Dakota Spotlight special: How a family turned to a podcast for help after being dismissed by police

When 51-year-old Australian schoolteacher Marion Barter disappeared while taking a sabbatical to travel the world local authorities dismissed the family's concerns. 25 years later, the dogged efforts of The Lady Vanishes podcast are uncovering a disturbing story.

Marion Barter of Australia traveled abroad in 1997 and then vanished. Contributed / Seven News, Australia
We are part of The Trust Project.

Editor's note: This is a special 'between seasons' episode of the Dakota Spotlight podcast. James Wolner, founder and host of the podcast, features unique and interesting interviews in the world of true crime on the podcast between seasons of the show.

When her 51-year-old, divorced and single mother failed to return to Australia from a trip abroad, Sally Leydon asked the police for help. Authorities dismissed her concerns and maintained that Sally's mother, Marion Barter, had disappeared voluntarily and was alive and well. 25 years later, an Australian podcast is uncovering the chilling truth behind Marion Barter's disappearance.

Listen to: Interview with Alison Sandy of The Lady Vanishes podcast

Get Dakota Spotlight on your favorite podcast app Apple | Spotify | Google

Three years in the making, through dogged research and investigation, The Lady Vanishes podcast has painstakingly done what Australian authorities were reluctant to do. Their findings are uncovering a disturbing scenario. Was Marion Barter a victim of a confidence scheme choreographed by a con man with a criminal past? If so, what happened to Marion Barter? Thanks to The Lady Vanishes podcast, the world may soon find out.


In this episode of Dakota Spotlight, James Wolner again speaks with Alison Sandy , journalist and producer of The Lady Vanishes, to discuss the case. Dakota Spotlight first interviewed Alison Sandy for this story in 2021.

Australian journalist Alison Sandy teamed up with Seven News Australia to help Sally Leydon look for answers about her missing mother Marion Barter. Contributed / Seven News Australia
Marion Barter worked for years as a schoolteacher before vanishing in 1997 Contributed / Seven News Australia
Sally Leydon is the driving force behind efforts to find out what happened to her mother. Contributed / Seven News, Australia
More from Dakota Spotlight
'Clinker' found on the engine block of Michele 'Shelly' Julson's abandoned car in 1994 may be linked to an early sighting in rural Burleigh County, North Dakota, the Dakota Spotlight true crime podcast reports.

James Wolner is a Digital Content Producer at Forum Communications Company, Fargo North Dakota and the creator, producer and host of Dakota Spotlight, a true crime podcast. He has lived the Upper Midwest since 2013 and studied photojournalism at California State University at Fresno. He is fluent in English and Swedish.
What to read next
Eighteen miles northwest of Bemidji, in the backwoods of Buzzle Township, is Pinewood — once an operative logging camp filled with lumberjacks and early settlers. Throughout its history, this once lively community has become a place of unsolved mysteries, two bank robberies, a bizarre train derailment and multiple wildfires.
From the vaults of American author and television documentarian William Jackson, The Dickinson Press presents this Dakota Mysteries and Oddities story exploring North Dakota's death penalty and the final words of those few who faced it.