Man ‘cursed by witches’ before vanishing
It has been almost 30 years since a university student vanished from the NSW northern tablelands after making a bizarre claim that he had been cursed by witches.
William “Bill” Roach was last seen on the main street in Armidale, in 1993. He could have taken his own life, or was the victim of a misadventure but police have not ruled out foul play or links to black magic.
It is believed the 25-year-old had been living with his girlfriend, who described herself as a practising witch, in an alternative community.
His strange disappearance has become the subject of an NSW Police State Crime Command podcast.
In the first episode the possibility he was killed on a remote farm and his body dumped in a waterhole was explored.
The second delved into his mental state after he claimed his was cursed by witches, as well as his suspected involvement in drug trade.
In the weeks leading up to his disappearance Mr Roach had attended a “secret ceremony” for witches at a festival in Bellingen renowned as a place where magic mushrooms grew.
A coven of witches invited him to be initiated as a wizard. During the ceremony he was asked to cross a stream via stones and to avoid stepping in the water but as a joke he jumped into the stream.
His mother Yvonne said her son was told one of the witches had put a “death curse” on him.
“He laughed and said ‘there’s no such thing’,” she told the people behind the podcast.
Mr Roach was last seen alive by family friends on Barney Street in Armidale on December 31, 1993.
A 2010 inquest determined Mr Roach had died, but the coroner did not say how, where or why. His body has never been found.
Police on Tuesday announced that the state government had increased the reward for information into his disappearance to $1m.
NSW Police Minister David Elliott said people described Mr Roach as a “knockabout bloke”.
“We’re increasing the reward (for information) to $1m. These decisions aren’t taken lightly, and the advice I’ve received is that this could be the last straw as NSW Police need to get a conviction,” he said.
Mr Elliott said it was possible detectives had already questioned the person or people responsible for Mr Roach’s disappearance and likely death.
He is urging anyone with any information to come forward.
“It could be any moment now that detectives knock on your door,” he said.
New England Police District commander Detective Superintendent Steve Laksa confirmed the witchcraft angle was still a line of inquiry, but there were concerns Mr Roach was involved in a drug syndicate.
“Bill (Mr Roach) was described as a really nice person, a gentle soul,” he said.
Superintendent Laksa said Mr Roach likely “fell into harm’s way” and called on anyone who was involved in the supply of drugs in the Armidale area in 1993 to come forward.
Strike Force Annan was established in 2004 to examine the circumstances surrounding Mr Roach’s disappearance, and a reward of $50,000 was originally offered for information.
Despite years of extensive investigations, including the execution of a crime scene warrant at a 688-hectare property on the outskirts of Armidale in 2016, there has been no trace of the university student.
DNA evidence will now be examined to help police crack the case that has haunted the Roach family for decades.
“Bill, gone 27 years. Missed for 27 years,” his sister Kim Roach said while giving an emotional statement about her only sibling’s disappearance.
“The loss, the unanswered questions, the not knowing. The no closure.
“We live with the hope of closure, the hope to be able to grieve.”
Police in 2005 said Mr Roach believed he was cursed by witches, which “really got to him”.
Superintendent Laksa on Tuesday said whether or not members of that group were involved in the case remained a line of inquiry.
But he could not say whether the witchcraft angle was linked to the drug investigation.
“There are a number of persons or interest from varying groups,” he said.
When asked if she had a message for the people who knew what happened to her only brother, Kim Roach pleaded with them to contact authorities.
“Please, please come forward. Any little information,” she said.
“Our mum passed (away) not knowing and she was a trooper in the fight for answers.”
Originally published as Man ‘cursed by witches’ before vanishing