Fugitive Lisa Marie Smith's image on a poster

This crazy sketch is on a pavement notice board in Newtown, Sydney

I am now convinced that British-Australian Interpol fugitive Lisa Marie Smith is shadowing me, trying to contact me – or someone who knows her is trying to get in touch. Either that or it is an astonishing coincidence that when I follow a particular route in my suburb, almost daily, I come across messages and posters containing her name.

The paths I tread are obscure – a back lane here, a walkway through a park there – but no matter where I go, the weird messages referring to her pop out of nowhere. The picture above has appeared in the past few days in the Sydney suburb of Newtown, near the railway station. It is sketched on an A-frame notice board, which is filled with crazed drawings and words that suggest the writer is hallucinating. Or is the apparent madness a cover for leaving a message for me…or for someone Lisa Marie knows…or someone Lisa Marie is trying to get in touch with?

It’s all very bizarre – but  how do you explain that these cryptic signs are posted in the very same places that I frequently walk in Sydney’s inner western suburbs and are not found anywhere else? Her name is written on pieces of paper stuffed into wire fencing or tacked to a tree – all of them freshly written on routes that I habitually take.

One message, contained on the same A-frame board that carries the strange drawing I’ve posted above, is aimed at – well, who? It asks: ‘Do you want to meet me?’ Now, is that Lisa asking someone – me? – if I want to meet her? Or is it someone Lisa knows asking if she wants to meet that person? The other messages I’ve seen posted around the Newtown and Stanmore suburbs are cryptic but all mention her name and most point out that she’s a fugitive  from Thailand after disappearing in 1996 while on bail after being charged with serious drug offences.

When she fled from Thailand in August 1996, the-then 20-year-old daughter of a wealthy Hong Kong-based insurance company executive is believed to have used a British replacement passport – she claimed to have lost the first in the weeks before her arrest – to flee to Greece.

There, she obtained yet another British passport and vanished – ending up among the top 10 on Interpol’s ‘Most Wanted’ list. An international police search, involving crack investigators in Britain and Australia, failed to find any clues as to Lisa Marie’s whereabouts and her father, who had posted bail for her in Thailand, insisted he had no idea where she was.

So, is she now in Australia, treading the paths that I tread? Are the messages aimed at me – because I’ve written about her extensively in the past? Or have they been put up by someone trying to get in touch with her? The mystery endures. But if Lisa Marie reads this, I’d be happy to hear from her. No tricks, no traps. I’m easily found.

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Lady in a churchyard

A Peaceful Moment in a Graveyard. (c) Richard Shears

I found her in a graveyard, sitting with a white dog on a tombstone. I had an hour to spare so I decided to sling a camera over my shoulder and wander around an old churchyard containing the graves of early pioneers to Australia. The ancient cemetery, in the Sydney suburb of Newtown, was totally deserted…except for the figure I noticed sitting on a tomb.

It was an extraordinary scene, so surreal. I slowly approached and asked if I could take a picture. She smiled and nodded in agreement. I took just four shots. I didn’t ask her to pose. I didn’t ask her to move. I just let her sit there because there was nothing, absolutely nothing, in the picture that I wanted to change. Everything worked. The overhanging branch provided an upper ‘frame’ and the gravestone on the right provided a perfect balance to the lady, the carved figure on the headstone adding to the balance, for she was facing my accidental model.

And she did indeed look like a model. Her strong features were enhanced by her shaven head, the position of her slender arm a copy of the pose adopted by her dog. If I had taken her into the graveyard for a photo shoot I don’t think I could have done better than the scene that I’d walked into by chance.

Four photos were enough. I had no right to impose further. She seemed to be so much at peace. The inscription on the nearby headstone – ‘Sacred’ – emphasised the stillness of that place. I ventured to ask her for her name: Heather.

I thanked her and wandered off. A short time later, as I made my way out of the churchyard, I thought I would thank her again. The tombstone was empty. The lady and her dog had disappeared.

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