Rachel An­to­nio’s par­ents waited two decades for this TIP SEARCH DIGS UP FAINT HOPES

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - CHRIS MCMA­HON chris. mcma­hon@ news. com. au

FOREN­SIC po­lice of­fi­cers are ex­pected to tell de­tec­tives in the com­ing days if they have found rub­bish from 1998 at the Bowen dump in the search for Rachel An­to­nio. The sci­en­tific of­fi­cers spent yes­ter­day dig­ging a trench in a sec­tion of the tip they were di­rected to by for­mer site man­ager Hugh Smith, who kept de­tailed maps of where rub­bish was placed in the days after the Bowen school­girl went miss­ing. Po­lice are calling it an ex­ploratory dig in a sec­tion of “in­ter­est” to gain in­sight into what the waste of the time now looks like. It has been nearly two decades since Rachel, a 16- yearold life­saver, van­ished on An­zac Day 1998 after she was dropped off by her mother at a local cin­ema. Rachel is be­lieved to have been mur­dered and her dis­ap­pear­ance is one of Queens­land’s high­est pro­file in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Ian and Ch­eryl An­to­nio have long be­lieved their daugh­ter had been dumped at the site and cam­paigned for years to have the tip searched by po­lice. While Rachel’s par­ents are glad po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing, they aren’t rais­ing their hopes too high. “We haven’t got our hopes up high at all, we are well and truly prep pared that it is a long sh shot but, as one bloke sa said, if the body is th there, they’ll find it,” M Mr An­to­nio said. “We can only h hope, it’s a long shot. W With the foren­sic sci- en­tists that are around to­day and the tech­nol­ogy, they’ve been dig­ging up old cloth­ing and old things they’re go­ing to get the bar­codes off … to try and date it. That’s where they’re at, at the mo­ment.

“Orig­i­nally we thought if her body was at the dump it would have been very deep, like 60 me­tres deep, but then when Hughie ( Hugh Smith, the for­mer tip man­ager in 1998) looked at his di­aries, he found out that it wasn’t as deep as he thought it was.

“We felt pretty good that there was a chance we might find some­thing. That’s the last place we’ve got to look.

“We’ve looked ev­ery­where else. There’s not a place we haven’t looked in Bowen, we have spent years and years and years, search­ing ev­ery square inch of Bowen.”

Mackay De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Nikki Colfs steered clear of say­ing the foren­sic of­fi­cers were search­ing for Rachel’s re­mains.

“We’re not ac­tu­ally look­ing for any­thing at this stage. It’s an ex­ploratory ex­am­i­na­tion around the age of the refuse dur­ing that time that Rachel An­to­nio went miss­ing,” she said.

“We have a sci­en­tific of­fi­cer here that is gaug­ing the age of the ac­tual rub­bish and that will be done through a whole heap of dif­fer­ent sci­en­tific ex­am­i­na­tions. ( Fur­ther digs) will de­pend on what they find, how long the refuse has been here, whether the refuse ( has) de­con­tam­i­nated through the last years.”

Mr An­to­nio said the cou­ple wants to find out what hap­pened to their daugh­ter to give her the burial she de­serves and try to move on with their lives. “We need to put it be­hind us and we can’t put it be­hind us at the mo­ment,” he said.

A $ 250,000 re­ward for in­for­ma­tion which leads to the re­cov­ery of Rachel’s re­mains has been of­fered. Phone Crime Stop­pers on 1800 333 000 with any in­for­ma­tion.

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