Illawarra's Jean Docherty dies without answers

She was the strong, devoted mother who battled for decades to discover why her fresh-faced teen daughter Kay disappeared without a trace from a Warilla street on a July evening 35years ago.

Sadly, Jean Docherty will never find the answers she was looking for, after she passed away with son Kevin by her side last Wednesday.

The Scottish-born mother of two is survived by her brother Alex and several siblings overseas.

Her daughter Kay, 15, was with her friend Toni Cavanagh, 16, when the pair disappeared without a trace on Friday, July 27, 1979.

They were last seen alive at a bus stop outside the Warilla Grove Shopping Centre about 7.30pm.

The missing persons case has been one of the Illawarra’s most baffling and enduring cold cases.

After Mrs Docherty’s death, Kevin spoke of the close bond he shared with his 81-year-old mother, and the devastating impact his twin sister Kay’s disappearance had on her life.

‘‘When Kay went missing I sort of clung onto mum, and she clung onto me,’’ he said.

‘‘We had a special bond – we shared our love with each other every morning and every night. We never missed a day. 

‘‘We loved each other the most and I treated every day as her last day.’’

Mrs Docherty was a devoted mother who strived to give her children everything they desired – often at her own expense.

‘‘She wouldn’t want to deprive me or take anything away from me because of what happened, so she would always get me what she could on my birthday and made sure I had a great day even if it was hard for her,’’ he said.

‘‘She was always thinking of other people.’’

Sorting through some old photos, 50-year-old Kevin discovered his mum had kept every birthday card she had ever given him. 

She also continued buying birthday cards for Kay more than three decades after her disappearance.

Mrs Docherty’s only vice was a good cuppa each day – or six, if she felt the need.

On Sunday, Kevin remembered her as a strong woman who always ‘‘picked herself up’’ and did painful media interviews, even when it was too difficult to bear.

The inquest in August last year was the ‘‘final straw’’ for Mrs Docherty, who was left heartbroken when Deputy State Coroner Geraldine Beattie found Kay and Toni had most probably been murdered within days of their disappearance.

‘‘I know when we got home [from the inquest] mum was brokenhearted, she was a mess,’’ Kevin said.

‘‘She didn’t want to hear that word ‘murdered’. I know she was doing it tough with that.’’

Soon after, Mrs Docherty contracted pneumonia and her health rapidly declined.

Even in her final hours, Mrs Docherty was still hopeful that one day Kay’s disappearance would be solved.

‘‘I know it was a long time and most people would’ve given up, but mum would never give up,’’ Kevin said.

‘‘In the last few hours I was still saying, ‘Look mum, I’m going to work hard to get some answers’.

‘‘I’m a man on a mission now, even though she won’t get the answers.’’

Jean Docherty’s funeral will be held at the Northcliffe Chapel of Hansen and Cole, Kembla Grange, at 2pm on Thursday. 

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