Woman’s Day (Australia)
Tromp Road trip mystery solved! d!
The eldest Tromp child reveals why they fled – and led police on a bizarre chase
Looking at a relaxed and smiling Riana Tromp, it’s hard to believe that less than a year ago, she was at the centre of an extraordinary mystery road trip that gripped the nation and had police baffled.
Riana, 30, is taking a break from harvesting berries on her family’s farm at Silvan, in rural Victoria, when she opens up to Woman’s Day about the bizarre chain of events her family went through last year.
“We are all very embarrassed,” Riana confesses. “We didn’t want to be famous, that’s for famous people.”
In what made for a gripping multiple missing persons case that bewildered police and the public, Riana’s dad Mark Tromp inexplicably took his wife Jacoba, 53, and the couple’s three adult children – Mitch, 25, Ella, 22, and Riana – on an erratic road trip from their home east of Melbourne. Packing his family into a car on August 29, he drove all the way to NSW, stopping at Bathurst and Jenolan Caves, without any real plan or direction.
The spontaneous decision ended in a chaotic mix of confusion, sirens, newspaper headlines and mental health units – and the otherwise quiet farming family quickly became household names.
What’s immediately apparent now, however, is that the family are still a close-knit and loving unit, and are all in good health.
“We are all happy, healthy and just trying to get back on track again and get over everything that’s happened,” Riana says in her first interview since the dramatic event.
Until now, it’s never been confirmed why Mark, 51, made such a rash decision.
But Riana tells Woman’s Day her father was suffering from a mental breakdown which, in retrospect, had been building up for some time.
She says his decision to leave the farm was the result of him feeling he was in danger, but also wanting to get away as a family.
“They are both sort of accurate,” she says of the explanations which have been provided for his behaviour.
While many have asked why Jacoba or the couple’s children didn’t question Mark’s strange and uncharacteristic behaviour, Riana admits she began believing her father’s claims that the family were in danger.
“You do start thinking the same,” she says, adding that her father had never done anything like this before.
Discussing the road trip itself is still clearly traumatic for Riana, and she doesn’t want to go into too much detail while she, her mother and her siblings are still coming to terms with what happened.
The day after the family began their panicked trip, as their parents became more and more mentally distressed, Riana and her two siblings decided they did not want to continue on.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. [He] thinks people are after him. He’s not in a good state of mind,” Mitch would say later about his dad.
Finding the situation too stressful, he left the rest of his family at Bathurst on August 30, and made his way to Sydney, then onto Melbourne by train.
Ella and Riana decided to leave their parents later the same day. They made their way to Goulburn, before going their separate ways.
Riana was found that night hiding in the back of a stranger’s ute in a catatonic state, and was taken to the local hospital suffering from stress-related issues.
The whole incident was “very scary”, she admits now.
Ella was reported to have stolen a car and driven back to the family home.
In the days following, Mark and Jacoba were reported missing and, as well as speaking to each of the children, police attended the family home to find the doors unlocked, credit cards, passports and mobile phones strewn around the house, and car keys hanging in ignitions.
Jacoba was found wandering in an “agitated state” in the town of Yass on September 1 and taken to hospital. Mark was finally located on the evening of September 3 near Wangaratta, in north eastern Victoria, after a police search and media appeals by Mitch and Ella.
Riana believes it was an accumulation of stress which caused the whole incident, saying: “You have a few things and they do build up – you can get sick in some way.”
Nine months on, the family seems to be getting back to normal, with Ella and Mitch pursuing their careers and Riana working on the farm with her parents. She tells us that dad Mark is “doing really well” and working full-time.
Riana says her family are slowly overcoming the repercussions with support from health professionals and good friends.
“I’ve had help, which helps me get through it,” she says, “People think of you differently but you get over that.
“It’s very strange – in the back of your mind you don’t really deal with it. You can still walk down the street and nobody knows.”
But Riana admits there’s more healing to do.
“We still need a bit of time to get over it, as it does take a good year when anyone has drama in their life like that,” she says.
“A lot of people say it’s like when you break your leg – it takes a long time to heal – but we are all healthy and happy, and that’s the most important thing.”
‘We are all happy, healthy and just trying to get back on track’