By Michael Giles
POLICE have renewed their calls for local help in finding missing Inverloch woman Patricia ‘Trish’ Backhurst.
They’ve asked local residents and also rural property owners in the area surrounding Inverloch to make a special effort to look inside sheds and other locations on their properties where the missing woman might have sought refuge.
Acting Inspector Glenn Parke said the 81-year-old Inverloch woman had been missing since Wednesday or Thursday and both police and family members had serious concerns around her whereabouts and health.
Speaking at the Inverloch Police Station today, Sunday, March 21, Inspector Parke said a major search effort had been instigated, involving police, the police airwing and SES helicopter, other emergency services and a large number of Inverloch volunteers who responded to a community post on Facebook to join the search.
“The airwing has been surveying the search area since yesterday and have also been joined by the SES helicopter today,” Inspector Parke said.
“Apart from a short period of time on the ground due to the weather (very windy in the Inverloch area), they been up in the air for most of the day.”
Inspector Parke spoke about the search area and also called on the community to assist.
“Patricia is a local resident of Inverloch who went missing around Thursday, we believe. She’s an 81 year old resident who walks frequently around town, along the coastal areas. At this stage we have been focusing our search around the Screw Creek Reserve and the coastal area of Inverloch.”
Inspector Parke was asked when Ms Backhurst was last seen.
“She was last known to be at home on Wednesday but we believe that she has been at home again on Thursday, so at this stage we’re assuming that was the last time she was known to be about it.
He was also asked if the missing woman had a medical condition.
“Yes she does suffer from some form of dementia, so we’re concerned that she might have become disorientated while she’s been out on one of her walks.
“We believe she knows the area quite well and that she’s regularly walking in the area, and we’ve got information that tells us that she often walks around the Screw Creek area and along the coast of Inverloch. So that’s why we’re concentrating there.”
Asked what police wanted the public to do Inspector Parke renewed the call for support.
“What we really want the public to do, and that’s all residents of Inverloch and even on the outskirts, some of the rural properties, we’re just asking for owners of those properties to have a look in their own properties and outbuildings and for the farming properties out in their paddocks and we’re certainly doing that as well. But we just ask every property owner to help us with that task,” said Inspector Parke.
He said it was somewhat out of character for Ms Backhurst to go missing, although he acknowledged that it had happened before.
“She has been known to wander previously but not for this period of time, so to be to be missing for four or five days is certainly out of character.”
Despite being described as physically fit for her age, Inspector Parke said police and the family were very concerned.
“We’re certainly concerned if she’s been missing from home for, you know, for four days now, at her age, but for anyone to be out in the elements for that period of time, that would raise concerns, yes.”
Inspector Parke said he didn’t believe she had any supplies, or was clothed in anything but her walking of clothes which included a pair of jeans, light shoes and a shirt.
“Police can be contacted at any time on Triple Zero with any information or by contacting the Wonthaggi police station [03 5671 4100] or if anyone did happen to find Patricia, then they should call triple zero and request an ambulance to come her assistance.”
Inspector Parke provided a description of Ms Buckhurst.
“Patricia is 81 year old lady with a thin build and shoulder-length grey hair and when last seen, believed to be wearing blue jeans and some white coloured shoes. The 80s is anything you just understand on one of the previous occasions she was located in one Peggy, have you included one tag in the search area.”
On a previous occasion Ms Buckhurst was located between the western edge of Inverloch and the local airport so police have included that area in the search area but had been concentrating their search on the Screw Creek area and out from there.
“We’ve got quite a broad search area including Inverloch, the surrounds and an area north of the Bass Highway, so we’ve got quite a broad search area in the township but we’re specifically focusing the majority of our resources at the moment on that Screw Creek reserve and along the coastline, sort of between the Yacht Club and Flat Rocks.”
The police airwing, SES and local volunteers joined the search across the weekend.
Family member of Ms Backhurst, Karen Wallace, provide police and the media with some additional information in an effort to locate the missing woman.
“Trish, as she is known, has been missing for nearly three days now, and we realized when I arrived at her home that there was no Trish, and it was windy, and she doesn’t usually like walking in the wind,” said Karen.
“A friend had been there several hours before and had tried contacting her, and hadn’t seen her, and realized there was something wrong.”
Ms Wallace said Trish had gone missing before for short periods of time but not this long.
Ms Wallace said anyone finding Trish should simply speak to her by name and offer their assistance before contacting police.
“And she would, in my opinion, remember her address. She’s very definite on that. She does know her own address. She may not recognize the house but she certainly knows her address.”
“If anyone finds her, they should certainly feel free to approach her, address her by name and bring her back.”