Sunday, August 12, 2018

"In a Town of 11 People [in Australia], Mysterious Disappearance Turns Neighbor Against Neighbor"


He was never seen again. Neither was his dog, a kelpie named Kellie.

Four days later, when the police arrived in Larrimah, a Northern Territory town of just 11 people, they entered Mr. Moriarty’s unlocked house to find a cowboy hat on a cooler box and a barbecue chicken still in the microwave.

The authorities suspect foul play and have been treating the case as a homicide, with every single person in Larrimah — all 11 of them — being probed for clues.


But with no clear evidence or even a motive for Mr. Moriarty’s disappearance, every one of Larrimah’s 11 residents is in one way or another part of the investigation — with each pointing a finger at a neighbor or two, while denying their own involvement in what has become the latest mystery to capture Australia’s imagination.

I went to Larrimah during a critical stage of the investigation to find out where the case might be heading, and what it’s like to live in a small town with murder on its mind.


It’s a pit stop for exhausted tourists driving north to south, but it is also a place where Aboriginal Australians, even today, refuse to live because they say it is haunted.


There are only two gathering places for residents and visitors, the Pink Panther and Fran’s Devonshire Tea House.


Mr. Sharpe told me his passion is nurturing the exotic animals he keeps behind the bright pink hotel, which he has owned for almost 15 years.

The mix includes rare and exotic birds, snakes and a hulking saltwater crocodile


All Mr. Sharpe said he knew about the disappearance was that his friend did not show up for “church,” a Sunday morning ritual in which residents gather in the Pink Panther’s front room to watch “Landline,” the nation’s premier rural affairs program. It was then that locals sounded the alarm.