On the October long weekend of 1997, 14-year-old Lauren Barry and 16-year-old Nichole Collins were enjoying a camping trip with some friends at a popular bush spot just outside Tathra, on the far south south coast of NSW. At the campsite there was relatively constant adult supervision, with parents checking in at regular intervals to ensure everyone was safe and well. As the Sunday night wore on, Nichole became contemplative about her recent relationship breakup. She knew her ex was at a party at a house a few kilometres away, and wanted to walk over to talk to him about getting back together. But by this time it was dark, and not necessarily safe to go walking through the bush alone given the risk of misadventure. If Nichole fell and injured herself, there’d be no way of calling for help, and these were the days before every teenager had a mobile phone. Nichole and Lauren decided to walk to the party together, and at 9pm they set off. It wasn’t unusual for teens in the area to walk to where they wanted to get to. It was a relatively safe community, and after all, Lauren and Nichole were extremely familiar with their surroundings. Learning the necessary precautions and steps to take should they ever find themselves in trouble was an important part of growing up in the country. But sometimes, the perils of the outdoors don’t manifest themselves in the unpredictability of mother nature. Sometimes, it’s something much more sinister and infinitely more horrifying...
CW: child sexual assault, family violence, drug use
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