Bursting with excitement, I ran to my sister as she walked in the door. ‘I’ve missed you! How’s it going?’ I cried. Gaye, 22, hugged me. ‘I missed you too,’ she said.
Aged 13, I idolised my big sister. She’d moved from our home in Sydney to Brisbane to work with the air force and now she was training as a police officer. My mum, Dorothy, brothers, Mark, 14, and Glen, 10, sister, Annette, eight, and I all gathered around the table, eagerly listening to Gaye’s stories. She told us about the job and the halls she was living in with other girls. ‘I also went to New Zealand,’ she beamed, showing us breathtaking photos of snow-capped mountains and blue lakes. ‘Wow,’ I breathed.
Along with our sister Karen, 20, I was one of six kids. I didn’t feel lonely, but I still missed Gaye heaps. She was the oldest and like a second mum to me. Both our parents battled mental illness. Our dad, Jack, also worked long hours as a taxi driver, so Gaye had often helped take care of me and my siblings. As well as caring, she was great fun. We’d had a childhood packed with building cubbyhouses and swimming in rivers.
I was happy for her new venture though. Gaye’s face lit up as she spoke to us. ‘I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself love,’ Mum smiled.
When Gaye returned to Brisbane, I knew we wouldn’t see her for a long time. Around six months later, I was at home when someone knocked at the door. It was a police officer. Walking into the lounge room, he began chatting to my parents. Within seconds, Mum had collapsed on the floor and was sobbing. ‘Gaye’s missing,’ Dad cried.
Her squadron leader had reported her missing after she’d failed to show up for duties. Her housemate had told police how Gaye had picked up a second job as a hostess for an agency, where she accompanied men to events and functions.
The evening before, Gaye had gone to meet her first ever client, a man named John Taylor. That was the last anyone had heard from her. Chills shivered down my spine.
Where was my big sister?
She hadn’t told us about the second job, but I guessed she’d taken it on to save more money. Selfless Gaye was putting away her wages to pay for an op Mum needed and I knew she dreamed of travelling more. But that would never happen… The next day, we received a horrific update.
Police had found Gaye’s yellow Datsun car in Clayfield, Brisbane, where she was to meet John Taylor. Over the next few weeks, police pieced together Gaye’s last movements. They determined that, on July 2, 1972, she’d parked up on Bayview Terrace.
John had told the agency’s secretary he wanted a date to take to a work pool party. But officers discovered that all the details ‘John’ had given to the agency were fake. He’d even sent a taxi driver to pay the fee, to avoid revealing his identity.
There was no doubt in my parents’ minds that this man was responsible for Gaye’s disappearance. She’d left her life savings untouched in her bank account – so there was no chance she’d just run away. Trying not to think the worst, I told myself that Gaye had joined a nunnery. But police were treating her disappearance as a murder.
As months passed, our whole family desperately held onto hope. Living so far from Brisbane, we felt helpless. Seeing Gaye’s face splashed over the front page of newspapers was surreal. Police offered a reward for information and re-enacted Gaye’s last moves, hoping it’d prompt someone to come forward.
Her disappearance was a complete mystery though.
Mum and Dad were distraught and Mum’s health slowly deteriorated. Dad collected every newspaper clipping about Gaye and we’d regularly talk about her. Over time, I started to think it was most likely Gaye had been murdered.
Then, in October 1974 – just over two years after Gaye’s disappearance – our mum suffered a brain haemorrhage and sadly passed away. It was yet another heartache for our family. Dad fell into an all-time low and us younger kids temporarily moved in with our older sister, Karen.
When I was 17, I left home and started my own life. The devastation my family had been through led to me training to be a nurse. I went on to marry and have four children.
The trauma of Gaye’s disappearance never left me and it affected my happiness and that of my siblings. She was always on my mind and I’d often be struck with waves of devastation. I travelled to New Zealand because of Gaye’s stories and eventually moved there.
Last October – 47 years since Gaye’s disappearance – a detective called. Police were re-opening her case. They were hoping to solve old cold cases with new DNA technology that hadn’t been around in the past. ‘You need to be prepared to go through a court case if we charge someone,’ he said. A $250,000 reward was offered for any information that led to a conviction. Then Annette and I spoke at a press conference, urging people to come forward.
Police particularly wanted to hear from anyone who was in the area at the time, or who saw a vehicle near Gaye’s car on Bayview Terrace, described as a dark brown or maroon Holden Monaro or Valiant Charger. Police are currently working on the new leads, but aren’t allowed to reveal the information to us.
Someone out there knows something – I truly hope they do the right thing and tell police. We deserve answers and justice for our dear sister Gaye.
DO YOU KNOW SOMETHING?
Gaye Christine Baker was described as 157cm tall with long, dark, curly hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing light coloured blue jeans, a navy-blue blouse, white heeled sandals and carrying a silver purse.
It’s believed she was last seen alive around 9.30am on July 2, 1972, parking her 1971 yellow Datsun 1200 sedan in Bayview Terrace, Clayfield, Brisbane.
If you have any information, you can call Crime Stoppers anonymously: 1800 333 000.
For more, see this week’s that’s life! – out now!