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Payphone key to 10-year mystery

A LONELY payphone on the side of the road in a tiny town 262km north of Melbourne holds the key to solving a missing persons case that has police stumped and a grieving family scratching for answers.

It’s from the Telstra phone booth just outside Leitchville Post Office that a call was made shortly before midnight to the mobile phone of Krystal Fraser.

Ms Fraser, 23 and heavily pregnant at the time, had hours earlier disembarked a train not far from her home at Pyramid Hill, an 18-minute drive from where the call originated.

Nobody knows who was calling, but that’s just one unanswered question in a case with too few answers.

Nobody knows whose baby she was days away from giving birth to. Nobody knows what happened to her after she took that call. It’s that mystery that led friends to wonder whether Ms Fraser, who had the mental age of a 14-year-old, was living a double life.

“Whose baby was it?” lead investigator Detective Sergeant Wayne Woltsche asked in 2012.

“No one has ever admitted they are the father of the child to us, but a number of people have admitted they had relationships with her,” Woltshe told Fairfax.

This week though, after months without a solid lead, police made an arrest. A 61-year-old man from Pyramid Hill was taken in for questioning, Victoria Police said in a statement on Tuesday.

He was released shortly after pending further inquiries. Police have not revealed his identity but the news has reignited interest in the case.

Ms Fraser was last seen about 9.40pm on June 20, 2009, at a home in Albert St, in Pyramid Hill — a town named after the hill that rises 180m above sea level, where no more than 500 people live.

That day, she had checked herself out of Bendigo Hospital where she was planning on giving birth. The baby was due within three days.

After leaving hospital, Ms Fraser rode the train to Pyramid Hill, a journey that should’ve taken no longer than 1.5 hours.

At the time of her disappearance, she was wearing black pants, an orange top and a camouflaged-patterned baseball cap.

Fairfax reported in 2012 that locals “reckon there is prime suspect”, but they did not name him.

“I’ve got nothing to say about (her disappearance),” he told The Age at the time. “I gave (the homicide squad) all the information I could and they’ve used it against me.

“It’s turned my life upside down. They’ve tried to turn my mates against me.”

Ms Fraser had an intellectual disability that was undefined but her mum Karen said she was “just not quite right”.

“It could get frustrating,” she said. “But underneath she was a really, really good person.

“She didn’t like my rules (such as) ‘get home at a decent hour, tell us where you are, come home for tea’, just normal shit like that.”

Ms Fraser carried her mobile phone around with her at all times and would text or call the family frequently. It was out of character for her not to be in touch.

It’s that information that led detectives to believe from the beginning that she’d met with foul play.

Police believe the 23-year-old was murdered and that her body is waiting to be found. But they also believe somebody knows something more.

In June, 2012 police issued a reward of up to $100,000 for information relating to Ms Fraser’s disappearance.

Police say the reward will be paid at the discretion of the Chief Commissioner for information leading to the apprehension and subsequent conviction of the person or persons responsible for Ms Fraser’s death.

“Investigators would like to thank everyone who has provided information over the past nine years and continue to appeal to anyone who has knowledge of her whereabouts to come forward,” a police spokesperson said this week.

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.

rohan.smith1@news.com.au | @ro_smith