Family's Christmas torture as woman's body still missing
AS Christmas dawns this year, Shae Francis' family will wake with heavy hearts, marking 824 long and torturous days without their kind-hearted selfless funny woman.
Last seen alive at the Hervey Bay Hospital on Queensland's Fraser Coast a little over two years ago, police believe Shae was killed and her body dumped in a bin.
While her former partner is charged with Shae's manslaughter, those who love her are in a holding pattern with no body to lay to rest and many unanswered questions crowding their thoughts.
In early October of 2018, Shae visited her mum in the local hospital. This was the last time she had contact with her family.
Police suspect something happened to her in the 10 days from October 14 to October 24 at her home in the small Queensland hamlet of Torquay.
She was reported missing in March of 2019 and the following June, Queensland Police extradited Shae's partner from Victoria to Queensland.
He was charged over her death and with interfering with a corpse. He has not yet faced trial.
Acting on a tip-off that Shae's body may have been placed in an industrial bin, a large contingent of police gathered at the Maryborough waste depot in March.
They painstakingly combed through piles of rubbish covering an area the size of an Olympic swimming pool, but the search was futile with no trace of Shae or any evidence found.
Since then, the search for Shae's body has gone cold, with a Queensland Police media spokesman telling NewsRegional that unless someone comes forward with new information the search for her body will remain stalled.
It's a bitter pill for Shae's family to swallow.
This 35-year-old intelligent, creative, talented and gifted woman was selfless to a fault, studying human biology at university so she could one day help find the cure for diseases.
She was in between jobs while living in Hervey Bay but she excelled at whatever she put her mind to.
She had a natural affinity for the ocean and would spend hours swimming in the sea- even when the weather was cold enough to turn her lips blue.
Shae had a somewhat strained relationship with her mum, but she shared an especially close bond with her Aunt Janine Francis.
This bond was forged from birth, but it became even stronger when Shae moved into Janine's home as a teenager.
"The two of us always shared a special connection," Janine says.
"She was like a daughter to me.
"Our bond and love for each other was unconditional and unbreakable.
"I miss her kindness, her generosity, her thoughtfulness and mindfulness.
"I miss her gentle unconditional love and non-judgmental ear when I need a hug and someone to confide in.
"I miss her uplifting smile and giggle."
A sad set of circumstances has destroyed the link between them and this disconnect is a trauma that Janine believes she will never come to terms with.
"We have been robbed of so much," she says.
"When someone is missing, you have these terrible butterfly nervous anxious feelings - these feelings are constant and they never go away."
Shae's family hold onto the hope that sometime soon her body will be found and they will be able to bring her to their hometown of Shepparton in Victoria to lay her to rest.
"When you have something to get your head around - like finding her body - you have something solid for your mind to grasp and you start learning how to deal with it," Janine says.
"But when you are left in the dark, it's an ambiguous unknown that just goes on and on.
"I just want to bring Shae home so that we have somewhere to go and grieve and to think about her.
"Her little cousins miss her, she has so many family members and friends who love her down here."
Janine is convinced that someone in the Fraser Coast community knows where Shae's body and she has issued a desperate plea for that person to contact police.
"Every nerve, every fibre, every inch of my being knows that there is someone out there that knows what happened and where she is," Janine says.
"I want them to know that I do not judge them for it and I do not hold any animosity towards them.
"I believe that everybody is where they are in life due to circumstances beyond their control.
"I respect their reasons for not coming forward, but I would ask them to take a minute and to kindly think about just how it takes every inch of our being to cope and to live with the unknown.
"I am talking about a human being, a person who was loved.
"We cannot change what happened to Shae but if they could find it in their heart to say where she is, that would give us some hope that Shae's body will receive the respect that she deserves."
Another Christmas without Shae looms for the Francis family.
Last year, Janine could not handle spending Christmas at home so she volunteered with an organization that provides meals for people who are homeless.
"I don't believe I have a right to celebrate Christmas when I know her body is out there somewhere, rotting away," Janine says.
"Why should I be celebrating when she is laying out there, discarded like trash.
"It is a very difficult time and I think it will be just as difficult this year.
"We do not get to see her a year older, yet we are a year older."
"But life goes on, so we have to keep going on - even though she is far away from us."
If you have information regarding Shae Francis, please contact CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit https://www.crimestoppersqld.com.au/make-a-report.
You can provide information anonymously.
*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.