The daughter of a missing WWII veteran who vanished without a trace 30 years ago has pleaded for answers into her father’s mysterious disappearance, as police announce a hefty reward for information relating to the cold case.
Leslie Ralph Ball, 71, was last seen around midday on April 18, 1993 at his family’s Yolanda Drive home in Annandale, a suburb in Townsville.
He was reported missing on May 22 that same year.
Days later, police discovered the ex-RAAF serviceman’s car abandoned at the Townsville Railway Station and his burned out trailer and possessions in bushland near Stuart.
Mr Ball’s body has never been found and two coronial inquests – one held in 1994-95 and another held over 2022 – have not provided clear answers as to how he died.
Queensland Police on Tuesday announced a $500,000 reward for information which could help crack the cold case and help investigations into Mr Ball’s disappearance and suspected murder.
Le-Chelle Lesley, Mr Ball’s daughter, said her family was extremely hopeful someone would come forward with the information needed to provide them answers.
“Almost 31 years after my father’s death, it would mean everything to know what happened and have some closure,” she said.
“We ask anyone who knew my father, if you know what happened to him, if you know something, speak to police.”
Detective Senior Sergeant Tara Kentwell from the Cold Case Investigation Team said Mr Ball’s disappearance was considered suspicious by police and claimed there were people “who know what happened”.
“Leslie’s disappearance was out of character and he had upcoming plans in life he was looking forward to with the purchase of a house in Cardwell,” Senior Sergeant Kentwell said.
“A $500,000 reward is now in place for information that may lead to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for Leslie’s disappearance.
“Any information no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, could be the key to bringing closure for Leslie’s family.
At the time of his disappearance Mr Ball, who served in Darwin during the 1940s, was in the process of settling on a property he was to move into in Cardwell, in Queensland’s Cassowary Coast Region.
He was living with one of his daughters, Leanne Phillips, and her husband, Dave.
Police investigations into his last movements revealed a train ticket from Townsville to Brisbane had been purchased in Mr Ball’s name a few days before he disappeared.
But the ticket was determined to be fake – the signature appeared to be forged and the assigned seat on the Brisbane train was marked as not occupied.
Further inquiries with Queensland Rail determined Mr Ball never boarded the train.
During the 1994-95 inquest, a coroner determined that a person, or persons, deliberately tried to convey the impression Mr Ball travelled to Brisbane by train, leaving his vehicle unattended in Townsville.
A review by the Homicide Cold Case Investigation Team over 2010-17 prompted the inquest to be reopened in 2019.
In June 2023, Deputy State Coroner Stephanie Gallagher found Mr Ball was deceased and he likely died on or about April 18, 1993, but could not make findings as to the cause of his death.
Brian Murphy, a friend of Mr Phillips, told the inquest Mr Phillips had confessed to “unmercifully” bashing and killing Mr Ball.
Mr Murphy gave evidence Mr Phillips claimed Mr Ball had offended with a family member “sexually”.
Mr Phillips had also claimed to have recruited someone who looked “remarkably like his father-in-law” as a front for one of Mr Ball’s neighbours, before burying the body.
Mr Phillips died of natural causes in 2015.
Coroner Gallagher ultimately found there was no evidence to support this claim.
The $500,000 Queensland Government reward is for information which leads to the apprehension and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Mr Ball’s suspected murder.
The government reward further offers an opportunity for indemnity against prosecution for any accomplice, not being the person who actually committed the murder, who first gives such information.
“Anyone with knowledge of Leslie’s movements between 18 and 19 April, 1993, or who may have information relating to his disappearance, is urged to contact police,” Senior Sergeant Kentwell said.