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Real Life

EXCLUSIVE: One mum's lasting heartache decades after her beloved daughter went missing

“My little girl never made it home.”

By Brigid Auchettl
There isn't a day that goes by when Liz Westwood doesn't think about her daughter.
Suzanne Lawrance, known as Suzi, was a "happy and friendly" young woman according to her mum, and was just days away from celebrating her 17th birthday when she disappeared.
It was Saturday February 7, 1987 when Suzi attended a party at Healesville Memorial Hall in Healesville, Victoria, 52km north-east of Melbourne.
Dressed in a ruffled white satin dress and a pair of diamond and pearl earrings on loan from her mum for the night, Suzi was excited to attend the event.
It was her first night out after suffering a broken pelvis in a car crash two months earlier.
But, devastatingly, the teen never made it home.
Liz is hoping someone 
will come forward and give the family closure Image: Supplied
"I dropped her at the hall and I think I said to her, 'Have a good time.' I never imagined that would be the last time I'd see her," Liz, 78, tells Woman's Day.
"If I could talk to her again I would say, 'I love you to bits.' It would be the best thing to hold her in my arms again."
So when Liz discovered Suzi, her only daughter among her boys, Ben, Glenn, and Tony, hadn't come home, she wasn't concerned.
"In Healesville you didn't worry about that," explains Liz, who now lives in Bowen, Queensland.
"People slept over at other people's houses if they'd been partying."
Liz went ahead with her plans to go to Melbourne and then to a country music festival in Yarra Glen, but when Suzi was still not home by Sunday night she began to worry.
On Monday morning Liz reported her daughter missing.
"The comment from police was, 'We usually find them within 48 hours' but they never did," says Liz, who searched herself, visiting all of Suzi's friends hoping to find her daughter.
"Nowadays you'd be straight on the telly but back then you didn't do that. I didn't have a clue where to look for her, I didn't know where she could possibly be."
Police were quick to dismiss Suzi as a teen runaway but Liz doesn't believe her daughter would have started a new life.
Suzi (centre) with her brothers and mother Liz in happier times Image: Supplied
"She had no money, no purse... she wouldn't have gone on a train or a bus on her own," says the heartbroken mother.
"She had lots of friends at school, she was happy."
As word of Suzi's disappearance spread, a picture of the teen's last movements began to emerge.
Friends at the party recall Suzi fled in tears, after a run-in with a recent ex-boyfriend and his new date.
She was later seen speaking to two boys, declining their offer to walk her home.
The next morning, Suzi was seen in Healesville, wearing a pink and white top, talking to some boys near a car.
And later, a female co-worker of Suzi's spotted the teen at the same country music festival 
Liz had attended – with an unknown boy.
It was the last time anyone saw Suzi.
Thirty-four years on, despite investigations by Healesville police, the Missing Persons Unit and Victoria's Cold Case Unit, Liz and her family are still waiting for answers.
Suzi's disappearance 
has baffled investigators, she would be 51 today Image: Supplied
"Not knowing is the worst part, I know she's probably not alive, but it would be nice to have it be final," says Liz.
"When someone goes missing, you've got no finality, and you haven't got answers."
Liz hopes the age-progressed photo of her daughter, produced as part of this year's National Missing Persons Week campaign, may spark some new leads.
She admits it was a difficult moment when she first saw the image of what Suzi may look like as an adult.
"I can't imagine what sort of life she would have had if she was still alive... it gets too emotional," says Liz.
"The way I dealt with her going away was in believing that she'd come back. I was always waiting for the phone call to say, 'Hi Mum', but it never happened."
The age progressed image provides a glimpse at what Suzi may look like today AFP NATIONAL MEDIA
Now, Liz hopes that someone will finally come forward with the truth. "Missing her, it never goes away," she says.
"Someone in Healesville knows what happened. Please come forward and tell us, just to give us peace of mind."
This National Missing Persons Week, the Australian Federal Police forensic artists have produced age-progressed portraits 
of seven long-term missing persons – including Suzi–from across Australia.
It is hoped the images will increase awareness in the community of long-term missing persons and how their families are often still searching for answers years later.
This week is National Missing Persons Week (1 Aug - 7 Aug). If you have information that may assist police in their search for Suzanne, please call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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