Irishman Paddy Moriarty has been missing, along with his dog Kellie, for over a month now.
In a big city, it might not be all that much of a big deal, but Moriarty went missing from Larrimah, a small hamlet in Australia’s Northern Territory, having spent the past 50 years Down Under.
The total population of Larrimah is 10. Not a typo.
The alarm was first raised two days after he left the local pub, the Pink Panther Hotel, on Saturday, December 16. The following day, he failed to turn up for beers with his bestie, who thought Paddy simply had something else to do.
Only on the Monday, when he realised that might not be the case, did the friend phone the police.
His car was left at his house, along with his glasses, wallet and hat, and he hasn’t accessed bank accounts.
Now, although the search continues, Moriarty [below] is presumed dead. Police are now focusing their attention on finding his dog to gain more information.
Because, even though the town is so small, finding out whodunnit has proven difficult.
Get this, from ABC:
Mr Moriarty has been described by friends as a jolly larrikin with a sense of humour who would do anything for his mates.
But the 70-year-old pensioner also had enemies. Two residents in the community have openly admitted in interviews with the ABC that at times they had wished him harm — but they both add the caveat that they certainly haven’t had anything to do with his disappearance.
This is a story with many layers in an isolated world whose inhabitants live differently to most Australians.
There are stories of sabotage. Pet peacocks fed to a crocodile. Roadkill used for retribution. Rivalry over the sale of meat pies.
Police now have the difficult task of sifting fact from rumour and innuendo as they investigate the case.
When are they going to turn this story into a movie? I can see the tagline now – “Rivalry. Roadkill. Meat Pies.”
But there’s more to Larrimah, seen in the picture below.
It’s six hours’ drive south of Darwin and is perched on the edge of the almost 3 000 km-long Stuart Highway, the road that is internationally notorious for missing persons cases.
Its infamy began when British backpacker Peter Falconio disappeared 17 years ago:
Dozens of others have gone missing on this stretch of road over the years.
Relics from its time as a transport hub during World War II are everywhere, and so are the hidden and forgotten caverns and crevices.
Back to more important matters – the meat pie war and that roadkill saga:
Larrimah’s two main tourist businesses — The Pink Panther Hotel and Fran’s Tea House — are separated by a few hundred metres and a lot of bad blood.
Fran Hodgetts serves Devonshire tea and is proud of her reputation for selling meat pies.
Years ago, when publican [that’s fancy talk for ‘pub owner’] Barry Sharpe decided the pub’s pet crocodile wasn’t enough of an attraction, he started to sell meat pies in direct competition. Mrs Hodgetts was not impressed…
Mrs Hodgetts accused Mr Moriarty of waging a vendetta against her … [and] accused Mr Moriarty of putting a dead kangaroo under her house.
Before Christmas, Mrs Hodgetts spoke to reporters about the missing persons search.
“I don’t know where he is and I’m not sad that he’s gone. But I hope they find him because I’ve had so much trouble with him,” she said.
When the ABC approached Mrs Hodgetts this week, she declined an interview.
“I don’t know nothing … the lawyers said not to say nothing, we don’t say nothing.”
It’s just one of the major feuds the town has seen. In an earlier scrap with a now defunct petrol station, the pub’s pet peacocks were fed to a crocodile in retaliation for the death of a pet buffalo that was turned into pies.
And that, my friends, is what happens to your small town when the world starts digging for answers.
Can they get Daniel Day-Lewis out of retirement to play Paddy, please? Talk about the role of a lifetime.
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