“Tash was more than the girl in the cupboard”: The woman at the centre of the famous case has died

Her heartbroken family tells.
natasha ryan

Natasha Ryan was involved in one of the most bizarre missing person cases Australia has ever seen. In 2003, the teenager, thought to have been a victim of a local serial killer, was found alive in a cupboard almost five years after her disappearance.

Now, nearly 26 years on, tragedy has struck her family again after Natasha’s body was discovered on a Rockhampton golf course on June 2.

The 40-year-old’s death is not being treated as suspicious. Family and friends have taken to social media to remember the beloved mother of four and radiology nurse.

“My heart is shattered that I have lost a little sister earthside,” her sister Donna Bradbury shared.

“You loved hard, laughed loud, and gave loyalty its definition … Fly high and fly free sissy.”

natasha ryan walking on the beach in a white dress
A picture of Natasha Ryan was shared by her mum following the tragic news. (Credit: Facebook)

Trudy McCabe said she “had the pleasure of working with Tash” and that “she was a fabulous nurse and a treasured friend.”

Cathie Horne added: “We know Tash, not just from her past, but from how she helped our daughter when she was her nurse.

“She grew into a wonderful person and I will never forget the kindness she showed.”

In 1998, a 14-year-old Natasha was reported missing by her mother, Jenny. After years of investigations, police presumed she was dead.

Serial killer Leonard John Fraser was charged with her murder and her devastated family held a memorial service on what would have been her 17th birthday.

Shockingly, a year later, Queensland police received a tip that she was alive.

natasha ryan and her mother pose for a photo in from of a 19th birthday cake for natasha
Natasha and her mum celebrated the special times she’d missed. (Credit: Supplied)

The then 18-year-old was found cowering in her boyfriend Scott Black’s cupboard, where she would hide whenever someone came to the house.

Natasha had only been outside a handful of times and, despite living just a few kilometres from her mother, had never reached out to her.

Despite expressing huge remorse for what she’d done to her family, Natasha never fully explained why she ran away in the first place.

“I’m never going to say publicly why I left,” she told New Idea in November 2007. “I know why I left. I’m not sure my mum and my sister completely know all the reasons.

“I’m not sure it would make any difference saying why I left – I feel whatever I say wouldn’t be good enough for the pain I’ve caused my family.”

In 2005, Scott, then 28, was sentenced to one year in jail for lying to police about Natasha’s disappearance. The following year, she was found guilty of causing a false police investigation and fined $1000.

natasha ryan's bag packed away in a cupboard
Natasha Ryan never revealed why she ran away. (Credit: Supplied)

But what they went through didn’t change the couple’s connection and they married in 2008, with Natasha’s family by her side.

She told media beforehand that she was excited to shed her surname.

“I don’t want it. I’m sick of being known as Natasha Ryan, ‘the girl in the cupboard’. I made mistakes and I’m sorry that I hurt my family, but now I want to start a new life.” And that’s exactly what she did.

Away from the glare of international media, the newly named Tash Black became a mother to four children and studied nursing. “She was a person who made a mistake,” a friend said in tribute.

“She had a family, she was a devoted mum who loved her kids, she had a good job and just wanted a peaceful life.

“Remember her now for who she was.”

A report will be prepared for the coroner.

If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues in this article, help is always available. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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