For experienced crime investigator Bryan Mitchell the 1991 disappearance and suspected murder of Adelaide woman Helen Courtney is one of those enduring cases he would like to solve.
The 33-year-old mother-of-three was last seen in September 1991 – first reported missing by her mother on 24 September, followed by her husband several days later.
He claimed to have last seen her at 2pm on Friday 20 September when she dropped him off at a business on Bridge Rd at Pooraka, and continued driving towards Adelaide.
Major Crime Investigation Branch’s Detective Sergeant Mitchell, a 40-year veteran with SA Police, said investigators have only ever had one suspect in connection with her disappearance.
Now, as part of Operation Persist, there is a renewed focus on the suspected murder of Mrs Courtney that includes having the case featured today (Sept 11) in the Sunday Mail newspaper as part of an ongoing media campaign.
“Helen Courtney left behind three children, who we know she was devoted to,” Detective Sergeant Mitchell said.
“Unfortunately I don’t think Helen’s alive any more. By what means we can’t be certain, but I believe she met with foul play, possibly on the evening of 19 September 1991.”
After Mrs Courtney was reported missing her car, a Mitsubishi Colt, was located. It had been abandoned and had received parking tickets in Franklin Street, Adelaide, with the first recorded as being issued at 1.48pm on 20 September.
“The car was very clean,” Detective Sergeant Mitchell said. “And it wasn’t expected to be. We believe that whoever put the car there had something to hide.”
In 2008 after a review of the investigation and using new technology to pinpoint disturbances in the ground, police dug up part of the backyard of Mrs Courtney’s former Ingle Farm home, but did not find any valuable evidence.
“I would like to clear this one up,” Detective Sergeant Mitchell said. “In your career there are two or three that you would particularly like to resolve, and this is one of those ones.
“I would like to be able to provide some positive news for her family and the person or persons who did this should remember that SAPOL does not close any murder case unless it is solved.”
Operation Persist is an ongoing long-term strategy by Major Crime focused on unsolved missing person and murder cases in South Australia.
A range of tactics are being used in the Operation including working with media partners to seek new information from the community, detailed case reviews particularly in light of new technology and forensic capabilities, directly seeking information from the SA prison population and the provision of additional rewards by the State Government.
Anyone with information about the disappearance of Mrs Courtney is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report online at https://crimestopperssa.com.au/ – you can remain anonymous and a reward may apply.
Photographs: Helen Courtney and her abandoned car.