New hope for missing NSW mum Bronwyn Winfield

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On the evening of May 16, 1993, Bronwyn Joy Winfield lovingly kissed her two children goodnight as they made their way to bed.

It was a regular Sunday night for the devoted mother and her young daughters Chrystal and Lauren at their home in Lennox Head in northern New South Wales.

Sadly, it was the last time the girls would ever see their mum.

Ms Winfield, then 31, mysteriously vanished without a trace. Over three decades on, what happened to her remains a mystery.

But now there could be new hope with the launch of a brand new investigative podcast Bronwyn, hosted by The Australian’s award-winning journalist Hedley Thomas, who will dive deeper into the case than anyone has before.

LISTEN TO THE FIRST EPISODE OF BRONWYN HERE

The night of Ms Winfield’s disappearance, she was reportedly arguing with her estranged husband Jonathan Winfield.

The pair were in the midst of a messy separation and he would later be named as the main suspect in her disappearance.

Mr Winfield did not report her missing to police until May 27 – 11 days after the mum was last seen alive.

“I went to bed – and that was it,” Chrystal recalled, according to The Daily Telegraph

“That was the last time I saw her but I have many fond memories and pictures that I carry with me.

“We really want some closure. We just want to know what’s happened.”

An investigation led by Ballina Detective Sergeant Glenn Taylor in 1998 led to a 2002 coronial inquest that found Ms Winfield died at the time of her disappearance.

The findings also ruled that a “known person” should be charged with her death and that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should consider prosecuting her estranged husband.

Mr Winfield has always emphatically denied any wrongdoing and the DPP has declined to prosecute him, citing insufficient evidence.

In 2010, police offered a $100,000 reward for information that would help solve the mystery.

But now 31 years later, Ms Winfield’s daughters still have no idea what happened to their mum.

“She was a lovely lady and a good mum,” the then police minister, Michael Daley, said at the time.

“Ms Winfield’s family, particularly her children, deserve to know what happened – and her murderer deserves to be behind bars.

“I hope that the lure of a cash reward may encourage those with information who may have been reluctant to come forward at the time to come forward now.”

News.com.au is not accusing Mr Winfield of any wrongdoing.

New spotlight on the case

It has been many years since there was any significant coverage of Ms Winfield’s cold case, leaving her family and friends with little hope for ever finding answers.

But now this could all change with the launch of a brand new podcast launched by investigative journalist Hedley Thomas.

Thomas, who is national chief correspondent at The Australian, will take a deep look into the case with his new podcast, Bronwyn.

The series follows the journalist’s other highly successful projects including The Night Driver, Shandee’s Story, The Teacher’s Trial and Shandee’s Legacy, all of which have gone straight to number one on Australian and international podcast charts.

“It’s a case I heard about when I was investigating Lyn Dawson’s murder,” Thomas told news.com.au.

“I was talking to a very senior former coroner, and he told me about his concerns over the number of women who disappeared in the 80s and 90s were not the subject of proper police investigation back then.

“He said there was a systemic problem where they were just treated as runaway wives or abandoning mothers.

“We were talking about Lyn’s case and he told me about another case he had been involved in. Her name was Bronwyn Winfield.”

At the time, he explained that he was highly intrigued but did not have the time to give Ms Winfield’s case the attention it needed but knew he wanted to come back to it.

Now that time has come and after years of investigation and interviews, the investigative crime podcast has launched.

Thomas hopes that the project will encourage people who may know something to come forward with information and ultimately help solve Ms Winfield’s case.

This closure would “mean everything” to her family and friends who have gone over 30 years without any answers.

“Our hope is that someone knows something,” he said.

“We know from experience that people who listen to podcasts are more likely to get in touch and disclose information.

“That has happened with every other podcast I have done.

“The former NSW Commissioner of Police even described it as the most effective crime fighting tool he had seen in all his years of policing.

“People hear the real voices and the genuineness of family members and friends who have been waiting too long for answers.”

He added that there is an extra layer of desperation, sadness and despair when it comes to losing a loved one in this way.

Currently, there are around 2600 long-term missing persons and 750 unidentified human remains in Australia.

Police receive around 38,000 missing persons reports each year. While most are found within a short period of time, there are still thousands of people who have been missing for more than three months.

“When a loved one is a victim of serious crime and is killed, there is of course enormous distress,” Thomas said.

“But there is closure. Loved ones can lay them to rest and sometimes the perpetrator can be brought to justice.

“When there is no perpetrator, and no body, there is ambiguous grief. It is very different to the grief people feel when they have the remains of a loved one.

“Bronwyn’s body has never been discovered. She has been declared dead by the coroner who heard her case.

“But there will be some people out there, and possibly her former husband, who say she is still alive.”

Ms Winfield would be 61 years old if she were still alive today. She was described as having light brown hair, a medium-thin build and green eyes.

If anyone has any information about her disappearance, please contact Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.

Thomas also encourages anyone with any knowledge to get in touch with him via email and can do so confidentially by emailing bronwyn@theaustralian.com.au.

To listen now, visit bronwynpodcast.com.

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