Final hours of missing Aussie model
Young, beautiful and about to head overseas, Revelle Balmain had so much to look forward to on November 5, 1994.
A model and dancer, the 22-year-old was set to head to Japan the following day for a six-month dance tour.
However, that evening, some time after 7.15pm, Ms Balmain disappeared. Two days later, her shoes, wallet and keys were found scattered around the Sydney suburb of Kingsford.
This week marks 25 years since Ms Balmain vanished, and what really happened that night remains a mystery that haunts her loved ones.
On that November day, Ms Balmain was in love. Six weeks earlier she had met Piers Fisher-Pollard, who worked in the film industry, through a mutual friend. "It seemed possible that we were in love, we really liked each other," Mr Fisher-Pollard told the Daily Mail, describing her as "generous and fun-loving".
"She was preparing to go on a cabaret dance tour to Japan, so she was very excited about that and about going to see her family in Port Macquarie."
He did not know that Ms Balmain, though a successful model who had recently featured on the cover of Oyster magazine, was also working as an escort. At around lunchtime on that Saturday, Ms Balmain and Mr Fisher-Pollard parted ways, with the couple planning on having drinks that evening.
Ms Balmain phoned Jane Stanojevic, who co-owned the Select Companions escort agency with her husband Zoran, about work. At 4pm she had a booking with Gavin Samer, a surfer from the southeastern suburb of Kingsford, who has repeatedly denied any involvement in her disappearance. At 3.50pm, she called the agency to say she had arrived.
According to reports, Ms Balmain announced she had decided to stop doing sex work, and Mr Samer was to be her last client.
At 7.15pm, Ms Balmain phoned a friend to say she was leaving, and they duo arranged to meet for drinks in Paddington.
When Mr Fisher-Pollard's repeated attempts to contact Ms Balmain went unanswered, he reported her missing.
The next day, Jan Balmain was on the platform of Newcastle train station at 11am, waiting for her daughter to arrive for a farewell lunch before her overseas adventure. Revelle did not arrive on the train she had expected her on, nor the next one. At home, she called her daughter's friends and hospitals, trying to find out where she was, Good Weekend reported.
On Monday, a single cork shoe, along with the keys to her Bellevue Hill flat, diary and make-up bag were discovered across four streets in Kingsford.
"My first reaction when Mum told me was disbelief," Revelle's half-sister Suellen Simpson said. "My hands were shaking and I could barely hold the phone."
"The police initially said she must have gone walkabout," Mr Fisher-Pollard told the Herald Sun. "But I knew she wouldn't do that. She wanted to see me before she left, and she was really excited about seeing her parents the next day.
"When the police told me she was working as a prostitute, it was a double bombshell."
"I believe police thought Revelle's life was worth less because she was an escort," Ms Simpson said.
The investigation into Ms Balmain's whereabouts only began on the Monday following her disappearance, by which stage bins in the area had been emptied.
"Anything could have been in them," Ms Simpson said.
Mr Samer has said that after their appointment, he drove Ms Balmain to the nearby Red Tomato Inn, however no witnesses have reported seeing Ms Balmain or Mr Samer there.
Mr Samer was identified as a person of interest by a coronial inquiry in 1998 and 1999. Then-deputy state coroner, John Abernathy, told the inquiry "while Mr Samer certainly had the opportunity to kill Ms Balmain, and rightly in my view is the main person of interest to police, there is no plausible motive proved".
Mr Samer has always strenuously denied any involvement in Ms Balmain's disappearance and has never been charged.
"I've done nothing wrong. I hired a hooker, that's the only thing I did. Big deal," Mr Samer told the Daily Mail in 2018. "I have no fear about being arrested or charged over murdering Revelle Balmain. One, I didn't do it. Two, I've been that heavily checked over. If I was guilty, I'd already be out of jail."
One of Ms Balmain's wealthiest clients was Mark Coulton. In a statement tendered to the inquest an associate of his, Jeremy Coughlan said that during a party at Double Bay's Ritz-Carlton hotel, "Coulton said something like, 'Aren't people gullible and stupid? You've heard the story about Revelle Balmain. First there was a story about an Arab prince who took her back to Saudi Arabia … what a load of crap.
"No one will find her body. That's what you get for moonlighting and ripping off the brothel that she worked for and drugging clients … stealing all their money.
"Basically, the owner of the brothel wanted her dead because she was destroying his business.
"Isn't it amazing what money can buy to make people disappear?"
When Mr Coughlan appeared before the inquiry he "agreed that both men 'might have been a bit drunk' on champagne and, at the time, he gave no credence to Mr Coulton's story".
Mr Stanojevic has consistently denied he had anything to do with Ms Balmain's disappearance and no adverse findings were made against him.
'PAID THE HIGHEST PRICE'
Speaking in 1998, Ms Balmain's mother Jan said: "She lost her way for a little while. A lot of young people do. Most of them escape it, but Revelle was unlucky. She didn't escape it. She paid the highest possible price for the choices she made, but we don't believe that she doesn't deserve justice."
"This has changed me," Ms Simpson said. "I used to trust everyone. I don't trust anyone now. That's what Revelle's killers have done to our family. They've destroyed us."
COLD CASE UNIT
Ms Balmain's disappearance hit the headlines again in 2008 after NSW Police's cold case unit found new forensic evidence in regards to her case after searching the Kingsford house where she was last seen alive.
A NSW Police spokesperson said a $250,000 reward was still being offered by the NSW Government for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person/s responsible for her death.
"The disappearance of Revelle Balmain is an unsolved case under the responsibility of the homicide squad's unsolved homicide team," the spokesperson said.
"Ms Balmain was last seen in the Kingsford area on Saturday, November 5, 1994, with her personal property later found scattered in the streets near Avoca Street. She has not been seen since."
Detectives urge anyone with information about Ms Balmain's suspected murder to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Daniela Elser is a freelance writer.