WHILE researching for my books and blog I came across one article from 1984 about a West German tourist named Iris Kadau who had gone missing in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Iris, who was 29, went missing while on a cycling day trip in Alice Springs on November 6, 1983.
The dental nurse was a very fit woman and set off on her bicycle to Simpsons Gap – 17km from the Alice Springs city centre. The site is one of natural beauty and spectacular landscapes and there is a bike path that is popular with visitors. Iris had cycled back from Simpsons Gap but then carried on for another bike ride north of Alice Springs. When she didn’t return to her motel that evening, police were alerted.
I got in touch with the investigating officer at the time, Graeme Charlwood (now retired from the police force), to see if I could have a chat to him about Iris’s mysterious disappearance.
Graeme very generously chatted to me and recalled the events around Iris’s disappearance:
“We had witnesses who saw her cycling out and back. We conducted extensive investigations, searched for evidence of her and found nothing. We really reached a dead end by Christmas 1983. Iris had just vanished off the face of the earth…”
In February 1984, Iris’s body was found.
Mr Charlwood said he was travelling to either Darwin or Tennant creek in a police helicopter when the pilot intercepted a call from the musterer who said he’d spotted something – the glint of chrome from what appeared to be a pushbike.
“We looked at one another and said ‘Iris’. When we got there we saw there was the bike and the mummified remains of Iris. She was chained to her bike…”
The newspaper article I had found was from The Canberra Times (February 11, 1984) and titled “Body found chained to bike”.
The fact that the chain was around her waist seemed strange but Mr Charlwood explained that the pathologist deduced that Iris had simply done what was common practice in Europe. Cyclists would chain themselves to their bikes when they went to have a rest. (This was to deter bike thieves.)
It turns out that Iris would have been severely dehydrated – even though she was very fit, she had cycled a great distance that day and the weather was very hot. Iris died from dehydration.
“She would have felt tired and not known how dehydrated she was and stopped to have a rest. She was found near a Small sparse tree. Iris would have gone to have a rest and never woken up.”
Mr Charlwood said police had looked into the possibility Iris had met with foul play and when they were searching for her in the days and weeks after she seemed to vanish, journalists had focused on that theory.
“When you’ve got a young woman touring the highways of Alice Springs alone you can’t discount it,” Mr Charlwood told me when I asked whether police initially thought Iris had been murdered.