Pain of not knowing lingers on

Lucille Gay Butterworth who was last seen at 5.30pm, on August 25, 1969.
Lucille Gay Butterworth who was last seen at 5.30pm, on August 25, 1969.

EVERY day John Fitzgerald wakes up to a photograph of his fiancee who vanished 44 years ago without a trace.

Lucille Gay Butterworth, 20, disappeared on August 25, 1969, while waiting for a bus at Claremont in the state's south.

The striking typist was off to meet her fiance with plans to attend a Miss Tasmania charity event at New Norfolk.

She never arrived and Mr Fitzgerald, then 22, has been waiting for answers ever since. 

These days his voice carries the pain of not knowing. 

``People just don't understand how difficult it is living with something like this all your life,'' he said yesterday.

``I know it's affected Jim and John (Butterworth, Lucille's brothers) very much.

``That's all you live for, to find that answer. The three of us are all getting on now and the one thing you just hope for is to have that answer.''

Mr Fitzgerald said the disappearance and likely murder still haunts him.

``I've got Lucille's photo on the wall here, I see her every day,'' he said. 

``It never leaves you, it's like someone saying `I know a secret and I'm not going to tell you'.''

In the lead-up to the arrest of a man last Thursday, Mr Fitzgerald was hopeful that secret was about to be revealed.

The Sheffield man was taken in for questioning over the cold case and grilled by Southern detectives for hours but released without charge. 

It was a repeat of 2011 where a review of the Butterworth case saw the questioning of a man who was released without charge. 

``It's the same old story - you get your hopes up and you come crashing to earth again,'' Mr Fitzgerald said. 

``I was quite disappointed. I thought this was our one chance of getting an answer.''

However, Mr Fitzgerald has commended police over the recent focus on the case headed up by Hobart CIB Detective Inspector David Plumpton. 

``If the police in the past had been half as good as they are now we would have possibly had this case solved years ago,'' Mr Fitzgerald said.

``In the past they always suspected Lucille was a runaway but they didn't know Lucille. You'd have to be part of Lucille's life to know that's the last thing she'd do.''

Mr Fitzgerald said her upcoming 21st birthday, marriage and love for her family were reasons to categorically rule out a runaway scenario. 

He maintains his sweetheart knew the person she left the bus stop with that day.

``The scenario was in the past that she was pulled in to the car. Well, I think that's ridiculous because of the amount of traffic going past in those days . . . she wouldn't just accept being pulled in to the car,'' he said. 

``And that's what I've thought all these years, it would have to be someone she knew.''

Mr Fitzgerald has appealed for anyone who knows anything to come forward. 

``Being the main road in those days you'd think somebody would have seen something.''

What we know is that Miss Butterworth was given a lift to the bus stop by a work colleague at 5.30pm.

She arrived in time to catch the 5.45pm bus but it was running late.

According to Mr Fitzgerald, a witness recalls seeing her but by the time he checked his watch and looked back she was gone.

Police now believe she accepted a lift with somebody she knew, thinking the bus wasn't coming. 

Within a matter of hours it's believed she was killed.

It's understood the man interviewed by police last week knew Miss Butterworth at the time. 

Police would not comment but said the investigation was continuing.

Miss Butterworth was 153 centimetres tall, of slight build, with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Anybody with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Tasmania Police on 131 444.


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