Faye and Mark’s sons image has been splashed across the media for the last few years. That’s how I met them, they receive support from an old colleague of mine who has a passionate desire to right wrongs and to force conversations where conversations need to be had.
Mark agreed to have a chat with me about sitting on the outside of the missing persons sector and what it means to be searching when they know they are not expecting their son to come home. Here both Mark and Faye share their story.
*the information contained in this story, and the names used have been previously published by other media outlets.
Matt’s been missing for 5 years….can you tell me about the circumstances of his disappearance?
Our youngest son Jason was home ill from school on Tuesday the 25th of September 2007, Faye rang him to see if he was OK around lunchtime. Jason let her know that Matt’s work had called twice that morning to try to find him as he hadn’t fronted for work. Matt’s working week was Tuesday to Saturday so this essentially was his first day back after the weekend. Matt did not live with us at this stage, he was living with his partner Michael Peter Atkins at Cronulla. Matt was 20 and Atkins 44. We were not happy with this age difference but for the sake of Matt, we accepted him.
After Jason’s phone call we started contacting Matt’s friends and tried to contact Atkins. They started getting back to us that no one had seen Matt and finally Atkins called back to say that when he woke up in the morning Matt was gone (he subsequently changed this from waking up in the morning to lunch , then late afternoon). He said he also had been looking for him. Later in the evening Mark insisted Atkins come to the Police Station with he and Faye to report Matt as a missing person. Atkins reluctantly attended and a report was made to police. On the Thursday Matt’s car was located at Waratah Oval at Sutherland. In the boot was a Bunnings receipts with Atkins fingerprint on it. Police went to Bunnings and obtained CCTV footage of Atkins there around midday on the Sunday purchasing a mattock and cloth tape. Matt was last seen on CCTV footage leaving ARQ nightclub with Atkins around 3am on the Sunday morning . On Friday the local police involved the homicide squad and on Saturday homicide detectives formally informed us that they were convinced Matt had met with foul play and this was now officially a murder investigation. They were looking not for Matt but for a body. A strikeforce had been formed – Strikeforce Bowditch. In August 2008 Atkins was arrested and charged with Matt’s murder. He did not apply for bail and stayed on remand for 13 months until his murder trial from August to October, 2009. After nearly 8 weeks the jury found him not guilty of murder nor manslaughter. I was quoted to the press shortly after the verdict as saying “Not guilty does not mean innocent”.
Does it feel like time has been frozen to that day that you found out he was missing?
Both yes and no. At the time a minute felt like an eternity. Some days you think where have the years gone. But when you begin to go over the events, even though you go through the motions of day to day living, nearly five years on a big part of you is still in a time warp waiting for that phone call to say they have found his body and you just can’t let go of going over the events and the timeline of those early days, retracing people’s steps and behaviours of that time trying to find a missed clue.
Has your idea of hope changed as time as moved on? What do you hope for now?
There is no change in our hope. Right from the outset we knew Matt wasn’t coming home alive. We still hope his body is found is found for two reasons. Firstly, Matt can be given the send off and place to be laid to rest with dignity that every decent human being deserves and secondly, Matt’s body constitutes “compelling new evidence” which we need to get back into court. There are no double jeopardy rules for murder in this state and Matt’s alleged killer can be re-tried.
People often throw around words like closure and acceptance which the majority of families living with such a traumatic loss rebel against. What do you think people don’t understand about living with the loss of your child?
NOTHING OFFENDS US MORE THAN THIS AWFUL “C” WORD, “CLOSURE”!!!!! We set a high standard and Matt knocking on our front door saying “Sorry I haven’t called IS CLOSURE, NOTHING LESS. So many well meaning friends, colleagues and compassionate members of press often say “Well at least if you can find Matt’s body you’ll have closure.” We just grit our teeth and turn away. Of course we accept Matt’s loss. We accept that he won’t be coming home. What a lot don’t understand is that this kind of a loss is not just an horrific and awful memory it’s also NOW, it never leaves you. NEVER a day goes by where we don’t think of Matt and what he would be doing now if he were alive. Both of us and both of Matt’s brothers are covered in tattoos commemorating Matt so we all never fail to see reminders of him wherever we are.
For most parents, with a child missing, the idea that they grow old and pass away without knowing what happened can be haunting. Is this something that you fixate on?
Yes it certainly is something you do and always will. No parent should ever have to bury a child no matter what age that child is. But what makes it more difficult for us we know Matt is dead, but we can’t even bury our son, so we have a double wammy, missing and dead. Not knowing what happened to him haunts us everyday. We don’t want to go to our graves not knowing, not only for our sake but for the sake of our other two sons. We don’t want them going through their young lives into their twilight years not knowing what happened as well, we don’t want to leave that responsibility on their shoulders, we are the parents it is our responsibility not theirs. Their lives have already been put into turmoil by these advents and by being able to find Matt will in some way let them move forward knowing that their brother has been respectfully laid to rest and we all can say our goodbyes to Matt, even though that will be one of the hardest things to do. At the moment we can’t say our goodbyes and have nowhere to go and visit him.
Finally, what does missing persons week mean for your family?
Sadly, we feel like imposter’s. We feel that we don’t belong. We’ve always thought of missing persons as those who are currently missing with the hope of one day being found or returning. We think of missing persons as living beings out there, somewhere, as yet not found. We’re even a little jealous of those that have strong hope that there loved one will return as we have been denied that hope by Matt’s killer. We have sympathy for and the greatest respect for those that have a cherished one missing and wish those with hope every positive outcome possible. _______________________________________________________
Im always astounded to see that in the midst of sadness and loss people think of good news for others. They see that whilst their own hope is limited, others should still be allowed to hold on to theirs. Thanks Mark and Faye for your honest and insightful words…it was lovely to sit next to you at the launch of the week. For more information about Matt and his family you can follow them here.
Missing, whether it be homicide, suicide, or just not here right now, can cover that range of what a missing person might be defined as. What does ‘missing’ mean to you?