31 year-old Janine Vaughan had been out drinking at the Ox Hotel in Bathurst, New South Wales, with her friends the evening of 6 December 2001. In the early hours the three had headed to the Tavern Nightclub and left around 4am on 7 December. Walking up Keppel Street Vaughan was about 40 metres ahead of the others when a red car pulled up in front of her. Without hesitation Vaughan got into the car which then drove off. The friends were distracted, and shouted after her briefly but Vaughan was never seen or heard from again.
Photo: 31 year-old Janine Vaughan was reported missing 7 December 2001.
Vaughan was reported missing by her employer when she uncharacteristically failed to show up to work the following day.
After initial investigations, the Bathurst detectives called for assistance from Sydney homicide detectives when it was thought that a number of offences that had been committed in the area might be linked to the disappearance.
A coroner’s inquest concluded that Vaughan had been murdered by an unknown person and the body was disposed of in a way that prevents it from being found.
In 2003, two and a half years after the disappearance, Vaughan’s handbag was found in a drain. Not much is known about the bag other than it was not the bag she had been carrying on the night of her disappearance. Interestingly, Vaughan had lost her bag the night of her disappearance and it was found later by the cleaner who said that it had been jammed in the corner of the bathrooms in an attempt to hide it, and had been covered with a packet of crisps. This means that at the time of her disappearance Vaughan was not carrying her mobile phone or purse, leaving her without money or identification.
Hosemans joined the NSW Police Force in 1982 and was stationed in Bathurst at the time of Vaughan’s disappearance. At the time of the disappearance Hosemans was the Investigations Manager and the Deputy Mayor of Bathurst. Hosemans had been elected into council in 1995 and remained on the council until 2004.
On the day of Vaughan’s disappearance Hosemans was on leave, and did not return to work until 10 December. When Hosemans returned to work he was placed in charge of the investigation, with all progress regularly reported to him, until it was taken over by homicide detectives. Hosemans remained involved in the investigation until October 2002, even when he was not officially a part of the investigations team.
In 2001, just months prior to Vaughan’s disappearance, Hosemans was involved at an incident at the Bathurst Golf Club which had resulted in criminal charges against Hosemans – including wilful and obscene exposure and aggravated indecent assault against a 24 year-old female employee of the club. These charges were being investigated at the time of the disappearance and it seems inappropriate that an officer that was facing such criminal charges was intentionally put in charge of the disappearance of a young woman. Hosemans was eventually dismissed from the NSW Police Force in 2003, despite the charges against him being dropped.
Photo: Former Officer Hosemans leaving court after inquiry about his connection with Vaughan’s disappearance.
Hosemans’ Connection to Vaughan:
At the time of her disappearance Vaughan was the Manager of Ed Harry’s menswear store. Statements made by people close to Vaughan indicated that she had told them of various types of contact with Hosemans in the months leading up to her disappearance. Witnesses state that the officer had expressed an in interest in Vaughan and had enquired about her relationship status.
Vaughan’s employer described conversations with her about a ‘policeman who was also on the local council’ that she had planned to go out with a month prior to the disappearance. A couple of weeks later she said that this was not the man for her as he had been harassing her. The man reportedly brought her flowers on several occasions, made strange and inappropriate phone calls to her, and kept walking past the store to see her. The employer had told Vaughan to log the strange behaviour in the store’s diary. Despite the employer being ‘100% certain’ about telling the police, this the incriminating statement was never documented. The diary, which is believed to have contained handwritten statements by Vaughan alleging that she was being stalked by Hosemans, was supposedly collected by police at this point in the investigation, however this evidence was not documented and the diary was never located.
Not only was there information indicating that Hosemans may have had contact with Vaughan prior to her disappearance – in the form of telephone calls, visits to her shop and request for a date, it also appears that police were omitting or altering information collected by witnesses – with one officer’s notes showing that ‘statement takers left out issues with Hosemans’
Becoming a Person of Interest:
Despite early references into possible connections between Vaughan and Hosemans, Hosemans was not subject to investigation until June 2002 – and even then investigations were flawed and incomplete.
In June 2005 the Commissioner of Police received an anonymous letter alleging that Hosemans was involved in the disappearance of Vaughan.
Photo: Written documentation of the anonymous letter received by the Commissioner of Police in 2005.
There were a number of public and private hearings to investigate Hosemans’ role in the police investigation and his relationship with Vaughan prior to the incident. These hearings found that Hosemans had engaged in police misconduct by deliberately providing a statement containing false information regarding his whereabouts of the night of Vaughan’s disappearance. It was also found that individuals failed to act upon, and thoroughly investigate whether or not police were deliberately leaving out statements information that suggested an association between Hosemans and Vaughan. There was no reliable evidence linking Hosemans to Vaughan though, and no criminal charges were ever made.
Photo: Former Officer Hosemans leaving court after inquiries into his connection over the disappearance of Vaughan in 2001.
Hosemans stated initially that he was not in Bathurst at the time of the disappearance, and was at this mother’s house in Newcastle until the 7 December. To help confirm his story he willingly handed over information, including a bank statement with a fuel charge for his return trip on the 7th. When telephone statements were found to be inconsistent with this story investigators found that the fuel transaction was made instead on the 6 December – only showing up the next day on his financial records. His alibi was no longer feasible and it was confirmed that he was back in Bathurst on the day of the disappearance, contrary to his initial statement.
Photo: One of the text messages his lovers claims to have sent as part of his alibi of being with her the evening of Vaughan’s disappearance.
A text message from one of his previous lovers surfaced in which she had recalled being with Hosemans on the night of 6 December 2001. She had told a friend that Hosemans couldn’t have been involved in the disappearance as she had been with him on that evening. She handed over a diary with written accounts of the text messages that had been exchanged between the two around the time of the disappearance stating that her phone was only able to store a limited number of text messages and she wanted a record of the messages as he was seeing other people and ‘said he was going to cause trouble if people found out about it and he was going to deny everything’.
Photo: Text message admitted into evidence to document that Hosemans was with his lover on the evening of the disappearance.
Investigators found, however, that the evidence was fabricated in order to support her claim that she was with Hosemans. Pages were removed from the diary before examination and other versions of the text messages were found written elsewhere. It is not believed that she was with Hosemans on the night of the disappearance, which still leaves Hosemans with no alibi for the evening.
Photo: Forensic analysis showed the contents real written account of the text message received, proving that the alibi was again, insufficient.
New Witness Comes Forward:
In 2006 a witness saw a photo of Vaughan in the newspaper and made a statement to the police that she had seen, quite clearly, Vaughan with her hands tied and looking distressed in the car with Hosemans, just hours after her alleged disappearance:
Photo: Statement given by one witness that claims to have seen Vaughan hours after she had disappeared.
The witness never told anyone of the sighting however, not even her husband, until 2006, and investigators believed the story to be another fabrication. This was based on the fact that she had said she approached the car believing it to belong to a friend, when this friend hadn’t had a red car registered in his name until long after the disappearance. The woman defended this by saying the friend had been driving around in the car before it was registered.
Investigators also noted that she had never physically seen either Vaughan or Hosemans before making this claim, so how reliable could her identification of the two together in the car be – especially when the statement wasn’t made until over ten years later. No further investigations were made based on this statement.
One individual that owned a salmon pink Hyundai had allegedly confessed to a friend that he had killed Vaughan with a small pocket knife. Police pursued this lead and arrested the man, obtaining his pocket knife as evidence. The knife however, was destroyed on 31 October 2002 with no evidence of forensic examination ever taking place. It is unsure why such crucial evidence would have been destroyed without the knowledge of the homicide detectives that were investigating the case.
On the 19 December 2001 a woman came to the police station and made a statement of sexual assault against her by a named individual. The woman’s statement was disregarded due to being ‘strange and unreliable’. The named assailant was named again in 2006 through new information, and it was found that he owned a small red car. The man was named a person of interest, however the original witness is now deceased.
Just five days after the disappearance a bloodied knife was located in the driveway of a Bathurst nursing home. A forensics officer visually examined the knife and recommended it be sent to the laboratories for further testing. The knife was never examined again and was destroyed February 2002.
Denis Briggs, a former wards-man at Macquarie Care Centre, confessed to the murder shortly after the disappearance saying that he had slit her throat after she resisted his sexual advances during a lift home. He claimed that the two had met previously at the Bathurst RSL and he eventually buried her under a pile of rocks.
Briggs had described this to a friend in graphic detail saying “she went to get out of the car and he pulled her back in, took her to White Rock where he tried to [expletive] her. She had tried to fight him off so he got out his knife and stabbed her in the side. He stabbed her another 14 times then slit her throat and buried her in a shallow grave.” He had told this story several times and had never changed it. Briggs had also driven a red Hyundai Excel which fit the description of the car Vaughan was last seen entering.
28 May 2006 the police found bones in a shallow grave that seemed to match Briggs’ story, however after examination it was found that they were not human bones. Briggs then stated that he was only joking, and it was revealed that he hadn’t been taking his prescribed medication for his bipolar disorder – which led investigators to believe that the statement had been false.
Almost another Victim…?
Minutes before Vaughan’s disappearance another woman walking alone was followed by a man driving a small red car walking down William Street. She was so frightened that she had hidden behind a utility box on the corner of William and Howick Streets, before running and seeking refuge in a nearby Shell 24 Hour Petrol Station. This remained unreported until 2013 when the witness first heard of Vaughan’s disappearance shortly afterwards.
Photo: Another woman was stalked by the red car on William Street just minutes before Vaughan’s disappearance on Keppel Street.
In 1997 teenager Jessica Small was abducted after she and a friend had accepted a lift with a stranger. The friend made it out of the car and raised alarm. Since both young women were abducted and presumed murdered within a four year period, within close proximity to one another, there could be a connection between the two, suggesting a serial killer in the area. The two crimes have key differences however, in that one involved a white car and the other a red car, and one victim being abducted by force while the other willingly entered the vehicle.
Photo: Showing tribute that friends and family have made for Vaughan. They are hoping that new information will be found soon.
In May 2018 Vaughan’s disappearance was ranked among the top 20 priority cold cases, and has been assigned a new review team to look over all the evidence and information that has been collected until this point. Hopefully this new investigation leads to new information and the case of Janine Vaughan can finally be closed.
Is this a case of police corruption or a serial stalker preying on a young woman to abduct and murder?
A $100,000 reward still stands for information leading to the discovery of Janine Vaughan’s body. Information can be passed on anonymously to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.