Man charged with murder of Aussie woman 11 years after her disappearance

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this story contains an image of a person who has died.

More than 4000 days after the disappearance of Queensland woman Allison Bernard, a man has been charged with her murder.

Bernard, 23, was last seen at Archer River Quarry on Cape York on the night of February 10, 2013.

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She was expected to travel to her hometown of Kowanyama that night, but never arrived.

Earlier that day, she had been at the Exchange Hotel in Coen.

“Since 2013, police have not given up on looking for Ms Bernard,” Detective Acting Superintendent Mick Searle said on Wednesday.

“We recognise her disappearance has had a devastating impact on her family and her community.”

The caretaker of Archer River Quarry at the time, 62-year-old Coen man Thomas Maxwell Byrnes, can be identified as Bernard’s alleged murderer.

Byrnes had denied any involvement in Bernard’s disappearance but confirmed they had been together on the night she disappeared, according to local media reports of a coronial inquest in Cairns in April 2022.

He will appear in Cairns Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

Police had put out multiple appeals for information on her whereabouts in the years since Bernard went missing, with a $500,000 reward offered in April last year.

The focus in the long-running missing persons case is set to become finding her remains.

A man has been charged with the murder of Allison Bernard, who has been missing from Cape York since 2013. Credit: Supplied

“We have not located Ms Bernard and are still urging anyone with information to contact police either directly or via CrimeStoppers and tell us anything you may know,” said Searle.

“Her family members deserve the respect of having questions around her disappearance answered.”

The detective was also asked why it took 11 years for police to reach the point of laying charges over Bernard’s disappearance.

“We would always like to resolve matters that cause significant grief and trauma for people much earlier,” Searle said.

“That hasn’t happened in this case. It has taken 11 years to get to this stage.”

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