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Trudie Adams: The Disappearance Of Trudie

Trudie Adams, age 18, was a business college student from Avalon on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, located on the Pittwater Peninsula. She was last noticed on the night of June 24th, 1978 getting into a fawn or beige-colored 1974-78 panel van (although first reports suggested a green Kombi van might have been involved). She had long blonde hair, grey-green eyes, a slim build, was 162cm tall, and was last noticed wearing a bottle green floral blouse and black jumper.

Trudie And Pittwater Peninsula

Reward of $250,000 to solve disappearance of Trudie Adams - NSW Police  Public Site
Pic: NSW Police

Today one of Sydney’s most prosperous regions, in the late 1970s, the Pittwater Peninsula had a sparser and more financially varied population. From the affluent extreme of Palm Beach mansions at the northern end to more working-class pockets towards the southern extreme of Mona Vale and everything in between, the region was less populated and felt rather more distant than it does today, embraced by the ocean on the side, and Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park reaching down to the shores of Pittwater on the other. Barrenjoey Road, the major road passing through the Peninsula, had yet to be widened – it was thin and a bit meandering, sometimes hugging the headlands that jut out on the seaward side. The Peninsula of the time had a very comfortable, easy-going atmosphere, with the youth spectacle concentrated on a surfing culture that revolved around the beaches. Avalon itself was a little community, and there was a decent deal of understanding among neighbors and within age groups. There was, nonetheless, a dark undercurrent of sexual violence and drug trafficking-related crime, as expressed in this article. (To give you a notion of how minor the population was and how interconnected, I grew up with the kids of the surfer quoted in the article – and yes, he was really the kind of person those comments convey). It was only after Trudie vanished that more than a score of young women came forward to disclose a series of assaults in which they were picked up along Barrenjoey Road, handcuffed, blindfolded, and driven to bushland where they were terrorized with a firearm and raped.

The Disappearance Of Trudie

The timeline and facts leading up to her disappearance are relatively straightforward, with a few substantial question marks. After leaving her house at 7 pm that night to attend a party with friends, Trudie went south along Barrenjoey Road stepping towards Newport. She was given a lift by a motorist to her friend Debbie’s home, and from there they stepped to the Newport Arms Hotel, where they reached at 8.30 pm and stayed until closing time at 10 pm. From the Hotel, they traveled in a friend’s car to the Newport Surf Lifesaving Club. Trudie was in nice spirits at this time, looking forward to a trip to Bali in six weeks.

At 10.30 pm, Trudie’s boyfriend Steve Norris reached. Trudie left the Club for about an hour, during which her whereabouts are anonymous. She came back at 11.30 pm. Soon after midnight, she left the club, seemingly disturbed, but notifying no one where she was going.

Noticing her leave Steve Norris followed, but as he was crossing the carpark he saw her enter a fawn or beige 1974-76 Holden panel van that had no side windows, which had stopped to provide her with a lift. Steve flagged down another car and followed her as the car moved north along Barrenjoey (in the direction of Avalon), but it was running at some speed and he lost sight of it.

Trudie’s house was only five minutes or so away, but she never reached.

The following day her parents reported her missing to the police, who began a widespread search. Five days after Trudie vanished (June 29th) a male person telephoned both Trudie’s parents and Mona Vale Police and said “Trudie is dead. You will discover it here about halfway up to Mona Vale Road. It was an accident.” Police scoured a big region, almost 400 square kilometers including greatly along Mona Vale Road (which is encircled by heavy bush in some areas) but no indication of Adams was discovered.

Suspects

Steve Norris by his admission, was in the procedure of breaking up with Trudie at the time of her disappearance. She needed to end the relationship, but he did not. At the 2011 inquest, he was inquired about an account he’d given to police during the preliminary investigation in which he told that during a quarrelsome month recently he and Trudie had “come to blows”, but said he didn’t remember that. According to the version of events he gave the police, after missing sight of the car he went to Trudie’s house, where her mum was waiting up for her. As she had not reached the house, he borrowed a bicycle (unclear from whom) and told he rode around the beaches for a while, but not finding her and inferring she was staying with a friend, he finally went home. He joined the widespread police search along with her friends. Norris’ actions during the hour Adams’ whereabouts at the club are unfamiliar appear fairly well attested – he was upstairs drinking. He contended not to be extremely intoxicated. He had been to Bali various times but refuted that he was involved in drug trafficking. He and Adams did occasionally smoke marijuana together. He was conscious of rumors that he was involved in her disappearance but attempted to shrug them off. I assume that he was investigated and dismissed at the time as having been involved.

The Roselands Lads A group of friends from outside the region who named themselves “The Roselands Lads” were realized to have been roaming the Peninsula at the time of the kidnapping. Two members had cars fitting the explanation of the vehicle involved. Garrison Carr, Garry Ireland, and Keith Hurney bragged several times about having raped and killed Adams. Hurney is alleged to have told his girlfriend, who testified at the 2011 inquest, that Adams was kidnapped and raped inside a Kombi van, and received a disastrous head injury when she either leaped or was pushed from the vehicle. As far as police can infer, these young men were simply big-noting themselves by contending involvement.

Neville Tween Tween was characterized as the main suspect in the 2011 inquest. In 1978 Tween, today is known as John Anderson, already had a big criminal record going back to when he was 10 years old. In 1975 he was sentenced to kidnapping a man after a marijuana deal went wrong and compelling him to fellate his abductors and dig his own grave in bushland off Mona Vale Rd. He came to be a police informer and was convicted to 18 years in Long Bay for conspiracy to import $7 million worth of cocaine in 2006. He gave evidence in the 2011 inquiry and rejected involvement in Adams’ disappearance. Garry James Batt, also sentenced in the 1975 incident, stated that Tween was “pretty crazy”. After fulfilling his sentence he relocated to Melbourne, contending Tween had terrorized him with “If you don’t vanish, I’ll make you disappear”.

Other factors to consider:

There was an arising drug trafficking trade beyond marijuana use – this would broaden in the 1980s into the infamous Mr. Asia / Trimble / Terrence Clarke network. It is known that Norris and Adams did use marijuana together, although whether they were involved in anything harder is unfamiliar. It has been theorized that Norris and/or Adams might have been or were under pressure to be drug mules trafficking to Bali – Norris had toured a few times, and Adams was shortly to travel there. In the days before her disappearance, Adams is said to have told her mama that anonymous people were “hassling” her.

In a weird twist, at the inquest, a woman called Carolyn Drake, who knew Adams, came forward and contended that she and her boyfriend were the ones who picked up Adams that night at the club and drove her home. While comprehensive and on the surface credible, the three women Drake claims to have told about the sighting at the time all refuted her having told them (one of them had her own astonishing story about a near-miss the night Adams disappeared ). An officer who worked on the case also told it was not reasonable that Drake could have been unfamiliar with the significance of her evidence if the story was valid, and I emphatically agree. I was younger than Adams and never realized her, but I – like virtually everyone else on the Beaches – knew the circumstances of the case, such as the description of the panel van she stepped into. She barely could not have been unaware of how significant that sighting would have been.

What did occur to Trudie? Was she in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was there more to the rumors of drug trafficking? And where are her remains?

My family house is in this region, and while the phrase about specific cases “haunting” the areas where they took place is clichéd, in this instance it is very apt. It is still a relatively inward-looking community, known to locals as “The Insular Peninsula”. Although it’s changing and going more boutiquey (ugh – newly renovated under the auspices of Merivale, killing its local feel), on any given Saturday night I could still possibly drop into the Newport Arms – where Trudie was drinking the night she vanished – and run into old school friends, neighbors, friends-of-friends. My brother’s 21st birthday was held at the Surf Club she vanished from. All through my childhood, there were rumors of sightings, indications she wasn’t dead at all, that she’d been noticed at a gas station near Alice Springs or other locations. None of these was verified at the recent inquest. This was the case that hung over us for at least a decade or more and still comes up in discussions among locals about growing up in the region. As a little girl, my older sister would give me the shivers whenever we were in a bushland setting, roaming away from the group along the shores and trails of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase: “Be careful,” she’d warn in a stage whisper. “We might discover the corpse of Trudie Adams.”

Trudie’s parents proceeded their search, and stories about their quest for answers occasionally appeared in the media. Her mum died not knowing what had occurred to her daughter.

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