Rachel Antonio's family continue to fight for answers
FOR the past two years the family of Rachel Antonio has fought for an inquest into their daughter's death.
Rachel's parents, Ian and Cheryl Antonio, still remember the gut-wrenching fear they felt on April 25, 1998, when their bubbly and adventurous 16-year-old daughter went missing.
Rachel, who was in Year 11 at Bowen State High School, had attended two Anzac Day services earlier in the day before Mrs Antonio dropped her at the corner of Beach Ave and Murroona St at 6pm to see a movie.
When Rachel failed to return home later that night her parents started to worry.
Despite widespread searches and a 15-year investigation her body was never found.
Mr Antonio said an inquest scheduled for later this year in Bowen was the last chance his family had for closure.
He said he and his wife had fought "long and hard" for the inquest after a Bowen man arrested for Rachel's murder was found guilty of manslaughter and then later found not guilty during a 2001 retrial of the case.
"This is our only chance," he said.
"If this doesn't provide closure there's nothing more we can do, we can't go any further.
"We have to live with it."
Mr Antonio said Rachel was her family's "pride and joy".
"I've had to sit here for 15 years and watch my family suffer the whole time," he said.
"She was our pride and joy and that's all failed."
He said after years of "coming up against every obstacle possible" the family was now waiting for its "last hope".
"Something was always around the corner, waiting and waiting," he said.
"Now we're down to months and we're hoping for some closure.
"We don't have an official date for the inquest yet but we're hoping to get one soon."
Mr Antonio said Rachel was a constant topic of discussion in his household.
"It comes up between my wife and I every day.
"We get phone calls from people talking about her and we go down the street and somebody will ask what's happening with the inquest."
He said he believed up to 40 people could be called to speak at the inquest.
"We're trying to make sense of the protocol of the inquiry at the moment," he said.
"The court case was such a shock to us.
"We walked in not knowing much about the High Court.
"An inquest is a little bit different to a trial and we're trying to wrap our heads around that at the moment."
THE murder of Mackay teen Shandee Blackburn this year hit close to home for the parents of Rachel Antonio.
Ian Antonio said any murder case that hit the headlines was a reminder of what happened to his daughter 15 years ago.
"Every time something comes up on TV about a murder or manslaughter we think of how the people, the family, assume they'll get justice and we know that's very rare.
"Even this many years after the event it still comes back to us. Whether it is a child or an adult, every time something happens we think about Rachel."
RETRIAL FINDS MAN NOT GUILTY
FORMER Bowen Surf Life Saving Club captain Robert Hytch was arrested on a murder charge eight months after Rachel Antonio's disappearance.
It was alleged the pair had had a secret affair.
Mr Hytch was found guilty of manslaughter but the decision was overturned on appeal and he was found not guilty at a retrial of the case in 2001.
Mr Antonio said sharing a home town with the man who had been tried for his daughter's manslaughter "doesn't bother me".
"I don't see him at all," he said.
"When he comes home I don't see him at all.
"I don't go into town much myself so I don't run into him."
Mr Hytch did not return the Daily Mercury's calls and emails for comment.
AN INQUEST WILL BE HELD
AN inquest into Rachel Antonio's death will be held later this year in Bowen, at a date not yet known, according to a spokesperson for the Office of the State Coroner.
"In October 2011, the family of Rachel Antonio requested the state coroner convene an inquest into her death," the spokesperson said.
"Despite a person being tried twice for murdering Rachel, because her body has never been found, her suspected death was not reported to a coroner.
"The state coroner has assigned the case to the central coroner, David O'Connell, who has had contact with Rachel's family. The inquest will proceed later this year."