It is a tale of two sisters from Lancaster united in terrible tragedies. Margaret Dodd’s daughter Hayley, then 17, went missing in Western Australia in 1999.
Her sister Marie West’s daughter Tracey – Hayley’s cousin – was brutally murdered by her husband in Skerton just two years previously. Now, as new evidence emerges into Hayley’s disappearance, they tell GREG LAMBERT their heartbreaking story.
It was a single earring that brought the harrowing reality home to Margaret Dodd.
Her daughter Hayley must be dead.
“You hear of people being held captive for years, so we felt there was always a chance,” says Margaret. “But when they showed us the earring and it was definitely Hayley’s, me, my husband and the police officer all burst into tears.
“All the hopes...I was devastated.”
But when they showed us the earring and it was definitely Hayley’s, me, my husband and the police officer all burst into tears.
Hayley Dodd has been missing since July 1999.
She vanished without a trace at the age of 17 while walking along a remote road in the Australian bush.
Ever since then, Margaret, who is from Lancaster, and her family have been clinging to their faint hopes that she might be found alive.
A massive investigation was launched in an attempt to solve the mystery of Hayley’s disappearance.
It was described as one of Western Australia’s most high-profile missing persons cases.
Although nobody has ever been charged with Hayley’s abduction or murder, Margaret has never given up, pushing the authorities for information.
She has written to and visited convicted prisoners in jail, hoping one of them might shed light on the case.
Newspapers in Australia have constantly carried appeals and now, 16 years on, police are said to be closing in on the prime suspect.
But in 1990, when Margaret, her husband Ray and her children emigrated from their home in Skerton in Lancaster, they never dreamed of the nightmare that would unfold. Hayley was just eight years old at the time.
“We came here for a better life for our children,” explains Margaret, who went to Our Lady’s School in Lancaster.
“We never knew that we were going to lose one of them.”
The family settled in Western Australia, near Perth. Hayley grew up a happy teenager with a close relationship with her mum, dad Ray, brothers Martin and Byron, and sisters Toni and Rae-Anne.
She was just four months shy of her 18th birthday when, on July 22, 1999, she travelled from her home to nearby Dongara, hoping to stay there and find work.
Then on July 29, 1999, the day Hayley went missing, she decided to visit family friends on a farm near Badgingarra, a small town around 130 miles north of Perth.
Wearing brown hiking boots, blue jeans, a black v-neck top, a grey jacket with a hood and silver sunglasses, she hitched a ride to Badgingarra and was dropped off.
She made a call from a telephone box and bought a bottle of water and crisps. Hayley then accepted a lift from a woman and was dropped off en route to the farm.
A witness then saw a girl matching Hayley’s description crouching down on the roadside, looking into a rucksack that she was carrying. It was around 11.30am. She was never seen again.
The next day, Margaret reported her missing.
The ensuing years have been harrowing for Margaret and her family, due to a number of false leads.
In 2010, a released prisoner came forward claiming a convicted killer had confessed to Hayley’s murder.
Detectives investigated the claims, but they turned out to be false. Then another major breakthrough came in November 2013. Police launched a massive search of a Badgingarra property near where Hayley vanished, but nothing was found.
But recently, after forensic examination of a vehicle, Hayley’s earring was discovered.
Police have now asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide if there is enough evidence for them to charge the prime suspect.
They believe a convicted rapist currently serving time in prison is Hayley’s killer.
For Margaret and her family, this new development may finally bring them peace.
“It’s been a long hard road over the years,” says Margaret, speaking from her home in Pinjarra, about 180 miles from where Hayley went missing.
“You’ve got all these things going round in your head, thinking what is human life all about?
“Why are people doing these things to other people?
“Somebody has taken our Hayley.
“I don’t even want to imagine what he’s done.
“We just want to know where Hayley is.”