"When someone just disappears for no reason, it's shocking, it's devastating. I just feel like my life stopped that day and I've just been in a tailspin ever since."
- Adam Vaughan, Janine's brother
It was the 7th of December 2001. A Friday. Thirty one year old Janine Vaughan went to a local nightclub, The Metro Tavern, with friends after work on the Thursday night, the 6th of December. They were at The Metro Tavern in Bathurst, Australia. Janine left The Metro Tavern around 3.47am in the early hours of the Friday morning with her friend Jordan Morris and his girlfriend Wonita Murphy. They walked along George Street and then up Keppel Street, near Machattie Park. They planned to go to the Oxford Hotel, the Ox, for one last drink before heading home. It was just a few blocks away.
Janine walked ahead of Jordan and Wonita as Jordan and Wonita were arguing about something. Janine was upset as she couldn’t find her handbag. Janine was about 40 metres ahead of her friends. They saw a red vehicle stop near her and she got in and the car drove off. Her friends couldn't see who was driving the car. Janine never made it to the Ox.Her friends didn’t know where she went or who she was with.
Janine was supposed to work later that day. She was the manager of a menswear store, the Ed Harry Menswear Store, in Bathurst. But, when a customer called to the store, they noticed it was closed and called their other store which was in Lithgow to let them know. It was very unusual for Janine not to let someone know if she would be late. The manager at the Lithgow store contacted the head office of Ed Harry Menswear and Zarina De Souza who was the State manager.
Zarina attempted to contact Janine throughout the morning and made arrangements for the Bathurst store to be opened. Later that day, after hearing nothing at all from Janine, Zarina reported her missing to the police.
Police discovered that Janine never made it home after the club on the Friday morning. They obtained CCTV footage from outside the club and observed Janine walking along the street. The weather was particularly bad, there was heavy rain in the early hours of that morning, but a car can be seen on the footage turning back and stopping beside Janine. The car did a U-turn and pulled up behind Janine. The footage shows the car door opening and Janine getting into the car. It was around 3.50am and Janine got into the front passenger seat. The car was stopped for around thirty seconds. Police believed the car was a bright red four door medium size sedan similar to a Mitsubishi Magna or a Toyota Camry.
Who was driving the red car? Police needed to find out. Janine's family and friends did not believe she would get into the car with a stranger. They believed she must have known who was driving the car. Janine was well known in the area. As she was the manager of the menswear store, she was acquainted with many people. The town itself had a population of just 27,000 people at the time and Janine had lived there for three years.
Janine grew up in New South Wales' Hunter Valley. She moved to Bathurst to be with her boyfriend. The relationship ended but she remained in Bathurst. She had a job and had made friends there. She loved nothing more than going out with friends and having fun and that night at The Metro Tavern had been no different to start with but police discovered that when Janine left, she had no phone with her and no key to get into her house. A cleaner found her handbag at The Metro Tavern the next day. It was in the bathroom at the club. Police were not sure if Janine left it there herself and couldn’t remember where she put it or if it was hidden as it was concealed and shoved in a corner with a number of packets of chips in front of it.
Police appealed for information and a woman, Lynette Boreland, came forward. Lynette told police that she had been out the same night that Janine was. She was at a friend's house and left and tried to hitch hike a ride home. She told police that she was walking towards a service station nearby in the hope that somebody would drive her back to her farm on the outskirts of town.
Before Lynette got to the service station, she noticed a car appeared to be following her. Lynette told police that it was a red car but she couldn't recall the make or model of it. According to Lynette, the man got out of the car and tried to lure her into the car. Lynette didn't recognize the driver but described him as about six-feet tall (183cm) with dark hair and fair skin, noticeably hairy arms and a square jaw. She also recalled that he had pimples on his nose.
When asked what time and where the incident happened, Lynette told police that it was just after 3.30am and happened 750 m from where Janine was seen on the footage getting into a car. Police believed that the two incidents were connected. But despite the CCTV footage and Lynette's account of what happened, police still had no idea who was driving the red car.
The investigation into Janine's disappearance was plagued from the outset with problems. Allegations were made that the police covered things up, mishandled evidence and didn't record statements from witnesses accurately. A knife covered in blood was found on the driveway of a nursing home just a few days after Janine went missing but it is not known whether it is connected to Janine's case or not as the police handling the investigation lost it.
At one point, police had forty seven persons of interest on their file and initially, two men in particular were questioned. The men were thirty eight year old Andrew Jones, a local pharmacist, and Denis Briggs. Both men had access to small red cars. Police were told that Denis had confessed.
A number of people told police that Denis confessed to raping and murdering Janine. However, when questioned by police, he denied it and claimed that he had no involvement at all in relation to Janine's disappearance. His former partner, Julie Creave, said that he had not been taking his medication for his bipolar disorder.
Janine and her brother Adam
Police spoke to Andrew Jones. He also denied having anything to do with Janine's disappearance. He worked in the same shopping centre where Janine worked. Andrew answered police questions and assisted with the investigation but after answering questions on three different occasions, he opted not to assist any further without a lawyer present.
Andrew Jones and Dennis Briggs were identified as persons of interest in the case but there was nothing to connect them to Janine's disappearance.
Another person of interest and the reason why some people believed the investigation was tainted was a local detective and former Deputy Mayor of Bathurst named Brad Hosemans. He was the officer originally in charge of the investigation even though he faced charges in relation to a separate matter. It was alleged that he sexually assaulted a woman. He was charged with obscene exposure, assault, indecent assault, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The incident in question was alleged to have taken place at a Bathurst Golf Club bar on the 21st of October 2001, seven weeks before Janine disappeared. The alleged victim was a twenty four year old woman who worked at the club. Brad denied the claims and he was later acquitted of those charges.
Despite those charges, which were pending at the time of Janine's disappearance, Brad was allowed to be involved in Janine’s case. But that was not the main cause of concern. There was another reason that Brad should not have had anything to do with Janine's case. There were question marks as to how well he knew her.
Despite people making it clear that there was a connection of sorts between Brad and Janine, it was alleged that some of the statements that outlined or referred to their connection were not recorded in full or followed up on.
Operation Rani was set up. It was an investigation by the Police Integrity Commission into the NSW Police Force where Brad worked in relation to the investigation of the disappearance of Janine. The Commission’s investigation focused on the role of Brad in the initial investigation of Janine’s disappearance and the manner in which any association between them was investigated.
On the 2nd of June 2005, the Commissioner of Police received an anonymous letter:
"Why havent you done anything about this b*stard Hoseman here in Bathurst especially about that he did that woman in who is still missing. he tried to f*ck her and she knocked him back even on the night she went missing. Everyone knows about it and you do to and you havent done anything about him. Put the B*stard in jail where he belongs Some nurses at the Bathurst hospital know that he did it and they are to frightened to speak up and they were there that night as he will get at them to like he has others before. "
The investigation revealed that a number of people who knew Janine told police that she had mentioned Brad to them. The Commission Investigation revealed further details that had not been recorded and that were not on the police file.
Janine's State manager at the store, Zarina DeSouza, told police that she had conversations with Janine around four to six weeks before Janine went missing and Janine told her she had met an “ex copper” who was also on the Local Council and that she was going to go out with him. She told police that a couple of weeks after that Janine told her that the guy wasn't for her and that he was harassing her. She claimed Janine told her he bought her flowers and made several phone calls. Janine didn't tell Zarina the "ex-copper" was Brad but the fact he was on the Local Council at the time indicated it was him.
Zarina told police that she told Janine to write down every time she saw him walking past the store in the work diary. Janine said she would. The 2001 diary for the Ed Harry’s Bathurst store has never been located.
Rachel Green, a woman who worked at another clothing store in the town, told police that Brad asked her about Janine and said that he thought she was attractive. Others saw him walking past the menswear store and looking at Janine. Some friends claimed that Janine told them that Brad was calling her at night and asking her out. She declined but she didn't know how to handle it due to his position. They described her as being concerned as to what to do next but she didn't seem scared.
Daniel Murphy worked in the Ed Harry Menswear store with Janine and he told police that one or two weeks before Janine went missing, she told him that she received two calls. One was at 7pm one night and the next was 8am the next morning. When she called back, she got the reception for a motel and they would not give her details of who was staying there.
Rebecca Maree Medhurst, a friend of Janine, provided information to police about a conversation she had with Janine on the 5th of December 2001.
"Janine was telling me that one of the local police officers had been showing interest in her. She said that Brad HOSEMANS had walked past the shop a few times and had waved at her and gave her a wink. She said that she had seen him talking on his mobile out the front and that he smiled and looked into the shop while he was talking. Janine thought it was good because she thought he was a good sort and was flattered by his interest. The only thing was that she thought he had a bit of a bad reputation with woman, [sic] that he was a womaniser. Janine was disappointed because she thought it was good that a more mature man was showing interest in her, particularly after she had been out with Dave who was much younger and not ready to settle down."
Brad denied that he expressed interest in dating Janine but admitted he thought she was attractive. He said that he never called or sent her flowers or waved or winked when he walked past the menswear store.
Further suspicion arose when it was determined that Brad may have been in Bathurst the night Janine went missing. When originally asked by police where he was, he told them he was at his mother's house in Newcastle from the 3rd to the 7th of December. But his phone records later revealed that he was back in Bathurst on the 6th of December. He purchased petrol at South Wyong on the 6th also which would have indicated he was driving home from Newcastle.
The Commission found no evidence indicating Brad was involved in any way with Janine's disappearance or that he had ever spoken to her or even met her. In relation to Janine's disappearance, Brad was cleared by the police investigation of any involvement.
After the Police Integrity Commission Investigation (PIC) into the role of Brad came to an end, the special task force, Strikeforce Mountbatten, assisted in a search for Janine. A search had previously been carried out, just a few months after she first went missing, at a number of areas around Mount Panorama and some 30 hectares of bush was searched, but nothing of any value was found. That was the same with the later search. While some skeletal remains were uncovered in the search, they were not connected to Janine's case.
Police presumed that Janine was dead.
A coronial inquest was conducted in 2009 to try to ascertain what may have happened to Janine. The inquest found that Janine had died but her cause of death remained undetermined as her body has not been located.
The inquest heard from her family and friends. Janine's former partner, Phillip Evans, said that she had been stalked by someone. He did not know who was following her but noted that she had been left flowers, notes and even lingerie was left on her car while she was at work.
In relation to the alleged confession by Denis Briggs, the inquest heard from Peter Barker who told the Coroner that he confessed to him and:
“his eyes were fixed, like he was reliving something.”
He confirmed that Denis later told him that he was making it up and that he was only joking.
Evidence and statements were also referred to in relation to Brad and Andrew. But, ultimately, after hearing from several witnesses over the course of ten days, the Coroner ruled that Janine was murdered by an unidentified person or persons.
A few years later, in 2013, Detectives from the Homicide Squad’s Unsolved Homicide Unit established Strike Force Toko II to re-investigate Janine’s disappearance. The reward for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible was increased to $1 million.
The Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Scott Cook, said:
“Our investigators have been meticulously working through what happened to Janine in the moments leading up to and after she got into the red car that morning. We know about 10 minutes before Janine was seen getting into the car, another woman was approached about 750m away by a man in what we believe is the same vehicle."
He appealed to anyone who knows anything, no matter how small, to come forward.
Janine has not been found. No body has been located. Nobody has been convicted in relation to her disappearance or murder.
Police believe there are people in Bathurst who know what happened to Janine but have not yet revealed what they know.
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- Sandra Pupatello