Lisa Marie Mott, 12, was born in Adelaide to Brian and Marion Mott. In 1979, the Mott family moved to Collie, Western Australia, and settled into a home on Atkinson Street.
Marion described Lisa as a thoughtful and happy child who always smiled. She was strong-minded and had many friends.
Lisa was at the age when boys had not yet interested her. She preferred to hang out with friends and often stayed the night at her friends’ homes and vice versa.
Lisa spent the afternoon at a friend’s house on Oct. 30, 1980. She asked her mother if she could go to the basketball courts later that day, and her mother said yes, but told Lisa to get a ride home with the mother of Lisa’s friend. The outing was only the third time Lisa’s mother had allowed her to go out at night.
Lisa and her friend went to the local basketball courts on Throssell Street at 6:45 p.m. They shot some baskets but spent most of their time chatting with other friends. At 8:45 p.m., the girls went to a nearby pizza joint and returned to the courts a few minutes later.
Around 9 p.m., Lisa started walking home, and her friend accompanied her part of the way. They walked along Throssell Street and turned onto Harvey Street towards the railway crossing. Her friend parted ways at this point but watched Lisa cross the railway line to Forrest Street.
Lisa never made it home.
After Lisa’s family reported her missing, six police officers worked 12 hours a day investigating her disappearance. During an extensive search, authorities found no trace of the missing girl.
Lisa was last seen wearing dark blue shorts with light trim, a light blue T-shirt, and brown and fawn-striped sneakers with white socks. She had previously left home mad for only a few hours. However, as her family and the police knew, Lisa had no reason to be upset.
A friend reportedly saw Lisa on Forrest Street getting into a yellow panel van, possibly a Holden, with a chrome roof rack, a dent in the right-hand door, and a tow bar. The male driver’s name might have been Greg. Brian Mott said he previously overheard Lisa mention a panel van to one of her sisters.
Early news articles stated people had seen the van at basketball games in previous weeks, so investigators thought there was a possibility the kidnapper was local.
Unfortunately, the vehicle and that color were reasonably standard in Australia, so the tip led police to a dead end.
A few days after her daughter’s disappearance, Marion Mott made a public plea begging for her daughter or anyone with knowledge of her whereabouts to come forward.
According to a November 1980 news article in the Collie Mail, three others vanished. Alice Adele Berry, 16, of Kingsley, Annette Caroline Deverell, 19, of Mandurah, and Olive Maureen Wright, 33, of Mandogalup, all went missing within two months of Lisa’s disappearance.
Deverell disappeared on Sept. 13, 1980. Her body was found on July 4, 1982, less than 20 miles from where she was last seen, but her case remains unsolved. I could find no additional information on the other two.
In 2000, police reopened Lisa’s case and investigated whether serial killer couple David and Catherine Birnie had abducted and killed Lisa. They were convicted in 1987 of abducting, raping, and killing four females aged 15 to 31 in Perth. One victim, Kate Noir, then 17, managed to escape and contacted authorities.
David Birnie was working in Collie when Lisa vanished. He killed himself in prison in 2005.
According to News.com.au, “David Birnie’s first wife told Murder Uncovered he was with her in Perth for that entire day. And she has no reason to give the man that walked out on her and their children to become a serial killer an alibi.”
Police never found Lisa. On the 40th anniversary of her vanishing, Marion Mott, now Marion Powell, once again spoke to her long-lost daughter.
“If you are still out there, Lisa, somewhere, I still love you, I still love you to bits.”
Looking at a picture of Lisa’s mother, you can see the pain and agony in her eyes of losing her daughter and never having any answers about what happened to her. Lisa’s father died of lung cancer in September 2010.
The Western Australian government announced a $1 million reward for information leading to a conviction.