10 May 2023

Police out to save face in search for Ms Bernard

| Matt Nicholls
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Queensland Police and Crime Stoppers volunteers in Coen last week.

HAVING botched the original investigation, Queensland Police Service is now scrambling to find the remains of a missing Kowanyama woman who likely died near the Archer River a decade ago.

On Friday, which marked the 10-year anniversary of the disappearance of Kokoberra woman Ms Bernard, police joined forces with volunteers from Crime Stoppers to doorknock in Coen, asking locals if they had any information about the case or her likely resting place.

Ms Bernard was last seen at the Archer River Quarry on Sunday, February 10 in 2013.

She had been at the Exchange Hotel in Coen earlier that night, before leaving for the quarry with caretaker Thomas Byrnes.

Ms Bernard, a mother of two young children, was never seen again.

In 2021, the Northern Coroner Nerida Wilson announced that an inquest would be held regarding Ms Bernard’s disappearance.

Then, last year, Ms Wilson ordered a new search for her remains in areas between Archer River and Coen, with a place called “The Bend” to be a focus point.

Ms Bernard was last seen at the Archer River Quarry in 2013.

The Queensland Police Service, fearing getting torn to shreds when the findings of the inquest are finally handed down, likely later this year, are now pulling out all stops to find Ms Bernard.

Their original investigation was nothing short of disgraceful.

Police treated Ms Bernard’s disappearance as a missing person, believing the story of Mr Byrnes that she had run off into the bush.

No forensic evidence was taken of the clothes left behind by Ms Bernard and the search in the days after she was reported missing was far from extensive.

Last week, a Queensland Police Service media release said officers had used new technology to try and locate her remains.

“A large scale search of the area utilising police on foot, quad bikes and vehicles along with helicopters, SES, Defence Force personnel and the police dive squad failed to locate any sign of Allison,” the statement said.

“New drone and camera technology which was unavailable in 2013 was utilised for a systematic search of the area, along with officers on horseback and in four-wheel drives. This targeted search operation, along with further searches in the Coen area in late 2022, unfortunately, did not advance investigations.”

Queensland Police continue to reference Ms Bernard by her first name, despite the requests of her family that she is only referred to as Ms Bernard.

Acting Superintendent Kevin Goan said he remained determined that someone out there has the missing piece of the puzzle that may help find Ms Bernard.

“(Ms Bernard) would now be 33, she could have lived a full life and had a family – but instead her loved ones are left wondering,” Acting Superintendent Goan said.

“We will not give up. (Ms Bernard’s) disappearance has had a devastating impact on this community and together we won’t stop until we find answers.

“That’s why we are in Coen today, with a dedicated group of volunteers, door knocking the community in the hopes anyone with information, no matter how small, may prove to be the key to locating (Ms Bernard).

“We would like to thank the local community who continues to support our ongoing investigations, and urge members of the public to continue spreading the word – anyone with information should immediately contact police.”

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