Here, 10 residents live within spitting distance of each other on a featureless stretch in Australia’s remote outback, 500 kilometres down the Stuart Highway from Darwin.
But almost a year on from the day locals first raised the alarm, the disappearance of Larrimah man Paddy Moriarty, 70, and his kelpie Kellie remains a disturbing mystery.
Despite extensive searches, public appeals and a coronial inquest, police appear no closer to unravelling the truth.
Larrimah — already a dysfunctional tangle of disputes and disagreements — is now in a state of disarray.
Long-time local publican Barry Sharpe has sold his Pink Panther-themed watering hole, along with his large pet saltwater crocodile Sneeky Sam.
Up the highway, the Devonshire tea house advertising scones along with buffalo and camel pies remains open, but proprietor Fran Hodgetts says the last year has taken a devastating toll on her health and her business.
There are others contemplating a “permanent break”.
Last year one man and his dog vanished. But almost all of Larrimah, as it exists now, could be swallowed up in the wake.
Police have interviewed every resident. All say they had nothing to do with Paddy’s disappearance.
There are persons of interest being investigated outside of Larrimah.
Each resident has their own theory about what may have happened.
Lead investigator Detective Sergeant Matt Allen is treating it as an unsolved homicide.
While he can’t completely rule out misadventure he feels compelled to consider the “worst-case scenario.”
“Somebody out there knows what happened to Paddy and Kellie,” he said.
“It’s difficult for people to keep secrets; often they want to tell someone.”
There are a lot of ways to go missing in the outback.
Larrimah’s remaining residents have had plenty of time to mull them over.
“Wild pigs. Dingoes … crocodiles. There’s plenty of ways to get rid of a body, isn’t there?” mused the oldest local, Len Hodson, 82.
Such disappearances aren’t unknown in the NT — the Stuart Highway fairly vibrates with stories of murder and mayhem.
“It’s been going on for years where people have just disappeared off the face of the earth and no one’s got an explanation for it,” said Larrimah man Barry Burke, who goes by the nickname “Cookie.”
According to then-bartender Richard Simpson and other witness accounts, the Irish-born pensioner spent the afternoon of December 16, 2017 at the Pink Panther Hotel.
It’s estimated Paddy drank about 10 mid-strength beers over a number of sweltering hours, just a couple of cans above his daily average.
As the sun was setting, he fired up his red quad bike and departed, his kelpie riding shotgun.
A few hundred metres from the pub, in his own home, police say evidence confirms Paddy microwaved some leftover chicken for his kelpie and prepared some frozen dim sims for himself.
And then, with no sign of a struggle or suggestion of a planned exit, the man and his red dog were gone.
If there’s one thing that unites the estranged residents of this place, it’s that they all believe Paddy is dead, most probably killed.
Why are they so convinced there’s been foul play?
To understand that, you have to understand Paddy Moriarty.
And you need to understand an isolated spot where emotions run high, feuds run long, and personalities are larger than life.
Until they’re not.
And when something goes wrong, it can go wrong on a spectacular scale.
As publican Barry Sharpe puts it: “10 people live in this town; to my way of thinking, one of them’s a murderer.”
00:00 Chapter One – A Blip on the Highway
11:00 Chapter Two – The Larrikin and the Mongrel
25:32 Chapter Three – The Pie Wars
38:05 Chapter Four – A Man’s Best Friend
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