’Discovering Allison Baden-Clay's body hasn't left me’
INITIALLY, Professor Daryl Joyce thought it was someone sleeping.
The academic regularly paddled his kayak along the peaceful Brisbane river in the city's outer suburbs. But on that warm Monday in April 2012, Prof Joyce quickly discovered his first impression was wrong, reports whimn.com.au.
"I realised it [was] Allison based on her clothes. A mannequin dressed like Allison had been shown on TV."
That morning marked the beginning of the 11th day of the search for Allison Baden-Clay after her husband Gerard had reported her missing.
Gerard claimed he had gone to bed, leaving Allison watching TV and had not seen her since. Soon, scores of police and SES workers were scouring numerous suburbs and bush land by motorbike and air for any trace of the mother-of-three.
The question of Allison's whereabouts dominated headlines around the country. But now, on that autumn day, Prof Joyce was first to discover the tragic answer.
The horticulture professor has never spoken before about his experiences that day.
"When time and tide permit, I usually paddle up Kholo Creek for a short distance, including under the bridge," he told whimn on the fifth anniversary of Allison's disappearance.
As he navigated a particular bend of the narrow waterway, only 13km from the missing mum's Brookfield home, he spied something out of the ordinary.
Police Examination photographs showing the Kholo Creek Bridge area at Anstead, where the body of Allison Baden-Clay was found.
"I saw a person lying on their side beneath the bridge. Initially, I thought it [was] someone sleeping on the creek bank. Then, I realised it [was] Allison based on her clothes. A mannequin dressed like Allison had been shown on TV."
Her body was partly facedown, her jumper tangled around her neck, and she was still dressed in casual clothes.
"It was initially a shock," Prof Joyce says. "[It was] imperative to let the police know urgently. The search had been given a lot of press coverage. It was clear that the family were terribly distraught and needed to know ASAP."
Prof Joyce acted speedily. "I immediately kayaked to where I launch my kayak, drove home and rang the police."
Within hours, officers would be winched down to the muddy bank where Allison's body lay to begin the painstaking search for clues to her death.
Two months after that heartbreaking morning, Gerard Baden-Clay would be charged, and later convicted, of his wife's murder.
Joyce says he still thinks of that April day when he's kayaking past the area.
"I do think of the day and the people involved, particularly so when I am kayaking or driving by in the area. It was, naturally, not something I'd ever think to play a role in. I am glad that I was able to contribute towards piecing together what had happened and [offering] closure for those most sadly affected.
"Allison was clearly much loved and people wanted and needed to know what had happened. Despite the terrible circumstances, I was pleased to have been able to contribute towards resolution of the search and path ways towards closure."