Betty O’Pray – Still a Mystery

On 19/04/2016, in News, by admin

7241902-3x4-340x453 Six weeks have now passed since elderly Betty O’Pray vanished after setting out from her home in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales for a stroll along a bushland track. She’d been along it numerous times, a trail that would take her over a mostly hard surface, with a busy road on one side and thick undergrowth on the other.

The walk would also have taken her along a quieter suburban road with views across farmland where horses graze. Although hilly, it’s an easy route – and Betty would have had no reason to divert from it. At least no reason that we know of.

But she’s gone. Vanished. And police tell me that her disappearance is a mystery. They haven’t given up, though. Although there appears little hope of finding her alive if she did indeed stray into the bush, she has to be found for the sake of her distressed family, some of whom live in the same small community of Medlow Bath, west of Katoomba, that Betty was from.

I’m told that police are keeping an open mind into every possibility, including her making it all the way to Katoomba – some 7km from her home – and getting on a train. That’s remote, but she is reported to have suffered from mild dementia and gave one resident who met her on the path one day weeks earlier the impression that she was slightly confused.

The possibility that Betty came off the bush path and wandered into a suburban street has been considered, evidence of that being the teams of police who knocked on doors in and around Katoomba asking residents to keep their eyes open for the elderly lady. That added hundreds more eyes to the search, but her whereabouts remained a mystery.

Police are now reasonably certain that she did not come to grief in the bushland between her home and Katoomba because, as I was told, scores of searchers scoured every possible place she could be, a hunt that saw experienced personnel abseiling down cliff faces in case she had stumbled through the bush and fallen over. ‘It was a very, very, thorough search,’ I was told. It went on for three weeks, when the expected life span of staying alive without food would have expired.

A team of State Emergency Service volunteers I met on one of the tracks as a helicopter flew overhead admitted they were stumped as to how a 77-year-old lady could become so lost that no-one could find her. It is possible, of course, that she didn’t set out to walk towards Katoomba, but instead headed towards another bushland area to the north of her home – but again, that was searched thorough.

The sad reality is that today we are no closer to knowing what happened to Scots-born Betty or where she ended up. But mention her name in a hotel or a cafe in Katoomba and people will immediately ask if there has been any news. I’ve heard numerous scenarios, all kinds of guesswork, any of which could be right or wrong.

One day we might learn.

5 Responses to Betty O’Pray – Still a Mystery

  1. Ruthie says:

    Thank you for this update, not the news we want to hear but very good of you to update. I was not able to find anything else up to date on line. Very sad for her family and friends. Well done to the teams who searched for her.

  2. jo says:

    Now I’m confused. Didn’t Elizabeth say she was in a clearing when the police spoke to her on the phone? Surely that means she was somewhere in the bush.

  3. admin says:

    That’s why this is an ongoing mystery, Jo. Betty might have walked out of the clearing. It’s anybody’s guess, because if those scores of determined searchers couldn’t find her the police had no alternative but to start inquiries in a wider area, including suburban streets.

  4. Kate says:

    The sad reality is that people love to make up things about her that simply aren’t true. She didn’t have dementia- not even the mildest form. She had short term memory loss. She also had a thick Scottish accent which most people had a hard time understanding. So what they thought she was saying could be something entirely different. We know what direction she walked in. We know roughly where she is. It’s almost inaccessible in parts making thorough searches near impossible. So not true that all areas have been “thoroughly” searched. We know she was lucid when she made phone contact on the Tuesday afternoon/night. I’m sick of reading comments from “local residents” who knew her so well. I knew her better than anyone. She was my mother.
    If you wanted the facts Richard why didn’t you just ask me? I’m afraid that all of your sources have given you the bum steer because the majority of what you have written above is inaccurate.

  5. admin says:

    Hello Kate, Thank you for your post and I can well understand that you would be perturbed at seeing things written about your mother that are inaccurate.
    You ask why, if I wanted the facts, I did not ask you. As a matter of fact, I made two attempts to contact either you or your family by calling at the house in Medlow Bath, the first time being told to go away and the second receiving no answer at the door and no contact from anyone to a note I had left.
    I’m not sure if you were one of the group of people sitting on the balcony two or three days after the search had started, but when I approached to ask for details to keep the publicity rolling I was told to please go away and speak to the police.
    I did then call the police and was given a statement which stated that your mother had mild dementia, so I obviously had to accept that.
    The note I left a week or so later made the point that I could keep the publicity rolling if I could speak to the family but I received no response.
    After two weeks I was assured by the authorities that the area your mother was thought to be in had been thoroughly searched. Again, with no response from the family I could only go on what I was told officially in the hope of keeping your mother in people’s minds – particularly as several concerned people had written to me asking for news updates.
    I hope that one day you will have all your answers as this has obviously been a very distressing time for you and the family.

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