense bush­land, to­wards a bil­l­abong.

De­tec­tive Se­nior Con­sta­ble Ja­son Hare of Cam­paspe Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit was work­ing the next morn­ing and got the phone call about a miss­ing boy.

‘‘When I got out there, I re­mem­ber how foggy it was and the river was up. And there was mist com­ing off the river,’’ he said.

‘‘I re­mem­ber look­ing at the river and think­ing ‘wow’, how high that is.’’

Rachael and the friends told Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Hare there had been a bit of a dis­agree­ment with Donny be­fore he ran off.

‘‘I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a ma­jor thing, just triv­ial, but he had taken it the wrong way. They thought he got a bit para­noid about it and peo­ple were talk­ing about him but they weren’t,’’ he said.

‘‘I cer­tainly got the feel­ing when we spoke to the wit­nesses at the time that they ex­pected him to show up. That he wouldn’t be far away. And then ob­vi­ously as time pro­gressed, he never re­turned.’’

Lo­cal search and res­cue and crews and Vic­to­ria Po­lice air, ca­nine and search and res­cue units failed to find any trace of the teen.

‘‘Where he went miss­ing, be­sides the river, there was the la­goon on the other side. It’s ac­tu­ally quite shal­low and that was all searched but ob­vi­ously there was no sign of him.

‘‘The search went on for a while. We did an­other he­li­copter fly-over and Search and Res­cue came back and looked along the river as the lev­els dropped, but they never found any­thing to in­di­cate he was there.’’

There have been sev­eral re­ported sight­ings of Donny since his dis­ap­pear­ance, in­clud­ing a woman in Pak­en­ham St who con­tacted po­lice claim­ing she had seen Donny and pro­vided him with break­fast on the Sun­day morn­ing.

‘‘In her state­ment, she de­scribes some­one of sim­i­lar type, age and build to Donny, but we’re not con­vinced whether it was or wasn’t him,’’ Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Hare said.

‘‘She couldn’t iden­tify him as be­ing the per­son in the pho­tos. Cer­tainly her de­scrip­tion was very sim­i­lar to Donny and at the time made us think per­haps he had.’’

There have also been re­ports of Donny liv­ing on the streets of Mel­bourne, and sight­ings in Western Aus­tralia, NSW and Queens­land, but all have led to dead ends.

‘‘None of it has led to any­thing that we’ve been able to sub­stan­ti­ate to in­di­cate where or what’s hap­pened to Donny,’’ Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Hare said.

Sis­ter Rachael O’Keane, who was with Donny on the night he dis­ap­peared, said there were sev­eral rea­sons she be­lieved her brother was out there some­where.

‘‘There has not been a body found, there has been no in­for­ma­tion lead­ing us to be­lieve that he is dead and hope is the only thing that keeps us sane and con­tin­u­ing the search for him,’’ she said.

‘‘There is a pos­si­bil­ity he may be out there and know we are look­ing for him and not want to get in con­tact with us, but we love him and hope he knows that. Not giv­ing up on him must prove that and we will not give up search­ing for him un­til we have an­swers.’’

As for Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Hare, he is not so sure Donny made it out of the bush alive.

‘‘The most likely sce­nario is that he’s had an ac­ci­dent out there by the river and fallen into the river,’’ he said.

‘‘It seems more prob­a­ble than not at this point.’’

In say­ing that, Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Hare said ‘‘you would have hoped if he had fallen in then he would have been found by now’’.

‘‘It’s been a tough one for the fam­ily. They’ve done their best and con­tin­ued to try and find him and do me­dia and keep Donny’s name out there.’’

It’s cer­tainly been a trau­matic six years for Donny’s fam­ily.

‘‘The longer we do not have an­swers, the harder it gets,’’ his sis­ter Rachael said.

‘‘We have had a lot of time to think of sce­nar­ios as to what has hap­pened to him, where he is and who he could be with but be­cause we have had no leads we al­ways end up back with hav­ing no clue.

‘‘As Donny was 16 at the time, we also strug­gle with the fact he may look dif­fer­ent now. He might have grown a beard and his ap­pear­ance may have changed. We are still look­ing for that boy and he might not look like that now.

‘‘With a miss­ing per­son in the fam­ily, time does not heal and pain, if any­thing, gets harder as time goes on with the re­al­ity we still do not know where he is even af­ter this length of time.’’

And time is no friend to po­lice, who face the pos­si­bil­ity that this case may never be solved.

‘‘It’s at the point of where do we go now and what can we do to try and find him?’’ Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Hare said.

‘‘We’ve done a lot of me­dia and we’ve done a lot of cam­paigns to find him and we haven’t been able to. It’s a night­mare, that’s what it is. A night­mare. Not only for the fam­ily but for the peo­ple who were camp­ing there. They’ve all suf­fered from it.’’

WALL OF MEM­O­RIES: A mu­ral of Donny Go­van has been painted on the side of a build­ing in Fitzroy, or­gan­ised through the Miss­ing Per­sons Ad­vo­cacy Net­work.

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