The disappearance of 10-year-old Damian McKenzie is perhaps one of the strangest cases of a child missing in the last 50 years.
It happened in September 1974, in the Australian state of Victoria (Victoria), in a park near Victoria Falls. Together with 40 other children and teens, Damien Mackenzie was in the Young Australia League Special Camp, which was created to educate children through travel.
The camp is functioning for many years. Previously, no serious incidents with children had occurred until then, and experienced instructors worked there. It was a routine, 5-day hiking and engagement in various nature activities trip, to places long visited by thousands of other tourists.
On September 4, 1974, a group of students and instructors set off on a path to Steavenson Falls, at Marysville Victoria, a famous local waterfall.
It’s not as big as Victoria Falls but is one of the tallest. Water falls from a height of 122 meters. Crowds of tourists constantly go there, and fences are everywhere.
A 700-meter winding trail leads to a platform with beautiful views of Steavenson Falls. The group of children were standing on it in a row. Damian Mackenzie was one of the first in the queue and couldn’t wait to see the waterfall. At one point, he overtook all, even passing the instructor but remaining in his sight.
Damien was the first to reach a large stone and turn behind it. When, just a minute later, the instructor reached the stone and rolled past it, he never saw the boy.
At first it looked like that the child just ran down the aisle. But it was nowhere to be found. Including the site near the waterfall, no one had seen him.
It soon became clear that one cannot move on without help. The search for the missing Mackenzie has quickly become one of the largest search operations in the world and for a missing person in Australian history. It was attended by over 300 police, search and rescue teams, the Red Cross and countless volunteers.
The whole area around the Steavenson waterfall was thoroughly examined, taking into account the fact that the child could fall into the water and be carried away. However, the boy’s body was not found nowhere in the water. None of the tourists had seen anything suspicious about the waterfall.
The search lasted for more than a week. It was only stopped when it got colder. No traces of the boy were found at this time, including footprints, pieces of clothing or items from his backpack.
Later, very strange details were published in the press that were discovered during these searches. First of all, the police officers who worked in the area with tracker dogs, were puzzled that the dogs could not pick up the boy’s trail or scent at all. They just walked confused in circles in one place near the pedestrian walkway and nothing more.
Besides everything, it turned out to be even stranger when the dogs were brought to a more remote area, on the other side of the waterfall. Suddenly, they took the path but followed it briefly frozen again in place. That trail ended abruptly along the way, as if the child had literally evaporated in the air.
It was all very strange, and no one could explain what really happened.
The criminalist Valentine Smith says:
“I have found that there have been several reports of child footprints found a considerable distance from where Damien was last seen. However, all of these messages are contradictory and do nothing. I also read the remarks of Investigator David Polids. He writes that the boy’s footsteps suddenly appear elsewhere and also suddenly have strange traces … “
Since then, various researchers have repeatedly written versions of what could have happened to the child. Is it lost in the bushes, which are very thick and tall here? Could it have been unconscious by hypothermia or from falling? The entire area, including the shrubs, was carefully inspected, and if the boy had been there it would probably have been found very quickly.
Another version is that the child may have fallen off a rock, fallen into a waterfall, and then dragged by the river. But the river is very shallow and divers have carefully searched it. If such a large object, like a 10-year-old child, ended up in its waters, it would be immediately noticed.
Unless he had fallen down an abandoned old mine. Could Damian have ended up in such a mine shaft? Is it possible that it was so imperceptible that no one had seen it to this day?
Investigators rejected wildlife versions almost immediately. In Australia, the most dangerous animals are the spiders and small octopuses in the ocean, and the largest terrestrial predators are dingo dogs (Canis lupus dingo) that rarely attack humans and mostly young children. Besides, in the vicinity of Steavenson Falls, dingoes do not occur.
What happened to the infant and his mysterious disappearance, remains a mystery to this day…