pregnant teenager Tiffany Taylor disappeared more than three months ago. why do so few people seem to care?
What happened to pregnant teenager Tiffany Taylor?
If you walked out your front door today and vanished, how long would it be before someone raised the alarm: hours; a day; a night? When Tiffany Taylor disappeared from Logan, south of Brisbane, this year, it seemed to cause barely a ripple.
Life had never done Tiffany any favours. At just 16, she was five months pregnant and living out of a motel on the city’s outer fringes with her 41-year old boyfriend. And things were about to go from sad to tragic when police allege Tiffany met a 60-year-old stranger online who arranged to pay her for sex.
On Sunday, July 12, at about 11.45am, she stepped into a car, never to be seen again. It was three days before Tiffany was reported missing and more than two weeks before Queensland police issued a brief media statement headed “Missing Teen, Waterford West”. An accompanying photograph showed a pretty young girl with shoulder-length brown hair and wide green eyes.
The statement attracted little attention until, one month later, on August 14, police announced they had charged the stranger, Rodney Wayne Williams, with Tiffany’s murder. Few even knew the teenager was missing. The fact a murder investigation had been ticking over came as a shock – particularly as her body had not been found.
At a media conference to appeal for information after the charge was laid, the details of Tiffany’s life began to become public. Police announced they had been “able to establish that Tiffany was offering sexual services for money” on internet dating sites.
Speaking to a bank of cameras and journalists, her sister Chloe Taylor, 19, was adamant that no matter what choices Tiffany had made, they needed to find her. In the process, Chloe mentioned Tiffany and her boyfriend had been together for four years. That put Tiffany at 12 when the relationship began, but the boyfriend insists it did not become sexual until she turned 16.
What had brought Tiffany to this, delivering her to that motel forecourt that morning? Before any questions could be answered, the case quickly slipped from public view – overshadowed by the disappearance of another teenager. Tiffany Taylor had fallen through the cracks before she met her fate. And in disappearing she seemed to have become a victim again – of timing and indifference.
CHLOE TAY LOR WAS ROPEABLE. ON THE
“Where is Tiffany” Facebook page she – or someone writing as her – unloaded about a lack of interest in her sister’s disappearance and the judgements about her family flowing thick and fast online. “Just makes me sick to [my] stomach how all these other children/young teenage girls/people in general have recently gone missing. And just because my sister, Tiffany Taylor, was in the position she was in … ‘People’ seriously don’t give a crap,” she wrote.
It was August 26 and Tiffany had not been found. But another missing girl was dominating the news in a way Tiffany had not. Two weeks earlier, on the very day Chloe and her mother, Leanne Dillon, fronted a press conference to make an emotional public appeal to help find Tiffany’s body, Gatton schoolgirl Jayde Kendall allegedly got into a red car and vanished. Jayde, 16, was rostered on at McDonald’s that evening but when her father went to pick her up after work he was told she hadn’t arrived for her shift. Just like Tiffany, Jayde was a pretty teenager with green eyes. Gatton, 90km west of Brisbane, was awash with missing person flyers bearing her photo and searches were under way. A farmer would find Jayde’s body on a patch of land off a dead-end road 19km from Gatton, and her school friend, Brenden Bennetts, 18, would be charged with her murder.
But Tiffany remained missing. At the time of Qweekend going to press, her remains were yet to be found. It leaves her loved ones unable to hold a funeral; to grieve; to say goodbye.
Her sister could be forgiven for feeling Tiffany had simply become “the other missing girl’’. “There [are] special days held for murdered/missing persons, candlelight vigils, public searches even … flyers, banners,” Chloe vented. “And for my sister … to everyone she is a ‘dirty little slut’, or whatever. I [know] what everyone is thinking. I’ve been going through this for just about two months. I’ve seen girls/children be missing for just hours and because they weren’t ‘selling sexual services’ they’ve had every person either help look or actually give the family involved a little bit of respect.”
While Tiffany’s disappearance has brought uncomfortable judgement upon her family, it also points to a wider failing of societal safety nets. Who was looking out for Tiffany, making sure she was living somewhere safe and going to school? And who was this man she had been with since she was 12?
Nathan Stocks gets angry as soon as the subject of Tiffany’s boyfriend, Greg Hill, comes up. Stocks, 21, is Chloe’s partner and answers the phone number listed on the “Where is Tiffany” Facebook page. Stocks says Hill met Tiffany’s family when they were living in a two-storey house in the Logan suburb of Boronia Heights – sisters Tiffany and Chloe upstairs and mum Leanne downstairs. Hill had become friends with Leanne first. Before long he was spending less time downstairs and more time
upstairs with Leanne’s daughters. Tiffany was just 12. Says Stocks: “He’d be buying her stuff, taking her to the movies, taking her to the shops, buying anything she wanted.” Tiffany stopped going to school and started spending most of her time with Hill. Huge arguments broke out between Tiffany and her mother. Stocks says: “We started getting angry with Greg and telling him he couldn’t come over any more, and then all of a sudden Tiffany ran off with him.” At first she and Hill stayed at the home of a terminally ill friend called Don – a heavy drug user, according to Stocks. Don died within a few months and Tiffany and Hill were soon on the move. They would drift from place to place.
I find Greg Hill at the Logan home of one of his friends. He and Tiffany stayed here on and off for a year. Hill wants to make something clear from the outset. “I’m definitely looking for an older chick now. It wasn’t my plan, I don’t go looking for … ” he tells me, trailing off. What he implies is he doesn’t go looking for younger girls. “It’s just the way it happened,” he continues. “I can see the way it’s sort of portrayed me, which is unfortunate. I could have made some smarter decisions in life, with everything, I suppose. It’s a shame, because we had a good relationship. We got on well.”
ONE OF THE MOST SHOCKING DETAILS OF
this case is the seeming failure of authorities to act when Tiffany, at 12 or 13 (details of her exact age when she left home are unclear), moved in with Hill. Tiffany’s immediate family did not want to be interviewed for this story but said they had tried to get her away from the older man. They say child protection workers told them Tiffany was “fine”. According to a family member, Hill was Tiffany’s approved “carer”. At least some of her welfare payments went to Hill to look after her.
Hill confirms Queensland government child protection officers investigated her living arrangements. How a 13-year-old could be living with a man in his late thirties is a worrying question. For his part, Hill is adamant that although Tiffany lived with him for years they only began a sexual relationship last Christmas, two months after she turned 16, the legal age of consent for sex in Queensland. He also claims he had no idea Tiffany was having sex with men for money. He thought his young girlfriend was working as a hotel cleaner or receptionist. Tiffany had also claimed she had an inheritance, he says.
“DOCS [the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services] used to come here because they were worried,” Hill says. “I never got involved in the conversations. It was always just [to see] if she’s safe or wants to be here or stuff like that, I suppose. She’s the one who wanted to be here with me. It has nothing to do with me influencing her or anything like that.
“She said she wanted to be with me for the rest of my life and take care of me when I got old. Push me wheelchair, down the stairs, she reckons.” He laughs at the joke. “There were theories before that, because of the way it looked with an older person. But I’ve got family who accepted us. I’ve got friends who accepted us. You can’t help who you fall in love with.”
So what can be done when a child leaves home against a family’s wishes? No government agencies would discuss Tiffany’s case. But the Child Safety Services department said in a written statement there were limits on what it could compel children to do. “Children can only be detained in Queensland at mental health facilities under involuntary treatment orders or at juvenile detention centres,” a spokeswoman said. “The department has no means of compelling children to live at a specific address.” She added that if a parent suspects illegal activities, “they should immediately contact police”.
Where a child was homeless, the department worked with youth shelters and accommodation services and assisted them to return home when it was the best option. When underage children dropped out of school, the department, in conjunction with the education department, sought to find out why; the latter department would then seek to re-engage them in school.
The Queensland Police Service said its powers were limited too. Parents or guardians had a legislative duty to protect children and should contact police if they were concerned they were at risk, a spokeswoman said. “Police will then endeavour to locate the child and confirm they are safe and well,” she said. “Police will advise the parents or guardian that the child has been located, and where, however [police] cannot compel the child to return home. Police cannot compel a child to live at a specific location.”
Truancy was “a behavioural issue, not a criminal offence”, and police could not compel children to go to school but in some circumstances could prosecute their parents. (In Queensland, children must attend school until they are 16 or complete Year 10.)
The final reports of commissioner Tim Carmody’s child protection inquiry, presented on July 1, 2013, revealed the depth of family dysfunction in Queensland, and the need for more family support and early intervention before events reached crisis point. “After 12 months of careful deliberation, the commission has concluded that the current child protection system … is not ensuring the safety, wellbeing and best interests of children as well as it should or could,” Carmody found. He recommended a “secure care” model be introduced, allowing the state to restrain – as a last resort, and with an order from the Supreme Court – children at significant risk of serious harm to themselves or others.
DOCS was “currently seeking input from the child protection sector on how secure care could be implemented”, a spokeswoman told Qweekend. “The Queensland Government acknowledges that strategies to better meet the needs of young people in out-of-home care who present a significant risk of serious harm to themselves or others need to be
“I’ve seen girls/ children be missing for just hours and because they weren’t ‘ selling sexual services’ they’ve had every person either help look or actually give the family involved a l ittle bit of respect.”
QUOTE ATTRIBUTED TO CHLOE TAYLOR ON FACEBOOK SITE
considered,” she said. The department’s Family and Child Connect program tried to connect families struggling to cope with the services they needed. By next year it would have helped 35,000 families annually, according to the spokeswoman.
Greg Hill left Springwood State High
School in grade 10 and did welding, but he’s out of work now. Wearing tracksuit pants, a faded T-shirt and a grey beanie pulled down low over his forehead, he is missing two front teeth and the gap contorts his voice into a lisp. Since Tiffany went missing he’s been struggling to sleep or eat, he says. He’s seen photographs of Tiffany’s accused killer and asks, “Why would you get in a car with someone that looks like that?”
His version of events is that he took Tiffany away from an unsafe situation at her family home, gave her food and shelter, and even got her back to school at one point. Tiffany’s father died when she was young, Hill says. “Apparently he committed suicide in front of a train, when she was five.” She smoked marijuana for the first time at just seven, Hill claims. “Me and Tiffany only smoke weed. She was smoking weed before I met her,” he adds.
Tiffany was supposed to be on the waiting list for public housing, but it was hard when she had a dog, a shar pei called Terry. Hill had a 14-year-old wolfhound cross. “We were having trouble finding accommodation, a place to live with two dogs,” says Hill. “Some nights we slept in the car. Sometimes we couldn’t get a motel. Sometimes couldn’t afford it, slept in the car at the park with two dogs and all our stuff cramped in.”
Tiffany had recently said she was pregnant and that Hill was the father. Photos of the positive pregnancy test had been sent to friends. “She was happy as … [she] wanted me to stay at home and be a stay-at-home dad,” Hill says. “But I wanted to go to work. I was starting to think I’ve got to get up and do something now; then all this happened.”
On the morning Tiffany went missing, her last words to Greg Hill were, “I’ll be back soon, babe.” She closed the door to the couple’s motel room, one of 24 in the tidy complex, and walked out into the sunshine. A champagne-coloured 1995 Hyundai Excel pulled up in front of the motel and Tiffany got inside. When night fell, she hadn’t returned. “I was back at the motel, minding the two dogs and waiting for her to come back,” Hill says. “She said she’d paid until Wednesday [three days later].”
A winter cold snap had descended and Hill had a comfy bed in the warm motel room. He did not call police to report Tiffany missing. The next morning, Hill had more pressing things to deal with than his absent girlfriend. It turned out the room rent hadn’t been paid and Hill was kicked out. As far as he could tell, Tiffany had left the motel with only her white Samsung smartphone, but he couldn’t reach her on it. He spent that night in his car.
Finally he decided to check if Chloe knew where her sister was. Chloe, a mother of one who lives at nearby Browns Plains, hadn’t seen or heard from Tiffany. On Wednesday, July 15, Chloe reported her sister missing to Browns Plains police.
The police investigation quickly led to the door of Rodney Williams. Police will allege Williams was in contact with Tiffany on an internet dating website and by phone had agreed to pay her $500 for sex. Police claim Williams picked Tiffany up from the motel and drove 15km to Logistics Place at Larapinta, bordering Logan, about 20km south of Brisbane CBD, where they stayed from about midday to 12.45pm. From there, the Hyundai travelled on to the Brisbane Valley Highway between Warrego Highway and Fernvale from 1pm to 1.45pm.
Police claim they tracked the car’s movements through traffic cameras and mobile phone signals. A clincher for police was the alleged discovery of Tiffany’s blood at several points in Williams’ car. Williams was arrested at Brisbane’s Roma Street Transit Centre, about to catch a train north.
TIFANY TAYLOR HAD LIVED MOST OF HER
life under the radar. And there are many reasons her death, too, was under the radar of many – a police strategy that kept the investigation a secret, and a society where too many go missing and victims are often judged to be complicit in their own downfall. But that doesn’t lessen the pain.
“I shouldn’t have to explain to randoms how my family raised Tiffany, what my sister was up to or has done,” wrote Chloe. “I have no closure, bloody nothing. I’m at the point where I don’t care what has happened to her ... I just want to hug her body.”
October 19 was Tiffany’s 17th birthday.
THE ACCUSED … RODNEY WAYNE WILLIAMS HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH TIFFANY TAYLOR’S MURDER; ( TOP) TIFFANY’S SISTER, CHLOE, AND MOTHER, LEANNE.
THIN BLUE LINE … POLICE SEARCH FOR TIFFANY TAYLOR IN THE BRISBANE VALLEY REGION.