Reward for cold case information increased to $500 000

In the weeks before Gold Coast woman Marion Barter disappeared “suspiciously” she displayed “out of character” behaviour, her family say.

Early this morning police announced the reward for information in the mother-of-two’s case would be increasing to $500,000 — almost 25 years after she vanished in 1997.

What happened to the 51-year-old, a renowned teacher who was awarded the Queensland Teaching Excellence Award in 1996 by Ita Buttrose, is a question that has plagued her daughter Sally Leydon for decades.

Marion Barter was last seen at a Queensland bus stop on June 22, 1997. (Supplied)
She was dropped at a bus stop on the Gold Coast bound for an overseas holiday. Marion Barter inquest
After Ms Barter disappeared, it emerged she’d legally changed her name to Florabella Natalia Marion Remakel and acquired a passport. (Supplied)

Ms Leydon hopes the increased reward will encourage people to come forward and maintains her mother’s disappearance was suspicious.

“My mother’s behaviour before leaving Australia was out of character and we know she was seen around the Southport area (in Queensland) inside a vehicle with an unknown man,” Ms Leydon said.

“She also missed my brother’s birthday – something I know she would never do – and had her bank account drained in increments once she was reported missing.

“I have no doubt these bizarre occurrences were because something untoward was happening in her life, and that thing still remains a heart-breaking mystery for my family today.”

Ms Barter was last seen at a bus depot on Scarborough Street at Southport, Queensland on June 22 1997.

Inquiries revealed that Ms Barter had left Australia for the United Kingdom on the same day.

Marion Barter married former  Socceroo great Johnny Warren in 1967. They split in 1969.
Marion Barter married former Socceroo great Johnny Warren in 1967. They split in 1969. (Supplied)

She was travelling under the name Florabella Natalia Marion Remakel, which she had officially changed the month before leaving the country.

On her outgoing passenger card she wrote she was divorced and intended to reside in Luxembourg.

Ms Barter was reported missing to Byron Bay police in October 1997 after she failed to call and wish her son a happy birthday.

In the weeks leading up to her disappearance the teacher was spotted by family members at a Southport service station in a red Honda Civic Breeze with an unknown “tall” male passenger.

A coronial inquest into Marion Barter's disappearance began 21 June, 2021.
A coronial inquest into Marion Barter’s disappearance began 21 June, 2021. (Supplied)

Following her disappearance an unknown person appears to have accessed a bank account belonging to Ms Barter, inquiries have since revealed.

Numerous leads have been investigated in the long-running cold case, which is the focus of the podcast The Lady Vanishes.

A coronial inquest, which began in Sydney in June 2021, is currently underway and will continue at Byron Bay this week — presided by the NSW State Coroner

It comes after a formal review of the case was conducted by the Tweed-Byron Police District, the State Crime Command’s Homicide Squad and the NSW Department of Communities and Justice in July 2019.

Homicide Squad, Detective Inspector Nigel Warren, said any new information regarding Ms Barter’s disappearance would be welcomed.

“We’re very mindful of the coronial proceedings which are underway today, but also hopeful this reward may encourage the flow of new information regarding Marion’s disappearance.

“We are still working to establish Ms Barter’s movements and whereabouts upon returning to Australia in late July or early August 1997 and wish to speak with anyone close to her during that time.”

Anyone with information that may assist investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online.

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