Two sisters, two continents, two tragedies: My painful years of searching for Hayley

Margaret Dodd with a plaque in memory of Hayley. Picture Mandurah Mail.
Margaret Dodd with a plaque in memory of Hayley. Picture Mandurah Mail.
  • Hayley Dodd has been missing in Western Australia since July 1999
  • Mum Margaret has never given up hope of her being found alive
  • Police said to be closing in on a prime suspect 16 years on

It is a tale of two sisters from Lancaster united in terrible tragedies at different sides of the world.

Now the discovery of an earring belonging to Hayley Dodd, missing for 16 years, has brought home what they already suspected – both their daughters have died as the result of terrible crimes.

Missing poster for Hayley Dodd.

Missing poster for Hayley Dodd.

Margaret Dodd’s daughter Hayley, then 17, went missing in Western Australia in 1999 and was presumed a victim of abduction and murder though she was never found.

Margaret’s sister Marie West’s daughter Tracey – Hayley’s cousin – was brutally murdered by her husband in Skerton just two years previously.

Now, after the new evidence emerges into Hayley’s disappearance, they tell their heartbreaking story.

Margaret’s Story

Somebody has taken our Hayley. I don’t even want to imagine what he’s done. We just want to know where Hayley is

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,” said 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.”

Hayley Dodd has been missing since July 1999.

She vanished without a trace, aged 17, while walking along a remote road in the Australian bush.

Ever since then, Lancaster-born Margaret 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,” said 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, grey jacket with a hood and silver sunglasses, she hitched a ride to Badgingarra and was dropped off, made a call from a telephone box and bought a bottle of water and crisps from a shop. 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 in the investigation may finally, hopefully, bring them the peace they are searching for.

“It’s been a long hard road over the years,” said 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? Why are there murderers, terrorists and rapists?

“Somebody has taken our Hayley. I don’t even want to imagine what he’s done. We just want to know where Hayley is.”

Read sister Marie’s story HERE