Natasha Ryan.

four years her family thought that a serial killer had killed fourteen-year-old Natasha Ryan. But during the process of the alleged perpetrator, the Australian teenage girl was suddenly found. The police had spent about 250,000 euros on the search for Ryan. She herself, together with her ‘kidnapper’, would then have earned more from the rights to her unlikely story.

Natasha Ryan fooled Australia and the rest of the world twenty years ago. She disappeared on August 31, 1998 in Rockhampton in the Australian state of Queensland. Leonard John Fraser, a psychopathic serial killer, also named Natasha Ryan as one of his five victims. Fifteen years ago, the murder trial was against Fraser in Brisbane. That was going on when on April 10, 2003, the detectives, who had been searching for years for the missing teenager and thought her death, found Natasha Ryan alive and well in a wardrobe in a house, not far from where her parents lived. On Ryan’s seventeenth birthday they even held a memorial service for their daughter.

Less than two years later, the fourteen-year-old Ryan already had a relationship with the 21-year-old milkman Scott Black in 1998. She moved in with him and Black hid her in a closet in his house. Hence Ryans nickname in Australia: ‘girl in the closet’. For four and a half years, she hid with her boyfriend at various locations in Rockhampton and in the nearby coastal town of Yeppoon. She hardly came out. In order not to be caught, she even hand-made her sanitary napkins with strips of towel. Her last shelter was not far from her parental home.

Scott Black and Natasha Ryan.

Natasha Ryan was a troublesome teenager, who constantly argued with her mother and was suspended by her school. She fled from that situation with her lover, Scott Black. “He protected me and I was the cause. It was my fault that he did,” she said later in an interview with New Idea in 2007. “It was my own decision to walk away.”

She got some money from those interviews. 60 Minutes from Channel 9 and two magazines reportedly have paid 155,000 for its exclusive story. She also received money from the international. For the British tabloid News of the World she even posed in ‘her closet’. She sold the photos of her pregnancies and that of her marriage to her ‘kidnapper’ Scott Black in 2008. That last deal would have yielded some 120,000 euros.

It was suggested that all that money should go to the expensive police investigation. And also, that the couple had to go to the cell. In 2005 Scott was sentenced to perjury for three years, of which he had to sit for 12 months. Ryan got a small fine of just over 600 euros because she was responsible for the useless investigation. The fine for Scott Black was 1,850 euros. In contrast to Ryan, who was not considered financially capable of doing so by the court, he had to cough up almost 10,000 euros for the police’s investigative work.

©REUTERS – Natasha Ryan when she was found in 2003.

Now, fifteen years after Natasha Ryan was found, the Black family, with three children, has disappeared into anonymity. Ryan took the name Tash Black and would now work as a nurse. The last time her husband, Scott Black, came into the open, was when he refused a breath test in 2011 after a fight between the couple. He had to appear in court and known debt. He ran a fine of 500 euros and a driving ban of nine months.

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