Tiny township can’t shed any light on case of mystery woman

Residents of a small, close-knit town on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast remain baffled by how the identity of an elderly woman found distressed on the side of a rural road remains a mystery.

Sep 25, 2020, updated Sep 25, 2020

Mooloolah Valley is home to about 4000 people and is a town where business owners greet their customers by name.

Residents claim they have never seen the woman before and many do not believe she is a local.

Eighteen days after she was found, despite the case making national headlines, police have been unable to identify her or locate a friend or relative.

The woman was initially thought to be non-verbal, but police said she began communicating more as her health improved but remained unable to state her name or where she was from.

On September 6, the woman, believed to be in her 80s or 90s, was found in a frail state on Brandenburg Road and taken by a stranger and dropped at Nambour General Hospital.

She was found outside by hospital staff and received treatment before being transported to Sunshine Coast University Hospital, where she remains in a stable condition.

Residents and business owners in the Mooloolah Valley township, not far from where the woman was located, do not believe she lives locally, stating theirs was a town where “everyone knows everyone”.

It only has one butcher, a supermarket, post office, newsagency and cafes, among other businesses, in the same shopping strip, where all residents venture for their daily errands and necessities.

Diana Van Jole has managed the Mooloolah Valley IGA for 15 years and said she had never seen the woman before. “It’s a bit of a mystery story there,” she said.

“Don’t know her, never seen her, and I know my customers pretty well here.

“Older people I talk to in the town, they don’t know her either.”

Natalie Lelievre said the woman had not been a customer during her two years as owner of the local newsagency.

“We’re very shocked. Most of the town know each other, either neighbours or relatives,” she said.

“Everyone just knows everyone, it’s a small community, but I’ve never seen this lady, never heard of anyone mention that they know her.

“Posters were put up, people were walking around asking if she was a local or if they’d spotted her or know who she is, but no-one has any information on her.”

Not where an elderly woman would walk

Dean Hume, who has run the local butcher shop for 15 years, said he did not recognise the elderly woman either, and could not understand why she would be on Brandenburg Road unless she lived nearby.

“We’ve been in town over a decade and I would know the customer if she came in,” he said.

“And [where she was found] it’s a long road, a big, long road, it just heads up to Maleny, it’s just rural properties all the way right up to the top.

“For a frail, old lady to be walking it … it’s not somewhere you just go for a walk, it’s quite steep, even in a car.”

Brandenburg Road resident Bob Accord, a local of more than 20 years, agreed that the road was only walked by those living in nearby streets or by some for strenuous exercise. “It almost sounds like she was dropped here. It’s bizarre,” he said.

“People use the road to exercise, walk or run up and down — unfit people would be done by the time they reached my house, which is only 200 metres [from town].

“There’s nowhere really to go.”

The ABC also spoke with owners of the local post office, cafes and other residents along Brandenburg Road — none said they recognised the elderly woman.

Police earlier said officers had doorknocked a number of Brandenburg Road houses, local doctor’s clinics, RSLs and CWA halls to no success.

Investigators also released a new image of the woman, along with a photo of a gold dress ring she was wearing, in the hope it might help her be identified.

Acting Inspector Matt Roberston ruled out a number of missing person suggestions, stating “police conducted a number of inquiries and a lot of names have been taken off the table” and just “weren’t a match”.

He said officers also interviewed the man who dropped the woman at the hospital and said they had no reason to believe he was suspicious, and he was not the woman’s relative, friend or carer.

Anyone with information on the case is urged to contact police on 131 444.

– ABC / Tara Cassidy and Owen Jacques

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