The West

Lost prospector s wife feels strain
Helen Graham and her sister Lisa Dodson. Picture: Mary Mills

Staunch, generous and quick to crack a joke, the wife of missing prospector Michael Graham is privately riding waves of anger and frustration.

When police told her they had found signs her husband was still alive, the only emotion she felt was blissful relief.

Mrs Graham and her husband's sister Lisa Dodson had spent the past 12 days hoping for news.

Early each morning they have left the Menzies Hotel and taken the dirt road 70km to the police camp where they have waited for some sign that Mr Graham was still alive.

Each morning they have watched emergency services patrols set out.

Through the day reports came in over the radio of dry creeks and trackless earth.

They had been told Wednesday would be the last day. The search could not go on for ever. The cherry-red search helicopter had already been sent home.

That morning, on schedule, they drove out to the police camp. "We had faced the fact the search was going to be called off," Mrs Dodson said. Mrs Graham had been steeling herself for the lunchtime phone call to her son and daughter at home in Lake Macquarie, NSW.

As the two women arrived at the camp, they were met by three police vehicles leaving. A window rolled down and Acting Insp. Ricky Chadwick greeted them.

"Ricky said: 'We've found something. Follow us.' There was a realisation that this was it," Mrs Graham said.

After they were briefed about the discovery, she called her daughter on a satellite phone.

The 15-year-old was "stunned" by the good news. "It was the first sign of hope," Mrs Graham said.

"We were elated."

Mrs Graham and Mrs Dodson had been planning to drive back across the Nullarbor today in the Nissan X-Trail Mr Graham had driven in the opposite direction weeks earlier.

Now they will stay, "until we get resolution", Mrs Graham said. She said the pair felt immense gratitude to the volunteers, police, shire officers and others who had contributed to the search.

"These people are willing to just drop everything," she said. "They give their time, they leave their families, they leave their jobs for someone they don't know."

The pair plan to join emergency services volunteers when they return home.

Alongside this gratitude are feelings of helplessness. Mrs Graham and Mrs Dodson are unable to help in the ground or aerial searches for their loved one.

They make sandwiches for police and volunteers, and fetch supplies from Kalgoorlie.

Mrs Dodson left her two-year-old daughter with her husband in Taupo and took leave to support her sister-in-law.

"If nothing was found, I would have to come back," she said. "There would be no closure."

Mrs Graham, a paralegal for a multinational company with offices in North Sydney, said if her husband of 21 years was found, she would never let him go prospecting again.

"Then he'll get a good slap on the head," she said. "But whatever the conclusion, I don't think I could bring myself to come back here. I still feel like it's a nightmare."

The West Australian

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