What Happened to Amber Haigh?

On the 5th of June 2002, at around 4:30pm, Robert and Anne Geeves, their 19-year-old housemate Amber, and Amber’s seven month old son Royce left their home in Harden, NSW, and headed east. Amber’s father George was terminally ill in a Mt Druitt hospital and Amber was determined to visit him before he passed. It was around 8:30pm by the time they finally arrived at the Campbelltown railway station and it would’ve been well dark. She turned to her son Royce, gave him a kiss and a cuddle, and then left to catch a train to Mt Druitt. Baby Royce never saw his mother again.

Contents

Who Was Amber Haigh?

Portrait of Amber Haigh. Source: Police NSW

Amber Haigh was born on the 18th of November 1982 to parents George Haigh and Rosalind Wright. Not much is known about her early life. She had a doting young sister named Melissa – a self professed “cheeky kid” who Amber professed to love “no matter what” (Sydney Morning Herald), but her father George was known to be a ‘volatile alcoholic’ who was regularly in and out of prison and her mother Rosalind was relatively absent in her early life. On top of this, Amber also had a serious learning disability and had the intellectual capacity of a twelve-year-old by the time she reached nineteen. She was also diagnosed with epilepsy, a condition characterized by frequent episodes of disturbed nerve-cell activity known as ‘seizures’ (Epilepsy.org).

Image of Amber Haigh. Source: Wollondilly Advertiser

At age 12, Amber’s duty of care was transferred to the State making her a ‘Ward of the State’, and State Welfare officers stepped in to ensure Amber got the resources she needed. This also meant that, instead of staying in one home, Amber was often travelling between the homes of relatives in Young, Lismore, and Mount Isa in Queensland. Amber however, described by her uncle as a “caring, loving little girl” who always “had a cheeky smile on her face” (The Australian) and by her mother as a “very good-hearted” and “generous” girl who was “always helping people” (The Daily Telegraph), Amber was always welcomed to relatives’ homes with open arms.

Though she was described by school friend Nichola Soteri as a “[quiet] and shy person”, Amber was known to be a loyal and trusting person, somebody who was unfortunately “very easily led and a little bit naive” (The Daily Telegraph).

Amber Moves to Young

Birds-eye view of Young, NSW. Source: Visit NSW

Once a booming gold mining district with a violent history of race-riots, the town of Young in New South Wales’ south-west became a well renowned hilltop wine region and the self-proclaimed ‘cherry capital of Australia’, hosting an annual ‘Cherry Festival’ near the end of each year, where many farmers, cooks and overall cherry-lovers gather together to enjoy everything from live music, fresh food stalls and fireworks to pie eating contests.

Due to the rigorous routine of harvesting the cherries in mid-November to December, placing them in cold storage within an hour of picking, processing and packing, there was a high demand for hard-working men and women to work in the industry. In what can be assumed to be late 1996 (due to harvesting seasons), Amber Haigh became one of those hard-working farm-girls, obtaining a job picking cherries in the Young region at only 14 years old.

Image of Young, New South Wales’ “Cherry Capital”. Source: Visit NSW

Amber, preparing herself to wake up bright and early for long days of fruit picking, decided to move in with her aunt Stella in Kingsvale, NSW. Her life with her aunt was, in all accounts, a positive and loving one, with Stella doting on young Amber and mentioning her love for her favourite treat of “jam and icing on top” (The Daily Telegraph).

Aunt Stella, however, wasn’t the only one in Kingsvale with a fondness for Amber.

A New Life for Amber

Robert Geeves’ interest in Amber Haigh began quite early after Amber’s move to Young, with Amber’s aunt Stella Nealson stating Robert ‘kept coming down here [presumably Stella’s home] to visit [Amber]’ (The Daily Telegraph) while she was only fifteen years old.

It’s not known exactly when Amber and Robert’s romantic relationship began, but what is known is that this relationship appeared to advance very quickly. In mid-2001, Amber Haigh moved out of her Aunt Stella’s home and into the Kingsvale farm property of Robert Geeves. This should have been an exciting time for Amber and her family; she was moving in with one of her first serious boyfriends – a man with a steady income and a place of his own – but for Amber’s family, it was a much darker time.

Amber Haigh, her son Royce Haigh, and Robert Geeves. Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Firstly, Robert Geeves was forty-two years old when Amber moved in, a whopping 24-year age gap between himself and the naive teenaged Amber. Secondly, Robert wasn’t the only one living in his Kingsvale property; he had a wife named Anne and a young son named Robbie.

Though this relationship was certainly abnormal, neither Anne nor Robert Geeves appeared deterred. They’d been through a lot over their previous few years. Not long before Amber moved in, Anne Geeves had a daughter – Emma – who passed away at birth. Although they were no doubt devastated, the Geeves’ soldiered on, hiding their true anguish behind a hardy exterior.

The Pregnancy Debacle

In late 2001, Amber Haigh became pregnant. For Amber, this was the beginning of a brand new chapter in her life. She was about to be given the chance to become a loving mother; to throw her natural maternal instincts into action, and she was ecstatic.

However, her pregnancy certainly didn’t come without its concerns. Amber – with the help of a counsellor – drafted a Will and stapled it to the back of a letter which she’d sent to her aunt Patricia. The letter asked Aunt Patricia if she’d care for the baby if anything ever happened to her, worried her epilepsy could cause her to become ill or pass away during childbirth. Amber wrote: “thanks for going to look after my baby for me and can you please tell him I love him so much. That’s if something dose (sic) go wrong” (The Daily Telegraph).

On the 21st of June 2002, Amber Haigh gave birth at the Young Hospital to a baby boy she named ‘Royce’.

Amber Haigh and her son Royce Haigh. Source: 9 News

The Disappearance

Amber Haigh was reported missing on Wednesday the 19th of June 2002 by Anne and Robert Geeves, who stated they hadn’t seen Amber for 14 days. Their account to investigators was as follows:

Amber’s chronically ill father was bed-ridden in a hospital in Mount Druitt and Amber, being the caring girl she was, wanted to visit him. Anne and Robert Geeves, understanding the trial Amber must have been going through, packed Amber and little Royce into their car and, on the 5th of June 2002, generously took the 4-hour trip to Campbelltown railway station. They arrived at around 8:30pm that night. Amber “said she won’t be long and gave Royce a kiss and a cuddle” (The Daily Telegraph). She intended to take a train to Mount Druitt, but she never arrived.

Timeline of Events

Note: This timeline has been constructed using a range of sources, all listed in the ‘Resources’ section of this article. To ensure some measure of validity, at least two articles stating identical relevant information were required, but not all information can be accurately verified or dated. If you believe any of the below timeline to be incorrect or inaccurate, please use the ‘Contact Me’ page to express your concerns.

The following timeline recounts the movements of Amber Haigh, Robert Geeves and Anne Geeves prior to Amber being reported missing to police.

  • UKNOWN – 1997
    Amber moves in with her great aunt Stella Nealson in Kingsvale, NSW after obtaining a job picking cherries in the Young region.

  • UNKNOWN – 2001
    Amber (18) moves in with married couple Robert (42) and Anne Geeves in Kingsvale.

  • UNKNOWN (Around August 2001)
    Amber becomes pregnant with Robert’s child (baby ‘Royce’).

  • UNKNOWN (August 2001-Jan 21st 2002)
    Amber writes a letter to her aunt Trish requesting Trish care for baby Royce if Amber were not able to. Amber expresses concern that she may pass away during childbirth due to her epilepsy and attaches a Will, which she had written with a social worker, to the letter.

  • UNKNOWN (August 2001-Jan 21st 2002)
    Amber meets with a social worker in Young and tells them she is concerned she may pass away during childbirth. She also states her concern about Robert potentially taking custody of baby Royce.

  • JANUARY 21ST 2002
    Amber Haigh gives birth to son Royce Haigh in Young Hospital.

  • UNKNOWN (2001-2002)
    A letter written by Amber Haigh and cosigned by Robert Geeves is sent to an undisclosed recipient. This letter states that Robert Geeves would not take baby Royce away from Amber as long as Royce is not granted access to certain undisclosed members of Amber’s family.

  • UNKNOWN (2002)
    Robert Geeves steals a bassinet Amber had been using for baby Royce from Amber’s apartment. This theft was reported to social workers, who replaced the bassinet and changed the apartment locks.

  • UNKNOWN (2001-2002)
    Robert Geeves reports a Child and Community Health clinical nurse specialist at Young Hospital – Susan Powell – due to her involvement with Amber Haigh. Susan had been concerned about Amber’s relationship with Robert and her ‘atypical living situation’. Susan was told by her superior to ‘back off’ Amber’s case.

  • UNKNOWN (In the months before June 5th 2002)
    Amber is reported to be unusually ‘jumpy’ while on the phone to family.

  • JUNE 3RD 2002
    Anne and Robert Geeves stay at the Tahmoor Motor Inn, approximately three hours from their home town of Kingsvale, NSW.

  • JUNE 5TH 20028:30PM
    Amber is reportedly seen for the last time by Robert and Anne Geeves, who claim they had driven Amber four hours away to the Campbelltown railway station where she had attempted to board a train to Mount Druitt hospital to visit her critically ill father, leaving her son Royce in the Geeves’ care.

  • JUNE 5TH 2002 – 8:45PM
    Amber’s bank accounts are accessed for the last time as a withdrawal is made in Campbelltown in or near the Campbelltown railway station.

  • JUNE 9TH 2002
    Anne and Robert Geeves purchase nails and a hammer at Moss Vale Hardware, approximately three hours from their residence in Kingsvale and forty minutes from Tahmoor.

    Anne and Robert Geeves are also sighted driving on a ‘lonely road’ with a trailer on the back of their car.

  • JUNE 12TH 2002
    Robert and Anne Geeves again stay at the Tahmoor Motor Inn.

  • JUNE 19TH 2002
    Robert and Anne Geeves report Amber Haigh as a missing person to the Harden Police Station.

The Investigation

The moment Amber Haigh was reported as missing, police sprung into action. Amber was a young woman who not only had epilepsy – a serious health condition which could be fatal if untreated – but was also described as having ‘the capacity of a 12-year-old’ (The Daily Telegraph), making her an easy target for any potential predators. Concerned for her welfare, the New South Wales police quickly assembled ‘Strike Force Villimar’, a team of investigators headed by Detective Sergeant Gae Crea specifically tasked with solving Amber Haigh’s disappearance. One of their first points of call was to interview the last known persons to have seen Amber: Robert and Anne Geeves.

Robert and Anne Geeves. Source: 9 News

Both Robert and Anne were interviewed by police, detailing their last sightings of Amber. In one of their first interactions with the media, Robert was asked what he believed happened to Amber, to which Robert responded Amber may have decided “to go on her own”, adding “I suppose a baby can grind you down a little and I’m at my wits’ bloody end to be honest” (The Daily Telegraph). Robert was also asked about baby Royce’s father and oddly responded “[Royce’s father] is not far away – I’ve got an idea where he is” (The Daily Telegraph).

It wasn’t just Amber’s condition that concerned police. The more they looked into the story the Geeves’ gave, the less the story added up and the more frustrating the case became.

Detective Sergeant Gae Crea later stated: “Why they travelled from Kingsvale to Campbelltown to drop a girl with the mentality of a 12-year-old off at a train station that was just half an hour from Mt Druitt was odd” (The Young Witness). Campbelltown was a whopping four-hour drive from Kingsvale at the time. Had the Geeveses kept on driving, it only would’ve taken them around an extra half-an-hour to get to Mt Druitt. Had they really wanted to save time on their journey by putting Amber on a train, there were several stations closer to Kingsvale that would have either directly, or indirectly (by catching several different trains) arrived in Mt Druitt, such as the Harden Station, Lithgow Station and Goulburn Station.

Northbound view from Platform One at the Campbelltown Railway Station (2012). Source: Wikipedia

The timing of the events also didn’t make sense. Amber arrived at the Campbelltown station at 8:30pm and her bank card had been used in Campbelltown at around 8:45pm. Assuming Amber had been the one to have used that card, she could have boarded a train to Mount Druitt no earlier than 8:45. In 2021, the trip from Campbelltown to Mt Druitt would take a minimum of around 1 hour and 45 minutes. Including a potential walking time of 15 minutes from the station to the Mount Druitt hospital, Amber’s earliest time of arrival would have been around 10:45pm. Amber’s mother Rosalind Wright noted: “By that time of night visiting hours would already be over” (The Daily Telegraph). In 2021, the visiting hours for the Mount Druitt Hospital are 5pm-7pm.

Mount Duitt Hospital in 2002. Source: Sutori

Investigators attempted to recover the Campbelltown Station CCTV footage to see if Amber truly did board arrive and board a train to Mt Druitt, but the Campbelltown Station’s CCTV footage was on a weekly loop, deleting its footage at the end of one week to make room for the next. Amber’s using her bank card at 8:45pm seemed like a solid lead, proving she was at the station, but Robert and Anne Geeves also had access to Amber’s key card – someone was at the Campbelltown station that night, but police could not prove who.

Amber’s family also doubted Amber’s apparent willingness to leave her son behind. Amber was, by all accounts, the kind of mother to proudly show off her beloved son and who had, according to her grandmother Ann Haigh’s account, ‘put the baby on [the phone] so [Ann] could hear him’ (The Daily Telegraph) the week before she disappeared. She was the kind of mother who never would’ve missed the opportunity to introduce baby Royce to her family; especially her father, who had never met Royce and who had been sitting critically ill in hospital. In an interview with The Young Witness, Detective Sergeant Gae Crea begged the question “and there was the fact she left her son with the Geeveses – why wouldn’t she take him to meet her father who was dying in hospital?”.

And so, Strike Force Vilimar kept on digging. On the 30th of July 2002, an article by The Daily Telegraph indicated that investigators had begun searching and making inquiries in a small rural region of New South Wales called Tahmoor, which was about 3 hours away from the Geeveses’ Kingsvale home. On this same day, Detective Sergeant Gae Crea confirmed everybody’s worst nightmares: Amber Haigh’s case was being treated “as a murder investigation in line with the missing persons inquiry” (The Daily Telegraph).

On the 8th of August, a little over two months since Amber disappeared, police obtained a warrant and searched the Geeves’ Kingsvale home. They seized a series of items, including a pair of tracksuit pants, in hopes of having them forensically tested. It was also later reported that a 20cm knife was seized from one of the Geeves’ vehicles.

The Unraveling

The case of Amber Haigh may not have been a big media sensation at first, but the moment Robert Geeves’ name was thrown into the mix, the ears of journalists all over New South Wales began to prick. Amber Haigh’s case was not Robert Geeves’ first run-in with the law. In fact, it was far from it.

The School Girl Abductions

In 1986, two 13 year old girls disappeared. They never came home from school, and were only found two weeks later. One of the school girls – Erica, who later came forward to speak about her experiences on ‘60 Minutes Australia‘ – reported the incident to police, claiming she was abducted, kept in a silo and repeatedly sexually assaulted by Robert Geeves. The other girl refuted the story. The case was later taken to court as Geeves was to face assault and kidnapping charges, but these charges were dropped, likely due to lack of evidence, and Geeves was instead charged with ‘hindering police’ and served 100 hours of community service.

Janelle Goodwin

Image of Janelle Goodwin. Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

On Monday the 21st of June 1993, a body was found at the Geeves’ Kingsvale home. Janelle Goodwin, a 29-year-old mother of two, had been staying with Robert Geeves and his wife Anne Geeves in what Janelle’s mother described as originally meaning to be temporary, but which soon “developed into a relationship” (The Daily Telegraph) with Mr Geeves. Once this relationship began, Mr Geeves, who had once had a vasectomy, had a procedure to get it reversed. Months later, Janelle Goodwin became pregnant.

On the night of Sunday the 20th of June 1993, after driving to Wombat to buy bourbon, Janelle Goodwin and Robert Geeves began drinking heavily at the Geeves’ farm. According to Robert Geeves, he and Janelle had gotten into a squabble, Geeves later stating “I don’t know what started the argument but we both sort of got cranked up and fired up”. According to Geeves, the argument “got fiercer and fiercer” (The Daily Telegraph), causing the two to hit and scratch one another. Eventually, Geeves recalled, a rifle was pulled and, during a struggle, Janelle accidentally pulled the trigger on herself.

This account may have made sense, especially since Janelle and Geeves’ relationship was later described by Police Prosecutor Acting Sergeant Mitchell Croyston as not “rosy” (The Daily Telegraph), recounting a time when a witness reported Robert had allegedly asked him to have sex with Janelle so that Robert would have a reason to leave her. Janelle and Geeves getting into an altercation may have seemed relatively expected and accidental gunshots were certainly possible (though there were only 13 recorded accidental firearm-related deaths in 1993) . It was the way Janelle’s body was found, however, that made police think twice.

Abandoned in the Geeves’ property shed, Janelle Goodwin, once a respected Australian Army Nurse, was dumped in a wheel-burrow, her naked body wrapped in a sheet and her head in plastic. Twine was tied around her ankles, knees, thighs, chest and neck. Her cause of death was a gunshot wound, the bullet entering her left nostril, travelling though her brain and coming to a halt at the back of her skull. Journalist Stephen Rice, in an article for the newspaper ‘Sunday Telegraph’, wrote: “she had literally been staring down the barrel of the gun when she died” (The Daily Telegraph). Janelle’s autopsy showed further wounds to Janelle’s body, such as a top lip laceration and bruises on the chin, thighs and forehead. A gold ring she wore on her left finger was dented and blood was found in her lungs, indicating she was still breathing for quite some time after the original gunshot injury. Janelle was found to have had a blood-alcohol level of 0.202 – two times Australia’s legal driving limit – and her autopsy also confirmed she was 7 months pregnant.

Investigators combed the Geeves’ house, finding clothes drying in front of the fireplace and a spotlessly cleaned .22 caliber rifle under a bed, the spent cartridge missing. The lawn in the area the crime was committed had been hosed down, erasing any blood evidence. The gold ring Janelle had worn at the time of the incident was forensically tested, confirming the dent matched the front sight of the recovered rifle. Following tests also confirmed that the safety bolt on the rifle itself had to be turned off before it could be fired, eliminating any chance of an ‘accidental’ trigger press. However Janelle Goodwin was shot, she was shot intentionally.

Police were quick to arrest Geeves on suspicion of murder, but building a case turned out to be difficult. There was no doubt Geeves had been the one to tie up Janelle’s body and place her in the wheel burrow, and his decisions prior to reporting Janelle as deceased – driving out and perform daily tasks such as visiting his mother, picking up tractor parts and purchasing beer the next day – were certainly odd, but by no means did it prove that Geeves killed Janelle Goodwin.

Robert Geeves pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder and on the 15th of November 1993 the magistrate at the Cootamundra Local Court discharged Geeves due to insufficient evidence. Geeves has continued to maintain his innocence in the murder of Janelle Goodwin to this day. What really happened to Janelle Goodwin on the 21st of June 1993 has never been confirmed.

Family Business

Amber and her family weren’t the only one with reservations towards Robert Geeves.

Robbie Geeves, son of Robert and Anne Geeves, in a 2017 interview with Channel 9’s A Current Affair. Source: Channel 9

At the time of Royce Haigh’s birth, Robbie Geeves was around 19 years old. The eldest and – at the time – only son of Robert and Anne Geeves, Robbie lived with his girlfriend at the Geeves’ Kingsvale home. Robbie’s life with his parents, however, had never been straight-forward.

Robbie would later recall his father would talk to him about peculiar and disturbing topics, such as covering up crimes, rolling things off the banks of a particular river near Jugiong, and stuffing bodies into barrels filled with concrete (Sydney Morning Herald). However, nothing quite hit Robbie quite as hard as the day his father brought home a girl more than 20 years his father’s senior – innocent and intellectually disabled 18-year-old Amber Haigh, the same girl who Robbie had also dated some time ago. When Amber Haigh was moved into the Geeves’ home, Robbie immediately moved out, taking his girlfriend Natasha with him.

To Robbie’s disgust, Amber soon fell pregnant with Robert Geeves’ child. In the later inquest into Amber’s disappearance, Robbie stated: “I thought it was all wrong. I did not want anything to do with the baby” (Sydney Morning Herald). And Robbie meant it.

Shortly after Royce was born, Robbie made the decision to distance himself from his family and called his mother Anne, asking her to “leave me alone for a while”. Anne Geeves did not take this well, she “carried on like crazy” and pleaded with him “don’t do this to me” (Sydney Morning Herald). Robbie, no doubt conflicted, boldly stood by his resolution to avoid his family. However, this didn’t appear to stop his family.

Robert and Anne Geeves. Source: The Young Witness

At one point after baby Royce’s birth, Anne and Robert Geeves decided to visit their son Robbie and his girlfriend, bringing along Robbie’s brand new baby brother Royce. Having to see the baby alone was no doubt traumatising, but things began escalating as the Geeves’ insisted Robbie and Natasha hold the baby and asking the couple if they’d “…heard of a surrogate mum?”. Robbie and Natasha refused and Robert became violent, picking up a bench chair throwing it through a window before telling Natasha he would kill her parents. (Sydney Morning Herald).

Amber’s Battle

On the 20th of June 2011 an inquest into Amber Haigh’s disappearance was held at the Young and Parramatta Courts in New South Wales. It was here that the truly disturbing facts of Amber’ life before her disappearance were revealed.

Family of Amber mentioned Amber appeared to be ‘jumpy’ when speaking to them on the phone in the weeks before her disappearance, something very much out of character for the normally cheerful Amber. Family also mentioned a letter they’d received from Amber before she’d disappeared, which stated that, in order for Amber to remain in custody of her baby Royce, Royce must not be allowed to interact with certain members of Amber’s family. This letter was written by Amber and cosigned by Robert Geeves.

A resident at the same block of flats that Amber had been staying in – paid for by the Geeves’ – told the courts Amber “was going to come and get her locks changed” (AAP General News Wire) and the inquest also revealed that Robert Geeves had previously used a spare key to enter Amber’s apartment and take baby Royce’s bassinet. Social workers later replaced the bassinet and changed the locks to the apartment.

Paul Harding – 3rd cousin of Amber – also told the court Amber had confided in him that the Geeves’ “wouldn’t let her out of the house”. Cindy Brown, Paul Harding’s girlfriend, who was also close with Amber, told the court that Amber had “told [her] Robert Geeves tied her up and had sex with her” (Sydney Morning Herald) while Paul added that Robert “had video cameras on her” during Robert and Amber’s sexual exploits, and that “when [Robert and Amber] finished, [Robert] and Anne used to watch the video”. It was reported that this footage was used as a form of ‘blackmail’ against Amber, forcing her to comply with the Geeves’ or the videos would be released. Paul’s mother told the courts that Amber was frightened of the Geeves’ and that “[the Geeves’] were very nasty to her, she was very scared of them” (Sydney Morning Herald). Amber had also allegedly told Paul Harding that Anne Geeves “wanted the baby (Royce) and they wanted to get rid of the mum (Amber)” as Anne herself “couldn’t have any more babies” (AAP General News Wire).

A clinical nurse specialist in child community health at Young Hospital, Susan Powell, began to feel Amber was being manipulated by the Geeveses. At Amber’s later inquest, Susan Powell recounted a time when Amber had mentioned the Geeveses wanted custody over her baby, but Amber became confused as to what the word ‘custody’ meant. Powell told the courts she “had a fear that she would sign some papers and not understand what she was signing” (Sydney Morning Herald). Powell’s attempts to help Amber did not go unnoticed though, as it wasn’t long before Robert Geeves complained about Powell’s interference, resulting Powell’s superior telling her to “back off” (Sydney Morning Herald) Amber’s case. Unfortunately for Amber, without any physical evidence of abuse or manipulation, the Young Hospital was at a loss.

This wasn’t the first time that Amber’s life as a pregnant woman with Robert and Anne Geeves had flashed up on social workers’ radars though. In 2001, another social worker from the Young Community Health Centre, Catrina Richens, met with Amber and noted that Amber had grave concerns about dying during childbirth and Robert and Anne Geeves receiving custody of her baby. During the later inquiry into Amber’s disappearance, Catrina Richens would tell the court she felt “[Amber] didn’t want the baby to be living with Robert and Anne Geeves” (AAP General News Wire).

It wasn’t just Amber Haigh who shared the theory that the Geeves’ motivations lay with baby Royce. During the first day of Amber’s inquest, Detective Sergeant David Cockram said “there appeared to be some kind of motive of the Geeves to be rid of Amber. It was out concern that she [Amber] was some kind of surrogate mother” (The Australian). The counsel assisting the coroner – Peter Hamill SC – also brought up the theory that the Geeves’ “may have wanted to use Amber in some form of surrogacy role” (The Daily Telegraph).

However, the Geeves’ weren’t the only ones under the microscope during the inquest. A 17-year-old boy came forward with his mother to the police, stating he had been at a soccer oval when a man nicknamed ‘Podge’ had approached him, telling him that bikies had abducted and killed Amber, burying her in a vineyard in Anville. The boy’s statement indicated that “one of the bikies grabbed [Amber], cut her and put her in the freezer” and that “Robert Geeves paid money to kill [Amber] so he could keep the son (Royce)” (AAP General News Wire). Police initially took this lead very seriously, as there had been other discussions about Amber’s death, particularly by a ‘Mr Blundell’ who had spread stories about Robert Geeves putting Amber’s body through a shredder and using a blood-and-bone mixer.

Police initially took these stories seriously, combing the vineyard described by witnesses as the place Amber’s remains were laid, but her body was never found and the court discredited the witnesses due to their intoxicated states, which made their testimonies unreliable at best.

The Geeves Complication

With no other reliable witnesses or persons of interest to turn to, the inquest into Amber Haigh’s disappearance – much like the initial police investigation – unsurprisingly became focused on Robert and Anne Geeves. On Monday the 3rd of June 2002, two days prior to Amber’s disappearance, both Robert and Anne Geeves were confirmed to have stayed at the Tahmoor Motor Inn in Tahmoor, NSW. Investigators found this information troubling. Tahmoor was a small town approximately 3 hours from the Geeves’ Kingsvale home, a place notable for its thriving coal-mining industry. It was a place that the Geeves’ had no plausible reason for visiting.

The entry to Tahmoor, New South Wales, the region the Geeves’ stayed both before and after Amber Haigh’s disappearance. Source: Wikipedia

On the 12th of June 2002, 7 days after Amber was last seen and 7 days before they’d reported Amber as missing, the Geeves’ had once again visited the Tahmoor township, staying at the same motor inn. This information grew even more concerning when police discovered that the Geeves’ had made purchases of nails and a hammer at Moss Vale Hardware (2 and a half hours from Kingsvale) and had been witnessed travelling along a ‘lonely road’ with a trailer on the back of their car, a trip Robert strongly denied taking (ironically, Mr Blundell – who worked on a vineyard with Robert and spread rumours Geeves had violently murdered Amber – also mentioned in his stories that Robert Geeves often borrowed his trailer, though there has been no publicly confirmed connection between Mr Blundell’s trailer and the witness sighting of the Geeves’). Police had searched the Tahmoor region early in the investigation into Amber’s disappearance and although no remains had been recovered, Coroner Scott Mitchell suggested that Tahmoor’s location “on the edge of a rugged and mountainous state forest” as well as it’s numerous “abandoned mineshafts” would have provided “plenty of opportunities for the concealment of a body” (The Australian).

‘Mineshaft chaser’ abseiling down an abandoned Victorian mineshaft. Source: Southern Highland News

Such concerns resulted in Strike Force Villimar placing covert listening devices in the Geeves’ home and vehicles earlier in the investigation. These listening devices recorded the Geeves’ discussing Tahmoor and attempting to form an alibi for the trip. Though suspicious, the conversation certainly wasn’t enough to prove investigator’s theories that the Geeves’ had used the trip to dispose of Amber’s remains.

In 2005, Strike Force Villimar’s concerns surrounding the Geeves’ grew so large that they elected to search the Geeves’ home, recovering blood stains on the carpet. An earlier raid of the Geeves’ home had also recovered a blood stained doona, which was matched to the DNA of Amber’s mother, Rosalind Wright. These bloodstains, however, did not directly implicate the Geeves’ in the murder of Amber Haigh and remained unexplained.

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Findings

National media gathering around the Young court awaiting Coroner Scott Mitchell’s findings on Amber Haigh’s inquest. Source: The Young Witness

On the 8th of July 2011, Deputy State Coroner Scott Mitchell concluded that Amber Haigh was deceased, “and that she died probably in early June, 2002, as a result of homicide or other misadventure”. He described Amber Haigh’s death as “a tragedy”, reminding those in attendance at the Parramatta court “her sad death has robbed her little boy of his mother” (News.com.au). Coroner Scott Mitchell also ruled that there was “never any real prospect” that Amber had left her baby boy to start a new life as the Geeves’ had initially insinuated.

With a complete lack of leads, Coroner Scott Mitchell suggested the case be turned over to the Unsolved Homicide Squad, where it would be filed away for a period of six months before being re-examined to check for new evidence. In 2008, the Unsolved Homicide Squad had a team of only 9 officers responsible for examining approximately 600 unsolved cases of potential homicide.

This, however, does not mean it’s all over for the Haigh family. Since 2008, New South Wales’ Unsolved Homicide Squad grew significantly and in 2018, Wellington Times reported that the squad had opened around 500 unsolved cases dating back four decades. Detective Superintendent Scott Cook stated that a “wealth of investigators” from the New South Wales Police Forces will be using their skills to “increase [the Unsolved Homicide Squad’s] capacity to put fresh eyes on cold cases” in an attempt to “provide justice for victims and answers to their families”. Wellington Times reported that potential witnesses and previous lines of inquiry would be re-investigated, and Cook added that recent advances in technology “means we have to go back and apply those changes … to what we’ve got“. Since the squad was assembled in 2004, they have been able to solve more than 30 cases. Cook concluded: “I’ve given an undertaking to victims that no case will be forgotten in NSW and just because it’s been there for a decade or two doesn’t mean we stop looking” (Wellington Times).

Conclusion

Amber Haigh celebrating her birthday. Source: The Daily Telegraph

On the 24th of June 2011 a handwritten statement by Amber’s mother – Rosalind Wright – was read before the courts at Amber’s inquest. Rosalind wrote “We have stumbled around now for nine years and the heartache and helplessness we feel is unfathomable”. She described her daughter as “a gentle girl who cared and loved everybody, especially her son… whom she lived for and loved no end”. Rosalind concluded her statement by mourning all the things she would never be able to tell Amber, begging for new information to come forward, and lovingly adding “Amber will always be in our hearts and thoughts” (The Australian).

To this day, Amber’s case has gone without answers. She was found by the coroner to be deceased, likely due to foul play, but what happened on the day she disappeared, how she died, who took her life and where her remains are located is still unknown.

Police, the Haigh family and all who knew the beautiful, kind and loving Amber Haigh still aren’t giving up though. The more time passes, the more confident those who know something about Amber’s disappearance may become in speaking out, and the heavier the weight of what happened on the 5th of June 2002 will become on the shoulders of those involved.

Rosalind Wright – in her statement to the Paramatta Court – wrote: “whoever had a hand in Amber’s disappearance I hope that you can sleep at night and I know when your judgement day comes – and it will – we hope … that you are judged for the heartless bastards that you are” (The Australian).

Amber Haigh’s sister Melissa Hodder (left) and mother Rosalind Wright (right) holding up a photo of missing Amber holding her son Royce. Source: Daily Advertiser

If you have any information related to the disappearance and suspected murder of Amber Haigh, contact Crime Stoppers at 1800 333 000 or go to the Crime Stoppers Victoria website at: https://crimestoppersvic.com.au/ 

If you believe any of the information in this article to be incorrect, or know of any information that has not been mentioned in this article that may assist with the public’s understanding of this case, please contact me using the ‘Contact Me’ page on this website.

Resources

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