Before The Podcast: A Look into the Media Representation of Janine Vaughan’s Disappearance

True Crime Podcasts have the power to increase discussion, gain new evidence and insight witnesses to come forward. Hedley Thomas’ new podcast The Night Driver focuses around the disappearance of Janice Vaughn, who on December 7th 2001 jumped into a car on a night out and was never seen again. In order to fully examine how podcasts can impact individual case I want to explore how online discourse and media representation changes from before the podcast was released, during the podcast release and any lasting effects from the podcast.

So where do we start then?

Custom Google search for “Janine Vaughan”

Well by searching the internet for the term “Janine Vaughan” but using a custom time frame that doesn’t show results from after 2019, in order to avoid any changed discussion from the podcast. I have gathered a range of media sources from popular publications, local publication, online forums and blogs. Each of these will help me to understand how I as an outsider to the case am impacted by the media.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Articles

Australian Breaking News Headlines & World News Online | SMH.com.au
SMH

“Police probe red car’s driver over Janine Vaughan’s disappearance” By Ben Weir and Sally Rawsthorne

In early 2019 the SMH posted an article focused around the “red car”. While this article included details such as where the car was seen, it also included allegations that another woman had been “stalked” minutes before Janine disappeared but pointed out the car did not belong to Mr Hoseman. 

An angle that not many other articles took was the discussion of Janine’s family distrust in the police force, as well as flaws in the investigation with evidence going missing. The article included direct quotes from Janine’s brother who even said he “had zero hope”.

Reader action – While the $1 million reward was mentioned, there were no contacts provided.

“The search for Janine”

Comparing their 2019 article to their 2002 article showed some dramatic differences, not just in information but in the angle of the story. The article instead focused on the type of person Janine was, this included discussion surrounding her previous relationship that didn’t work out, her interest in abstract drawings and wanting to buy a house. This was much more personal as it included direct quotes from friends and a complimentary physical description that was unrelated from police reports.

Reader action – Even in 2002 there was no links provided to direct information to police

Muswellbrook Chronicle

Muswellbrook Chronicle Recent Obituaries: All of Muswellbrook Chronicle's  Recent Obituaries
Legacy

“Janine Vaughan case: Police still waiting for DNA results” By Jacinta Carroll

This local chronicle comes from the town Janine was from with this particular recent article coming from 2019. Emphasis is placed on the use of DNA samples and forensic analysis, with Superintendent Cook stating it is “crucial to the investigation”. Similarly details of the “small red vehicle” are given and have included that the superintendent was “very focused on that car” even stating that he knew who the owner of the car was and will be talking to him.

Readers actions – Not only was the $1 million mentioned, but links for people to contact Crime Stoppers reassuring reader that the call can be anonymous.

Missing Person Australia Facebook

Missing Person – Australia

Facebook has been used a helpful to share information and get in touch with audiences, so in 2019 Missing Person Australia posted about Janine hoping to receive more information. This post offered a detailed description of the last night Janine was seen with information surrounding her disappearance included. 

Unlike some other sources, this post also included evidence Janine’s handbag (that she was not using the night she disappeared) was found in a drain, while the handbag she was using was discovered shoved into the bathroom and covered with chips. The post goes into detail of Janine’s description, from her physical appearances and less obvious traits. 

Reader actions – Post includes $1 million reward, with the call to action “do you know something?” along with Crime Stoppers number or advice to contact local police station. The post also links further resources to read about more evidence and information from the case.

Unsolved True Crime       

“Priority Cold Case of Janine Vaughan Gets a New Review Team – Will they find evidence of a police killer or an unknown predator?” By Tasmin Francis

Australian True Crime & Unsolved Mysteries is a website that discusses evidence and information related to cold cases, this blog post from 2018 reviews the cases and focuses on the suspect Mr Hoseman. This source gives a full overview of the cases including less published pieces of information. The discussion of Mr Hoseman included his indecent assault against a female, his interest in Janine and Janine’s conversations of being harassed by Mr Hoseman. Though the blog post points out that his alibi does not include the night of Janine’s disappearance, but there is not enough reliable evidence or criminal charges to connect Hoseman and Janine.

This blog post also included different accounts and “confessions” that have not led to any prosecutions. Such as the unreliable witness that stated they saw Janine looking distresses in a car with her hands tied, or the bloodied knife found in Bathurst which belonged to a man who “confessed” he killed Janine in detail, but later said he was joking and had bipolar. 

Unlike other news sources, this blog includes photos of transcripts, texts and statements to corroborate their evidence.

Reader action – Points out $100,00 reward (had not increased to 1 million yet) and also encourages readers to contact Crime Stoppers with information.

Websleuths

Websleuths
Websleuths

“Missing but not forgotten”

Websleuths is completely different from any other media source, as it is an internet community that provides forums for users to discuss, share and classify information surrounding crimes and cases. The Janine Vaughan forum was started in 2014 and is updated daily. When accessing the forum many users shared helpful articles, personal opinions and new updates in the case. As many sources and news articles were shared, users would even describe details from articles that were hidden behind a paywall, providing evidence for everyone to discuss. 

Through this forum I was able to read a personal blog that was written by women who lived in the house that Janine used to live in with her grandparents that offered lots of personal insight around Janine’s family life and her connection to them.

Users in the forum are so committed to the case that they would even share the exact address of new campaign banners about the case going up in Bathurst, so that locals reading could go to see them. Or even coordinating to leave flowers for Janine and her family at the place of her disappearance. 

Reader action – The forum offers an endless amount of resources and information surrounding the case, with the very first discussion in 2014 directing readers to Crime Stoppers and the Australian Missing Person Register. 

Resources:

Carroll, J (2019) “Janine Vaughan case: Police still waiting for DNA results” Muswellbrook Chronicle

Francis, T (2018) “Priority Cold Case of Janine Vaughan Gets a New Review Team – Will they find evidence of a police killer or an unknown predator?” Unsolved, AUSTRALIAN TRUE CRIME & UNSOLVED MYSTERIES

SMH (2002) “The search for Janine” The Sydney Morning Herald

Websleuths (2014) “Missing but not forgotten Discussion – 2000’s Missing ‘Australia – Janine Vaughan, 31, Bathurst, Nsw, 7 December 2001′” Websleuths

Weir, B & Rawsthorne, S (2019) “Police probe red car’s driver over Janine Vaughan’s disappearance” The Sydney Morning Herald

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