Follow-up on my previous post

Remember my previous blog post about the missing lady whom I believed was Aboriginal Australian? Well, I’ve heard from her brother again. I asked him directly if she was Aboriginal and he says not: she is of Sri Lankan and Indian descent.

But he also said:

I rang up your place at [a Burbank, California phone number] on 30th may 17 and spoke to a lovely lady called Jeanette. She took down my details and said she would get in touch with social security and try to find out about [his sister] but I haven’t heard back from her. Would you be able to just remind jeanette about this please and see if she can follow it up ??. Appreciate your Help as days are approaching fast ( I will be in L.A in 10 days time) and it would be nice if I can meet her.

Um…what? Jeanette who?

I think I’ll have to call this number himself and see if I can find out who on earth he spoke to. I’ll have to wait awhile, though, because right now it’s 3:00 a.m. California time.

Not sure what to do with this information

While I was in Poland I got an email from the brother of a missing woman. He explained that he lived in Australia, and he knew his sister had gone missing in California a number of years ago, and he was visiting California in June, and did I have any information about her disappearance?

I did not. But the information in his email provided an answer to something I’d wondered about in relation to her case.

The woman had an unusual appearance to me. She had very dark skin and sort of looked like she was black, but I didn’t think she actually was. She certainly didn’t look white. The California Department of Justice had her classified as “other Asian” but that didn’t mean much to me. I wondered if she might be a Pacific Islander, but CDOJ actually has a “Pacific Islander” classification and they hadn’t put her in it.

When the man said he was Australian, it suddenly hit me: this woman is almost certainly aboriginal — the very first on the Charley Project if I’m not mistaken. I checked out photos of aboriginal Australians and she looks very much like them.

So now what do I call her? Should I perhaps list her as “Pacific Islander” and explain she’s of aboriginal descent?

This particular detail could turn out to be very important if her body is found — there can’t be that many aboriginal Australian UIDs in North America.

Time Magazine article about evaporated people

Last fall I blogged about a book I read about people in Japan who walk out of their lives and never come back. It’s called “evaporating.” It’s very common, said the book, common enough that there are businesses specifically made for these people, to help them flee.

The story did strike me as kind of surreal and TIME Magazine has published an article about it saying the same:

It was captivating. But early inquiries revealed that many in Japan doubted the veracity of Mauger’s reporting. “Most of us who saw [the story] found it unbelievable,” says Charles McJilton, a longtime expatriate resident of Japan… Parts of Mauger’s book are “fantasy at best,” McJilton tells TIME.

Later on:

A cultural prevalence of vanishing…is not reflected in the country’s official statistics. Japan’s National Police Agency registered around 82,000 missing persons in 2015 and noted that some 80,000 had been found by the end of the year. Only 23,000 of them had remained missing for more than a week and about 4,100 of them turned out to be dead. In Britain, which has about half the population of Japan, more than 300,000 calls were made to police in 2015 to report a missing person.

The Missing Persons Search Support Association of Japan (MPS), a non-profit set up to provide support to the families of the evaporated, argues that official numbers reflect under-reporting and are way too low. “The actual, unregistered number is estimated at several times 100,000,” claims the organization’s website.

The aforementioned businesses actually do exist, and are described in the article. TIME interviewed the owner of one such business. She charges

between ¥50,000 ($450) and ¥300,000 ($2,600) depending on the amount of possessions somebody wants to flee with, how far they’re going, and whether the move needs to happen under the cover of darkness. Taking along children, or evading debt collectors, can push prices higher.

Anyway, check out the article. It’s really cool.

A murder-without-a-body case out of Britain/India

Last night I read a book called Shamed: The Honour Killing That Shocked Britain – by the Sister Who Fought for Justice, by Sarbjit Athwal, describing the “honor killing” of her sister-in-law, Surjit, and the subsequent missing persons investigation and eventual prosecution of two of the people involved: Surjit and Sarbit’s mother-in-law, Bachan Kaur Athwal, and Surjit’s husband, Sukhdave Singh Athwal.

What it amounted to, basically, is that the Athwal family were very conservative Sikhs living in Britain, and Bachan Kaur had a high reputation in the community as a very devout woman. In fact, within the family she was an absolute tyrant and her sons were terrified of her, to say nothing of her daughters-in-law. When Surjit wanted a divorce from her abusive husband, Bachan Kaur decided she couldn’t have her daughter-in-law shaming the family like that.

So she convinced Surjit to go on a trip to India with her to attend a family wedding. When they were in India, some goons Bachan Kaur had hired drugged Surjit, kidnapped her, strangled her, removed her gold jewelry and dumped her body in the river. It was never found — at least as far as anyone knows. That particular river runs into Pakistan, which doesn’t have the greatest relationship with India, and corpses dumped in from India tend to wash up in Pakistan and never get identified.

Sarbjit Athwal had been at the family meeting where Bachan Kaur announced what she was going to do, and she called the police with an anonymous tip hoping they would stop Surjit leaving for India, or rescue her once she arrived, but the police did…nothing. After Surjit “disappeared”, Sarbjit wrote the police an anonymous letter describing exactly what had happened, in great detail, and the police did…nothing. Then she confided in her sister, who went to the police and gave a statement, and they did…nothing. And so on.

Sarbjit was too afraid to actually go to the police openly, because the Athwals made it clear they would kill her too. Something like a decade passed before the case broke open, and Sarbjit started cooperating with the cops. They went to her house and arrested everyone, including her (in order to trick the Athwals into thinking it wasn’t her who spilled the beans), but instead of taking her to the station they took her to her parents’ house. She was in witness protection for ages before the trial, staying in grimy hostels with her baby whom she was nursing.

I wouldn’t say justice has been entirely achieved in this case. The identities of the people who actually killed Surjit in India are known, but they have never been prosecuted and for legal reasons they weren’t even named in the book. (Media reports I found said one of them was Bachan Kaur’s brother.) Sarbjit’s husband, Hardave, was at that original family meeting and passively let the whole conspiracy unfold, repeatedly lied to the police, and threatened Sarbjit when he found out she was going to testify, but he wasn’t prosecuted either.

Surjit’s daughter, Pawanpreet “Pav” Athwal, had been told her mother abandoned her. She was a teenager when she found out the truth. Pav has been active in Britain speaking out against honor killings and set up a hotline for women who are afraid of being the victim of an honor killing or being forced into marriage.

I would recommend the book if you’re interested in this kind of thing. I’m glad the US isn’t the only country that prosecutes no-body homicides.

And of course it’s always worth saying there is no honor in murder.

MP of the week: Claudia Guillen

For this week the featured MP is Claudia Berenice Guillen, the 21-year-old mother of a toddler also named Claudia who disappeared with her from Yuma, Arizona on November 24, 2004. The child went by her middle name, Jareth.

I don’t have much on them, but the obvious suspect is Claudia’s boyfriend, who had a history of domestic violence and went to Mexico shortly after Claudia and Jareth vanished. The cops in both Arizona and Mexico have interviewed him, with no result.

I’m thinking Claudia is probably dead, but maybe there’s a chance Jareth is alive and perhaps is in Mexico. I’d like to know more — particularly whether Claudia’s boyfriend is Jareth’s biological father.