Missing: Cherie Westell (Victoria, Australia)
December 12, 2000, 15 year old Cherie Westell attended a dentist appointment at Knox Dental Group in Wantirna South, approximately 40km (24.8 miles) east of Melbourne, the state capital of Victoria, Australia. Close to two hours after her appointment, Westell made a reverse charge telephone call from a public telephone box, located approximately 5km (3.1 miles) from the dental clinic, to the foster family she was staying with at the time.
Westell proceeded to inform her foster family that she was attempting to make her way to her home at the time, in nearby Mooroolbark. Sadly, this would be the last that anyone would hear from her. Westell's former foster mother Frances Schulz, who would lead the charge in searching for Cherie Westell, later theorised that the 15 year old would likely have been attempting to call the family she was staying with at the time to organise a ride home from her location.
Westell had stayed with Schulz and her family for a period of six and a half years, before a tumultuous period in Cherie Westell's adolescence, including instances of self-harm, led to Westell being placed with another foster family. Regardless, Westell had remained in contact with her former foster mother, including making a phone call to Schulz approximately six weeks prior to her eventual disappearance in which Cherie Westell had expressed remorse for the actions that had led to her leaving the care of Schulz and her family.
Westell had also communicated a desire to return to Schulz's care, an end to which Schulz had also expressed an interest in working towards with the then 15 year old. On December 13, 2000, Schulz attempted to get in contact with Cherie, unaware at the time that she had gone missing. According to Schulz's recollections, the foster carer's daughter had answered the phone and remarked 'she's not here'.
Despite her unexplained disappearance, the foster family Cherie Westell had been staying with at the time she went missing only reached out to the agency in charge of the Foster process, Anglicare, and neglected to inform police of her disappearance. Schulz attempted to amend this mistake, but hit a brick wall when police told her she did not have the authority to report Westell missing as she was not her carer at the time, nor was she a blood relative.
Eventually, Schulz would turn to Cherie's older brother Pierre, who was in Schulz's care at the time, to lodge the missing person's report. This would occur on December 18, six days after Cherie had disappeared.
At the time she vanished, Cherie Westell had been only days away from her sixteenth birthday, and had not made any indications that she was at risk of harming herself around the time of her disappearance. Further, Westell had not been known to run away previously.
A Coroner's Inquest would later determine that Cherie Westell was deceased, but could not conclude how or why she died, and no body or significant evidence of Westell's whereabouts have since been found.
“We're convinced Cherie met with foul play," Frances Schulz would later conclude.
Cherie Westell's disappearance remains unsolved.
Speculation and Theory: The Coroner's Inquest in to Cherie Westell's disappearance rightly concluded that there was a lack of communication between Governmental and Law Enforcement agencies following Westell going missing. Likewise, it is somewhat alarming that the foster family in charge of Cherie's care at the time of her disappearance did not think to involve police, or contact anyone but the Governmental agency overseeing the Foster system. That Cherie Westell's disappearance was not properly investigated until six days after she vanished may well be the leading cause for why her case remains unsolved.
As to what happened, and who may have taken Cherie Westell? Given her exposure to the Foster system, it could be fairly assumed that Cherie would have been exposed to a lot of people who she may have come to trust, and her exposure to the same system would imply a level of vulnerability. Additionally, it's reported that Cherie Westell and her siblings came from a dysfunctional background, and that naturally draws suspicion to her biological parents, though it is hard to imagine this lead was not investigated thoroughly by law enforcement.
The other possibility, however remote, is the involvement of the serial criminal Mr Cruel in Westell's disappearance, given the close proximity of Westell's last known location to the radius of Mr Cruel's known crimes. Indeed, Mr Cruel's second known abduction - of 10 year old Sharon Wills - occurred extraordinarily closely to where Westell is thought to have gone missing. Curiously, further parallels can be drawn to Westell's disappearance from Mr Cruel's known crimes through a curious detail - teeth.
Cherie Westell's disappearance occurred the same day she attended a Dental Appointment. During his string of known crimes, Mr Cruel was known to have said some variation of "Clean your teeth" to all three of his victims who survived their encounters with the serial offender, who remains at large. While this may very well be mere coincidence, one cannot help but wonder if the perpetrator of the Mr Cruel crimes had some kind of particular fascination with teeth, ie. was he a dentist? Or a dental nurse?
If so, given that Westell's disappearance fits in to the known crime radius of Mr Cruel, and she was last known to have attended a dental appointment, could Westell have fallen victim to this serial offender who remains at large?
Also of note, Westell attended the same school that 13 year old Bung Siriboon would later attend. Eleven years after Cherie Westell disappeared, in 2011, Bung Siriboon would also go missing from nearby suburb Boronia. A possible link is thought to have been investigated by police, but has not been corroborated or confirmed and Siriboon's disappearance, like Westell's, remains unsolved.