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Hayley body hunt stuns remote town
Shocked: Carolyne Byers. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

The sight of a big stocky man on a motorcycle coming up the driveway of her remote north Queensland farmhouse frightened Carolyne Byers.

Frank Wark turned up at the 24-hectare property, which is shrouded by dense trees and virtually invisible from the road, unannounced one day in early 2000.

Mrs Byers' husband Clint went to see what the unexpected visitor wanted.

Wark said he was interested in buying the property, which was on the market, and wanted to have a look around.

After perusing the house and land for two hours, Wark offered to buy it in cash and pulled a $10,000 cheque out of his pocket as a deposit.

Mr and Mrs Byers were stunned. This kind of thing didn't happen in the isolated rural community of Millaa Millaa. The sale was agreed.

Less than seven years later, Francis John Wark abducted, bashed and raped a woman he took captive at the property.

Wark, who was born and bred in WA, is serving a 12-year sentence in a Queensland prison for the brutal attack.

Wark's life and crimes in Millaa Millaa have come to light after the 57-year-old was linked to the disappearance of WA teenager Hayley Dodd.

Police are now using ground-penetrating radar to search a Wheatbelt property that was owned by Wark at the time of Hayley's 1999 disappearance.

Wark sold the Badgingarra home four months after Hayley went missing.

He got on his motorbike and, with his staffie dog Miss Piggy sitting on the tank, drove about 5364km to north Queensland and started a new life.

Mrs Byers told The Weekend West that Wark did not explain why he had left WA.

Instead he told her of his plans for her property, 100km south-west of Cairns.

"He was talking about him and his brother going to grow trees, like put in plantation trees and make money out of them, then have cattle up the top," she said.

No one in Millaa Millaa who spoke to The Weekend West this week recalled ever seeing or meeting Wark's brother.

Mrs Byers said the property they sold, set on a hillside with a creek running through the middle, was beautiful, tranquil and "you're not going to get much more remote than that".

When Mrs Byers later heard of Wark's crimes there, she said she felt sickened, knowing they had sold the property to him.

"It would have happened probably anywhere, but we lived there and it's such a tranquil place and always has been," she said. "Now it's like the place has been tainted."

News that police, armed with new information about Hayley's disappearance, are searching Wark's former property has further shocked Millaa Millaa's insular community of 300 people.

Wark had been living in Millaa Millaa for five years when Don McHardie took over the town store in 2005.

Mr McHardie said Wark was a "Jekyll and Hyde character" best avoided when he had been drinking because he became aggressive and wanted to fight someone.

"When he was sober, he was quite good," he said. "It's all too much now to think he's got anything to do with this girl in WA."

WA police officers have reportedly gone to Queensland to interview Wark in prison.