September 25, 2023
Marion Barter: The seek for a lacking mom surfaces claims of her lover’s ‘lifetime of deceit’

Brisbane, Australia

Marion Barter received plaudits for her heat as an elementary college trainer, however in 1997 the 51-year-old mother-of-two grew to become stressed, stop her job, offered her home, and flew from Australia’s beach-lined Gold Coast to begin a brand new life in Europe.

Her household by no means noticed her once more.

If Barter had vanished and not using a hint, Australian police might have taken her case extra severely, however when her daughter, Sally Leydon, reported her lacking, she wasn’t added to the lacking individuals listing, and later a police officer advised her Barter wished no contact together with her household.

For Leydon, there have been too many unanswered questions, and 25 years later she remains to be looking for solutions.  Did her mom depart of her personal accord, and did she actually wish to vanish?

For greater than three years, journalists working with Leydon and a band of beginner sleuths have chased down clues, charting their progress within the podcast, “The Girl Vanishes,” with 14 million downloads, in response to the podcast’s government producer.

After the podcast aired, New South Wales police launched a proper evaluate of the case which gathered sufficient proof to warrant a deeper investigation and ultimately an inquest that ended final month.

Thus far, no person has been charged with wrongdoing associated to her mysterious disappearance.

New South Wales State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan had been as a consequence of hand down her findings on Wednesday right into a case that had examined proof unearthed by the podcast and its listeners and knowledge gathered by police.  

However on Monday, the listening to was postponed “following additional investigations,” in response to a courtroom spokesperson who declined to elaborate.

Throughout the inquest, a number of witnesses gave proof into Barter’s disappearance, however proceedings have been dominated by the questioning of 1 man, Ric Blum, who for the primary time responded on to the query: “Did you kill Marion?”

Marion Barter: The seek for a lacking mom surfaces claims of her lover’s ‘lifetime of deceit’

Blum, now 83, emphatically denies killing Barter or having any involvement in her disappearance in 1997, although he advised the courtroom he had an affair together with her for 4 months earlier than she disappeared.

Throughout the inquest, Blum was requested a number of instances about a number of “coincidences,” together with that Barter had modified her title within the days earlier than she left Australia to an alias that Blum had utilized in an advert searching for companionship – that Barter answered.

Different girls advised the inquest of their encounters with Blum, claiming that he had offered himself as a single, rich coin seller who, in some instances, promised a “new life” overseas.

As a substitute, the courtroom heard Blum was a married father-of-two residing on a incapacity pension along with his spouse in a small coastal city in New South Wales with felony convictions in France and Belgium for fraud, forgery, and confidence methods. Blum acknowledged he had affairs however denied any wrongdoing.

“It’s not simply my mother who has been affected by this now. We’ve uncovered a method larger fish than what I ever anticipated to search out,” Leydon advised CNN. “I imagine there’s extra (girls) on the market. And I actually need to encourage individuals to come back ahead.”

Barter was final seen in Surfers Paradise, within the coronary heart of the Gold Coast, on June 22, 1997, by her pal Lesley Loveday, who dropped her at a bus station, from the place she’d journey to the airport to fly to the UK.  

After three marriages and divorces, Barter was craving one thing new, and Leydon, the eldest of her two kids, had inspired her to go. “For me, as a 23-year-old at that time, I used to be like, ‘Effectively, if you happen to’re not completely happy, simply go on a vacation. It doesn’t matter, it’s not the top of the world. Loads of individuals depart their jobs,’” she advised CNN.

Leydon advised the podcast and the inquest that her mom phoned her from a payphone in late July and mentioned she was having a wonderful time within the quaint English city of Tunbridge Wells and seemed ahead to seeing extra of the nation.

That was the final time they spoke. 

Marion Barter with her children Sally and Owen.

Leydon recounted what occurred subsequent throughout the inquest, recalling reminiscences which have performed on her thoughts for 25 years.

After that decision, weeks handed with no contact, and after her mom didn’t cellphone her brother for his birthday on October 18, Leydon mentioned she referred to as her mom’s financial institution in Australia.

Leydon mentioned a financial institution employee, who acknowledged she shouldn’t reveal particulars to somebody apart from the account holder, advised Leydon that one thing uncommon appeared to have occurred. 

Daily for greater than three weeks, somebody had entered branches in Byron Bay and on the Gold Coast, the place Barter used to reside, and withdrawn 5,000 Australian {dollars} (about $3,370) at a time from her mom’s account, Leydon mentioned, citing the financial institution employee. A separate switch of 80,000 Australian {dollars} ($54,000) was made on October 15, the inquest would later hear.

Leydon rushed to Byron Bay with a photograph of her mom, however nobody might verify that they’d seen her.

On the identical day, October 22, Leydon contacted police.

Marion Barter with her former husband and friends.

NSW Police recorded her considerations however didn’t add Barter’s title to the lacking individuals listing, and when Queensland Senior Constable Paula McKenzie made inquiries with the financial institution, she mentioned a financial institution teller advised her Barter had withdrawn all her cash and didn’t need her whereabouts disclosed. 

“The teller was simply so insistent that it was positively her and there was no different method about it,” McKenzie advised the inquest. 

It might be 14 years earlier than Leydon realized that her mom returned to Australia underneath a brand new identification. Privateness considerations thwarted Leydon’s earlier makes an attempt to extract details about her mom from a number of official sources, she mentioned.

“The privateness situation is such a giant deal,” Leydon mentioned. “All these gates have been tightly shut with an enormous huge padlock, and till such time as I get a demise certificates for my mother, that padlock stays completely fixed.”

Detective Senior Constable Gary Sheehan advised the inquest that he seemed into the case and advised Leydon in 2011 that her mom had modified her title and returned to Australia on August 2, 1997. He mentioned he didn’t inform Leydon Barter’s new title or the place the data got here from as a result of that was confidential.

Leydon later realized that her mom was now often called Florabella Natalia Marion Remakel, an uncommon title she didn’t acknowledge – “I immediately knew at that time that anyone was concerned, and anyone was telling her to do that as a result of it’s simply not in her character to do it,” Leydon advised CNN.

When Leydon obtained a replica of Remakel’s Australian immigration entry card, she instantly acknowledged the handwriting as her mom’s, leaving little doubt for Leydon that her mom had returned. Barter, now Remakel, had written on the cardboard that she was a housewife residing in Luxembourg who was coming to Australia for a brief journey.

For police, Barter’s title change and secret return to Australia was additional proof the trainer had staged her personal disappearance – and with out having spoken together with her or bodily sighting her, they declared she was not lacking.

When social employee Joni Condos, an avid listener of true crime podcasts, heard the title Remakel on “The Girl Vanishes” one evening in 2019, she delved deep into on-line archives to attempt to discover a hyperlink.

“I used to be sitting on the sofa, it was midnight. After which I simply thought, I’ll simply give the newspapers a little bit of a go. As a result of, you realize, why not?” she mentioned.

In an Australian on-line archive, Condos searched a number of variations of “Remakel” and located an commercial in a French-Australian newspaper positioned in 1994 by a 47-year-old man – “single, tall, darkish, sober, non-smoker”  – searching for a relationship with a view to marriage.

It was signed “F. Remakel,” with a post-box handle and cellphone quantity in Lennox Head, northern NSW, lower than two hours by automobile from the place Barter lived. 

The potential connection was too intriguing to disregard.

Condos and the podcast’s producers searched Australian information and will discover no report of anybody named Remakel, however a web-based search of information in Europe confirmed one man of the identical age and preliminary – Fernand Remakel – who was residing in Luxembourg.

In 2019, when the podcast’s producers knocked on his door, Remakel denied any information of Marion Barter.

Undeterred, the journalists and Condos dug just a little deeper into the Luxembourg Enterprise Register and located his ex-wife, Monique Cornelius. Individually, one other listener linked the cellphone quantity within the advert to a coin enterprise within the NSW city of Ballina run by Frederick De Hedervary. 

The title Frederick De Hedervary would later lead police to his newest alias, Ric Blum.

Now an aged man with a white beard and glasses, Blum shuffled into Ballina Court docket Home with a strolling body, surrounded by tv cameras to offer proof on the inquest.

The courtroom heard that Blum had emigrated to Australia in 1976, and since then had modified his title at the least 13 instances, utilizing his new identities to acquire drivers’ licences and passports. 

When requested why, Blum mentioned: “I simply modified my title as a fantasy as a result of it’s authorized. I didn’t have any particular function.”

Ric Blum told the NSW Coroner's court that he last saw Barter in June 1997, just before she left Australia.

He admitted utilizing Fernand Remakel’s title to take out a driver’s licence in Australia, and knew of the title via Remakel’s ex-wife, Cornelius, who he advised the inquest was a “improbable individual.”

Blum mentioned the connection had solely ever been platonic, and that Cornelius repeatedly visited the manufacturing unit the place he labored.

Nonetheless, his tone modified when the senior counsel appearing for the coroner, Adam Casselden SC, learn aloud from a letter Blum had written to Cornelius in 1980, when he was residing in Luxembourg along with his younger household.

Within the letter, Blum mentioned: “My enchantress I’ve by no means in my life made love like that with anybody earlier than … Monday I depart for the UK and Eire, a couple of days to purchase our boat … I merely wish to get to know this nation which is as candy as your smile, fairly as your eyes and heat like that love that I’ve for you. I’m intimately persuaded that you’ll not remorse your resolution to depart with me and to begin a brand new life.”

In a NSW Police assertion learn to the courtroom, Cornelius mentioned she’d had a sexual relationship with Blum that ended when she found he was married with kids.

She referred to as Blum a liar and “very huge and harmful manipulator.”

“For instance, originally of our relationship he advised me that he labored for the British Embassy in Luxembourg as a particular agent,” she mentioned.

Blum admitted writing the letter however he mentioned on the time he was infatuated with Cornelius, insisting that they’d by no means had a sexual relationship, as she claimed.

“She’s mendacity all alongside. She’s a liar. She’s mendacity, mendacity, mendacity,” he mentioned.  

Marion Barter was last seen by her friend at a bus stop on the Gold Coast in June, 1997.

Questions turned to Barter,  and Blum made an admission that had remained secret for nearly 25 years. 

He revealed that he’d had a four-month affair with the schoolteacher from February to June, 1997 – the identical month she left Australia.

He had positioned the advert underneath the title “Fernand Remakel” that Barter had answered, and so they’d met three or 4 instances at her residence with out his spouse’s information. 

To journalist Alison Sandy, government producer of “The Girl Vanishes,” the admission was a shock – till then there was no agency indication that Blum was in shut contact with Barter within the months earlier than she disappeared.

“All of it fell into place. All of it made sense. That was the lacking piece of the puzzle we’d been searching for the entire time,” she mentioned.

Blum advised the courtroom he ended the connection with Barter earlier than she left Australia as a result of he was married with kids and didn’t need “drama.”

The courtroom heard Blum traveled to Europe on June 17, 1997, 5 days earlier than Barter left for the UK, and he returned to Australia on July 31 – two days earlier than Barter returned underneath the title Remakel. 

When it was put to Blum that their overlapping journey dates appeared to be “fairly a coincidence,” Blum mentioned he and Barter didn’t speak about their respective journey plans. 

“I didn’t journey together with her,” Blum mentioned. “After she left Australia, I by no means noticed her once more.”

Blum mentioned he didn’t even know Barter was lacking till police knocked on his door final 12 months.

A video was performed to courtroom of Blum’s formal interview with police, exhibiting the outdated man sitting along with his arms propped on strolling sticks.

“Did you homicide Marion Barter,” a police officer asks.

“Are you kidding … no, no,” Blum replies.

“Did you in any method hurt Marion Barter?”

“No, I by no means hurt anybody,” he says.

“Did you have got any interplay with Marion Barter when she returned to Australia after the second of August, 1997?


“Are you aware the place she is?”


Different girls advised the inquest about their encounters with Blum. 

Two years after Barter left Australia for Europe, Janet Oldenburg took an identical journey with Blum, who she knew as Ric West.

Oldenburg advised the courtroom she met Blum in 1996 via her husband’s coin gathering circles, and so they reconnected in 1999 simply as she had finalized her divorce. Cash was tight, and he had supplied her a job, however earlier than she’d began, he proclaimed his emotions for her and urged her to maneuver with him to the French Riviera “to begin a brand new life.”  

She advised the courtroom Blum talked about different potential locations, Algeria and Spain, “as a result of the climate could be good and heat, and I might have some servants, issues like that to take care of the home, so I wouldn’t should do something.” He advised her his coin enterprise was price 12 million Australian {dollars} ($8 million) and he owned a 20,000 acre-property planted with pink cedar. 

On the time, Oldenburg advised the courtroom she was 51 and “very weak” after splitting from her husband, who “took care of every thing” throughout their marriage. 

“I felt uplifted to begin a brand new life, a brand new starting,” she advised the courtroom.

An image around 2008, of Ric Blum, born Willy Wouters, who also used the aliases Frederick De Hedervary, Ric West and Richard Lloyd Westbury, among others.

Earlier than they left, Blum inspired her to bury her jewellery within the backyard and to carry private paperwork and the title deeds to the home she owned to the UK, she mentioned. 

As soon as within the UK, he urged they separate so she might spend time together with her cousin in Manchester whereas he did enterprise in France.

However days later, he phoned her, claiming he’d been robbed and overwhelmed by six males with baseball bats, had two damaged ribs and was in hospital in Lille, northern France.

He advised her he might guide her on a flight again to Australia on December 29, 1999, she advised the courtroom.

As a substitute, her cousin booked her an earlier flight, and he or she arrived residence on December 20.

A number of hours after she had returned residence, Blum turned up, apparently unhurt, and appeared “shocked” when she answered the door, she mentioned. 

He advised the inquest he had taken the bandages off and rushed residence when considered one of her male relations had knowledgeable him that she was catching an earlier flight. At that stage, Oldenburg mentioned she nonetheless trusted him.

However in January 2000, Oldenburg advised police she realized paperwork have been lacking, and the jewellery buried within the yard was gone. When she confronted Blum, he mentioned he would ship it again, however just some jewellery was returned. She filed a police report and the inquest heard Blum advised police he despatched all the jewellery again. She by no means noticed him once more.

In courtroom, Blum mentioned didn’t take Oldenburg’s paperwork and had by no means advised her they’d transfer to Europe.

He mentioned he left her within the UK as a result of he didn’t need something to do together with her anymore. 

“My life was with my spouse and children in Australia,” he mentioned.

Ginette Gaffney-Bowan advised the courtroom that across the similar time – the late Nineteen Nineties – she was lonely and “extraordinarily weak” after divorcing her husband. She positioned an commercial within the newspaper looking for friendship that was answered by Blum, who she knew as Frederick De Hedervary.

Gaffney-Bowan advised the courtroom they initially spoke about beginning a coin enterprise, however in a short time the dialog turned to his proposal that she promote her home and purchase an house in Paris. 

When she refused, she mentioned he tried to blackmail her with bare pictures taken with out her consent. She advised the inquest that, to her information, he by no means circulated the photographs.

Gaffney-Bowan advised the inquest that she grew to become “scared,” and in 1998 took out a restraining order towards him with police.

When requested what he was looking for from her, Gaffney-Bowan mentioned: “Cash. That’s all he’s been in spite of everything alongside.”

She mentioned the one cash she gave him was round 30,000 Australian {dollars} ($20,000) as start-up funding for the coin enterprise.

In courtroom, Blum denied her claims and accused her of mendacity.

In his remaining submissions, Casselden advised the courtroom the proof confirmed Blum displayed a “sample of habits in relation to the exploitation of weak single middle-aged girls.”

“He has led a rare lifetime of deceit and duplicity, together with in relation to his lengthy marriage to his current spouse,” Casselden mentioned.

Blum denied he sought to benefit from Oldenburg and Gaffney-Bowan, however Casselden mentioned his proof must be “wholly rejected” in favor of their testimony.

“There’s merely no motivation, your honor, for both of them to have lied,” Casselden mentioned.

Turning to Barter, Casselden mentioned the one “rational, believable rationalization” for her title change was that she was in a relationship with Blum and that she modified her title “both on her personal insistence, or on his, or a mixture of each.”

He mentioned it was doubtless they traveled collectively as a pair to Europe, and that Blum urged they begin a “new life.” What occurred subsequent is unclear.

Casselden mentioned regardless of an intensive and ongoing investigation, police have been unable to find Barter – lifeless or alive. This 12 months NSW Police elevated the reward for data resulting in the arrest and conviction of anybody concerned in her disappearance to 500,000 Australian {dollars} ($338,000).

The inquest could also be concluding, however Leydon says her seek for solutions won’t finish there.

“I’ve a sense that individuals assume I’m simply going to sit down again and neglect about it. And the truth of that’s, I’m not,” Leydon mentioned. 

She desires her mom’s disappearance to result in modifications within the legal guidelines in Australia to make it simpler for members of the family to entry a lacking individual’s information after a interval of no-contact, to offer them a greater probability than she needed to uncover leads and listen to the recollections of witnesses earlier than their reminiscences fade. 

Leydon accepts that her mom is probably going lifeless, however she nonetheless desires to know the way, and why.

“I simply wish to know the place she is and what occurred,” she mentioned. “I encourage individuals to assist me discover that reply.” 

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