Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Natasha Ryan

  (Redirected from Disappearance of Natasha Ryan)

Natasha Anne Ryan (born 1984) is an Australian woman who went missing in 1998 as a young teenage girl from Rockhampton, Queensland. Police assumed she had been murdered by a local serial killer. Ryan was discovered alive in 2003 during the trial of the man accused of her murder, almost five years after she went missing.



Natasha Ryan disappeared on 31 August 1998 after her mother dropped her off at school, and was subsequently reported as missing. An extensive and exhaustive search was undertaken by police and local State Emergency Service volunteers. Hopes of finding Ryan alive soon diminished and police concluded she had been murdered by Rockhampton serial killer, Leonard Fraser, who was subsequently charged with Ryan's murder.

In the month before she went missing, Ryan had already run away from home once, aided by her boyfriend Scott Black. In that incident, she was found after just two days. Black faced Rockhampton Magistrates Court in November 1999, where he pleaded guilty to wilful obstruction of police after he had told officers that he didn't know Ryan's whereabouts.[1]

But after she could not be located when she went missing the second time, Ryan's family eventually accepted that she was dead. Ryan's family held a memorial service in Bundaberg, Queensland on Ryan's 17th birthday in 2001.[2]

Leonard FraserEdit

Leonard John Fraser, already serving a life sentence for the murder of 9-year-old Keyra Steinhardt in April 1999, confessed to five murders, including that of Natasha Ryan, in an apparent deal with police to avoid the general population in jail. After being charged with the murders of Natasha Ryan, Sylvia Benedetti, Beverly Leggo and the manslaughter of Julie Turner, Fraser stood trial in the Supreme Court of Queensland in Brisbane, Queensland. He has since died in prison.

Murder TrialEdit

On 11 April 2003, during Fraser's murder trial in Brisbane, police prosecutor Paul Rutledge announced that he was pleased to inform the court that Fraser was not guilty of the murder of Natasha Ryan. Ryan's father Robert said he almost collapsed when Rutledge made the announcement.[3]

Police had raided a house in North Rockhampton on the night of 10 April 2003 and had found Natasha Ryan alive, and hiding in a cupboard. It was discovered that Ryan had been living with her boyfriend Scott Black since disappearing on 31 August 1998. It was reported that for most of that time, Ryan had shared a house in Yeppoon, Queensland, but had moved back to Rockhampton after Black received a transfer with his milk delivery job. Ryan had been living in the Rockhampton house for six months prior to being found.[4]

Despite becoming known as 'the girl in the cupboard' and the media leading people to believe that Ryan had spent most of her time in a cupboard, it was soon learned she only used a cupboard to hide if visitors called around to visit her boyfriend. The remainder of the time, Ryan freely walked around the house but always with the curtains drawn. It was also reported that she had ventured outside a number of times, but always under the cover of darkness, which included a midnight visit to the beach.

Despite the discovery that Natasha Ryan was still alive and the doubt it cast on the evidence which led to Fraser being charged with Ryan's murder, Fraser's defence counsel did not lodge an appeal for a mistrial, and the trial forged ahead. Ryan attended what had essentially been her own murder trial on 30 April 2003 to answer questions. Ryan told the court she had never met Leonard Fraser and did not know the witness who stated that she had been seen in the presence of Fraser before she went missing.[5]

A jury eventually found Fraser guilty of the murders of Beverly Leggo and Sylvia Benedetti and guilty of the manslaughter of Julie Turner. Fraser was sentenced to three indefinite prison terms on 13 June 2003. He died from natural causes on 1 January 2007.[6][7]


The story of Natasha Ryan being found alive during the murder trial attracted international attention.[8][9][10][11][12]

Following her re-appearance, controversial Australian publicist Max Markson was quick to sign Ryan up as a client, and negotiated potential deals with several media organisations. Markson eventually secured a media deal with Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, which was the parent company of ACP Magazines and the Nine Network. The deal guaranteed Ryan would do exclusive interviews with ACP's Woman's Day and 60 Minutes.

60 Minutes sent reporter Tara Brown to Rockhampton to do the story with Ryan. Assuming Ryan's story was going to hand them a ratings-winning program, 60 Minutes held Ryan's story until 20 April 2003 in an attempt to take viewers away from Network Ten's premiere of the third season of their ratings winner, Big Brother Australia. The strategy failed to work and Big Brother Australia won the battle with an average capital city audience of 2.2 million viewers, compared to the 1.7 million viewers 60 Minutes managed to attract.[13]

There were reports that PBL deal that Max Markson negotiated would bring in more than $200,000 for Natasha Ryan, prompting a discussion about the ethics of Ryan accepting the money when so much time, effort and money was spent on the search for her, and the police investigation. Rockhampton SES volunteer Lyle Dobbs expressed his view that any profit Ryan gained from her interviews should go back to Queensland taxpayers who funded the search which came at significant cost to police and a lot of effort from SES volunteers.[14]

The PBL contract was eventually produced in court proceedings in 2006, which finally confirmed the figure of what PBL paid for the interviews at $120,000.[15]

Natasha Ryan and Scott Black were married in 2008.[16] It's believed that prior to their wedding, they signed another media deal with Woman's Day for exclusivity to the stories that were published before and after their wedding.[17][18]

During the wedding at Byfield, Queensland, there was strict security, with guests screened and strictly forbidden from taking any photos during the ceremony and reception. It was reported the wedding story deal with Woman's Day was worth $200,000.[19]


Soon after being discovered alive, it became apparent that Ryan and her boyfriend would likely face criminal charges for their role in the false investigation into her murder.[20]

In 2005, Rockhampton District Court judge Grant Britton punished Ryan's boyfriend Scott Black for perjury. Black received a three-year jail sentence which was suspended after twelve months after he pleaded guilty for telling investigating police officers that he didn't know the whereabout of his girlfriend.[21][22]

In 2006, Natasha Ryan was found guilty of causing a false police investigation and was fined $1000. Police prosecutor Terry Gardiner produced the $120,000 contract Ryan had signed with PBL as evidence of Ryan having means to pay back at least some of the $151,000 police investigation into her murder. However, Magistrate Annette Hennessy ruled that Ryan did not have the means to pay the costs of the investigation. However, in the same court proceedings, Ryan's boyfriend, Scott Black was further punished by being convicted, being fined $3000 and being ordered to pay $16,000 towards investigation costs.[23]

Unrelated Court AppearanceEdit

In 2011, Natasha Ryan's husband, Scott Black pleaded guilty in Rockhampton Magistrates Court for refusing a breath test. In that incident, police were called to their home on 26 March 2011 after the couple were heard arguing about moving a vehicle into a garage. Black refused to take a breath test and was arrested. He was taken back to a police station when he again refused to take a breath test. Black's defence lawyer argued that Black had been drinking heavily and his judgement had been affected, and was frustrated because he had lost his job as a delivery driver because his licence was suspended. Magistrate Cameron Press fined Black $800 and disqualified him from driving for nine months.[24]


The background of Leonard Fraser, a notorious serial killer with a horrifying criminal history is not able to be retold without reference to Natasha Ryan's feat of becoming an assumed victim of Fraser's but then being discovered alive during his murder trial.[25][26] As illustrated by the deals media organisations have put forward to Ryan, and continouous references to her story in the years afterwards,[27] public interest in Natasha Ryan's story has also been maintained since she was discovered alive in 2003.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hiding in fear: a girl returns from the dead, Greg Roberts, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 April 2003
  2. ^ She had everyone fooled, The Age, 11 April 2003
  3. ^ Runaway lived only 4 kilometres from her family, Matthew Benns and Miranda Wood, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 April 2003
  4. ^ A haven became a prison, The Age, 19 April 2003
  5. ^ Ryan breaks down as she denies witnesses' claims, Greg Robert, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 May 2003
  6. ^ Secrets taken to grave, Paula Doneman, The Courier Mail, 31 December 2006
  7. ^ Qld serial killer dies in hospital, ABC News, ABC online, 1 January 2007
  8. ^ Girl Reappears As Alleged Killer Is Tried, AAP, New York Times, 12 April 2003
  9. ^ Australian 'murder victim' alive, Phil Mercer, BBC News, 12 April 2003
  10. ^ Australian trial rocked as girl found alive, Belinda Goldsmith, Reuters News Agency, The Globe and Mail, 12 April 2003
  11. ^ Alleged murder victim found alive, The Guardian, 11 April 2003
  12. ^ Alleged murder victim found to be alive, Peter McCutcheon, The World Today, ABC Radio, 11 April 2003
  13. ^ Kerry's losers, Media Watch, ABC Television, 5 May 2003
  14. ^ SES says Natasha Ryan should repay taxpayers, ABC News, ABC online, 16 April 2003
  15. ^ Ryan sold tale for $120,000, The Morning Bulletin, 1 July 2006
  16. ^ Cupboard girl Natasha Ryan marries the man who hid her, Hannah Davies, The Courier Mail, 29 September 2008
  17. ^ Girl in the cupboard: We're getting married, Woman's Day, Angela Mollard, 8 September 2008
  18. ^ Girl-in-the-cupboard: I married the man who hid me, Angela Mollard, Woman's Day, 13 October 2008
  19. ^ Natasha Ryan's $200,000 wedding, The Morning Bulletin, 30 September 2008
  20. ^ 'Murder victim' could face charges, Phil Mercer, BBC News, 14 April 2003
  21. ^ Natasha Ryan's accomplice jailed for perjury, AAP, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 August 2005
  22. ^ Natasha Ryan's boyfriend jailed for perjury, ABC News, ABC online, 12 August 2005
  23. ^ Ryan sold tale for $120,000, The Morning Bulletin, 1 July 2006
  24. ^ Wardrobe girl's man faces court, Emma McBryde, The Morning Bulletin, 31 August 2011
  25. ^ Treasa Steinhardt reflects on the grief of daughter Keyra's death at the hands of serial killer Leonard Fraser, Tom Snowden, The Courier Mail, 22 April 2014
  26. ^ Four days between murders, Kate Kyriacou, The Courier Mail, 27 August 2014
  27. ^ Thinking of faking your own death? Don't do this,, 27 May 2013