What happened to Alana?

Alana Cecil (Supplied)

Tara Murray

Peter Cecil has been living a parent’s worst nightmare, every day, for nearly the last 28 years.

On November 10, 1996, his 16-year-old daughter Alana Cecil was found dead from an apparent drug overdose.

Police at the time said they didn’t think the death was suspicious, but that didn’t sit well with Peter.

Since the day Peter lost his beloved daughter, he has dedicated his life to find out what happened to his girl.

“I haven’t had a chance to grieve,” he said. “I go to the cemetery and talk to Alana.

“It’s been difficult and I’ve had to hold it in all of this time. I’ve missed out on a lot of things with Alana … To live with that and not share things that normal fathers do with their daughters.

“I was robbed of that and also the fact the worst part about it was that she was treated like an animal, dumped like an animal.”

Alana was found at a vacant house on the corner of Barrys and Stations roads in Melton. She had been out the night before with friends. Some reports said she was last seen in Brimbank, other people say they saw her at the Djerriwarrh Bonfire Festival.

There were drugs in Alana’s system and needle marks in both arms.

The autopsy report showed she hadn’t had drugs for three months beforehand, having successfully been through rehab.

Peter claims the initial investigation was botched. He said evidence was missed and statements from key people weren’t taken until years later and some never at all.

DNA found in and on Alana wasn’t matched to two men for six years and Peter said the autopsy report proved that she was raped.

One of those people, who was much older, was known to police and gave a no comment interview. The other said there was consensual interaction between the two.

Her belongings that were with her were never found and she was found near the house of one of her friends.

There were two coroner’s inquests and others delayed and postponed, which left the family with no answers and feeling that the system had failed them again. The first inquest gave an open finding which remains today.

A Victoria police spokesperson said a report was prepared for the coroner who determined the cause of death was heroin toxicity in a young girl with acute asthma.

Peter said there’s never been a criminal investigation and police said at the last coronial inquest that they didn’t think they would find anything 13 years down the track.

Peter said he missed the chance to seek and appeal, as he sought help for his mental health, which had deteriorated.

“Once I saw what was in the autopsy and toxicology report I needed to know what happened to her pretty quickly,” he said.

“I ended up chasing a lot of people and doing the investigation [for the police] which I shouldn’t have been doing.

“I put myself in a lot of jeopardy. The system has failed the family and Alana.

“As a father and a normal person in the community, the communication [from police] was shocking.”

A Victoria Police spokesperson said the matter has been investigated by detectives and reviews of the investigation have found it was thorough. They said allegations of wrongdoing by the detectives were unsubstantiated.

Peter has spent the past 28 years searching for answers, most of that alone.

But not anymore.

Earlier this year, podcaster Ryan Wolfe was looking for a top for his next series of Guilt, which looks at unsolved crimes.

He received an email about Alana’s story and it stuck with him.

“I was struggling to find a case to pick up, for me personally I emotionally invest so much into a case,” Ryan said.

“People had sent through tons of cases to look at and I knew I wanted to do an Australian case, for some reason this particular case … it just connected with me.

“It was such a young girl and clearly something wasn’t right here.”

Ryan quickly made the trip to Australia from New Zealand and headed to Melton, a place he had never heard before.

He said there was a lot that had surprised him as he started to investigate the case.

Ryan , like Peter, has found there are “definitely” holes in the work that the police have done.

He said that Peter has taken this all on his shoulders until now.

“He’s been amazing really, in a way it has ruined his life. He’s lost his daughter, he has just dedicated his life to trying to find out what happened.”

Episodes of the podcast are released weekly, with the eighth episode becoming available for free on June 3.

Speaking after the first three episodes had been released, Ryan said there had been people forward with new information.

He has spoken with friends, family and those who spent time with Alana growing up. Some have never spoken before.

“It’s to give it a chance that there could be some justice for her after all these years,” he said.

“It’s always good when people start coming forward, that is what I do this for, to make a difference, try and get a resolution.

“I have a new witness that they’ve never had before and it could change this entire case.

“It’s not just about making content for me, it’s about the investigation first, podcast second. There are some big revelations to come in this case and I hope more people come forward.

“I know there’s more people out there that know more of what happened.”

Ryan said he feels like he’s getting to know Alana even though he has never met her. He saw some video for the first time recently and it was incredible to put a voice to her.

He said he wants to be able to do her justice and get the truth whatever that truth is.

Ryan started the podcast in February and said Peter’s research had made it a lot easier for him.

He said the podcast was an ongoing thing and dependent on what new information comes available, but at this stage expects it to be about 20 episodes.

“I want Australians and locals to have the podcast make their blood boil,” he said. “Think what if that was my daughter?”

For Peter, he’s hoping this podcast will finally give him the answers that he has been after.

And, he doesn’t want any other family to go through what he has.

“Hopefully I finally get a chance to grieve and have peace, I’ve never had peace,” an emotional Peter said. “It’s also for Alana getting her justice for that they did to her.

“Talking about it like this, is pretty hard for me. This is what has happened to me an my family, I don’t want it to happen to another family.

“How we’ve been treated by the system … It’s been unfair, it should have been solved by now.”

The police spokesperson said if new evidence, or witnesses were located, detectives would make an assessment as to their value before considering next steps.

To listen to the podcast: open.spotify.com/show/3LxK0NL9Dz4wuW5xp4SMRa