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Remember to Smile: Looking for Kate


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  • ISBN: 978-1-910237-38-0

  • Published mid-May 2018

  • Price £15.00 + postage

  • 228 pages

  • Illustrated with 55 colour photographs



About this Book:

Where was Kate? Coming from a long line of adventurers Liz and Patrick’s middle daughter Kate was far from conventional. Wilfully independent, she had travelled the world before finally settling in Bali, calling her family in England every week regaling them with letters and photographs of her continuing adventures. But now she’d gone quiet.
For three weeks there were no calls, letters or emails. It was as if Kate had vanished from the face of the earth.
Local police had found no trace of Kate and, dissatisfied with the investigation, her parents, supported by two British police detectives, went to Indonesia to search for answers...
Told by Kate’s mother, this is a story of love, hope and tragedy, as two desperate parents enter an alien world of extreme backpackers, ex-pats, corrupt officials and violent criminals in a real life version of 'The Beach'. Only one thing was certain. Their lives would never be the same again.
A prolific photographer and talented writer, Kate’s letters also form a major part of this book. Endearingly written, they are vivid, funny and full of personality – vibrant vignettes of how she feels, what she sees, and what she believes. There is a sense of a beautiful, questing spirit, always seeking, but never quite finding her place in the world – quick to laugh, always there for others, always remembering to smile.


Is it time to let go?: mother tells story of daughter who never came home

In Bali, on the night of 18 April 2003, Kate Osborne disappeared. Her family in the UK didn’t know for three weeks – they had been trying to call her in that time with growing panic. It was unusual, but Kate, who had been living on the Indonesian island for two years was nearly 35, and had been complaining about her unreliable phone. After three weeks of no contact, they went to the Foreign Office.
Her mother Elizabeth tries to find the words to describe how they felt in those first few weeks and months after they discovered Kate had disappeared. She can’t. “I can tell you that you feel sick with dread, apprehension,” she says slowly. “Physically sick.” There were glints of futile hope that somehow their adventurous, travelling daughter would walk through the gate of their farmhouse or phone to say she was in another country. Elizabeth kept calling Kate’s phone. “Someone must have been charging it because it [rang] for quite a long time.”
It was on the plane to Bali, nearly two months after Kate’s disappearance that Elizabeth just felt she knew that her daughter was dead – so did Kate’s father, Patrick. Elizabeth writes in her book, Remember to Smile: “We both felt it. The main thing was to find her body, find out what happened and bring her home.”
Fifteen years on, that hasn’t happened. The family has also had to live through what she describes as a deeply unsatisfactory investigation by Indonesian police, tabloid press reports that Kate was mixed up in some kind of drugs underworld, a private investigation that failed to uncover much new information and numerous false leads and sightings. Life carries on, as it does, in no small part, I suspect, to Elizabeth, whose warmth belies a steely side. They live in an idyllic spot in Cumbria, with fading daffodils lining the drive and dogs in the yard.

It was Kate’s childhood home, where as a teenager exploring an adventurous side, she would go walking across the fells or ride her pony until after dark. She had been quite a difficult child, says Elizabeth with a laugh. “Very loving,” she says, but “very needy”. She hated to be left alone but would later develop an independent streak.
As a young woman, she travelled through South America and southeast Asia. Back at home, restless, she bought and renovated a camper van and would take off across Europe. She was a confident and experienced traveller, which reassured Elizabeth, though she could also be naïve and trusting. “We did have frights,” she says. “She was mugged in South American and knifed in the face.”
Kate settled in Bali in 2001, renting a house and getting a weimaraner puppy. Hugely creative, in London she had worked for the interiors company David Hicks and she planned to set up a company exporting Balinese furniture. In June of that year, she rang her parents to say she was engaged. She hadn’t mentioned this man, known to her as Joseph (he had several aliases), a Peruvian surfer, before. Elizabeth says: “I was absolutely shocked. She said she was coming home for the summer and she said he was going to come, too. Of course he never came, and I’m certain now he never intended in coming. But there was this childlike aspect to Kate and that always worried us. She believed him.”
Elizabeth could sense things were not right. “That’s why I rang her regularly because I could feel it in her voice.” The phone bills were huge, she says, but she remembers telling Patrick she wanted to keep a “lifeline” open to their daughter. Later, they would be told that Joseph – who would later be convicted in Peru for drugs smuggling – had been violent and abusive to Elizabeth. That led them to look back on incidents Kate had told her about. “Once she did tell us that she’d had to go to hospital with a cut on her head. She told us she slipped on rocks.”

Elizabeth Osborne at her home in Brampton, Cumbria. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Eventually Kate and Joseph’s relationship finished – he had gone into rehab in Lima for drug addiction – and she was in the middle of plans to come home, sorting out paperwork for her beloved dog, when she disappeared. Joseph is believed not to have been in the country at the time.Elizabeth threw herself into the investigation, calling anyone in Bali and its expat community she thought may have information and passing it on to the police. The two officers from Cumbrian police who had been assigned to the case were “absolutely fantastic” but she says they were hampered by their Indonesian counterparts who didn’t seem to take the case seriously (they didn’t, she says, forensically examine her house).
“It was incredibly frustrating,” says Elizabeth. “I never felt anger. The girls, Christian and Ruth [Kate’s sisters], felt really angry about certain aspects. I think what helped me was I had a real job to do. I was very conscious that I must be as sharp as a tack.” She stopped drinking wine in the evening and took up coffee. “I knew we had to be so on the ball and think of anything and everything – anyone we could contact who might have some idea.”
The investigation kept her going, gave her something to focus on. “I would go and throw myself on my bed, absolutely crying my eyes out.” Her voice breaks and she dabs at her eyes. “Sorry. You don’t know when it’s going to happen,” she says of the tears. “Late at night, I would do this with Christian in particular, all we could do was hug each other. I cannot tell you how awful it was.”
She wound down her own search when a private investigating firm took over. They were expensive and a practical-minded relative asked when Elizabeth might give up the search. “I said I didn’t know. I have thought about this quite a lot since and wondered from time to time, could we have done more? Should we still be trying? But the trouble is, it’s quite destructive. I think somehow I looked to Kate in a way and said is it time to let go?” Her eyes well up.
After six months, the private investigators had not been able to find much more evidence than the Cumbrian police. There are still two theories – that Kate had been silenced by drug dealers on the island or that her death was somehow connected to an affair Joseph had been having. There was circumstantial evidence for both – Kate had threatened to go to Interpol with the names of dealers on the island, and someone came forward to say Kate had a confrontation with the other woman – but nothing concrete.
Is it still important that she knows what happened? There is a long pause. “They’ve killed Kate, she is dead, they can’t hurt her any more. They can’t rob us of the 35 years we had with Kate. Thankfully we have so many lovely memories that I think to go back there…” She pauses. “If someone were to come and tell the truth, yes. But there were so many theories, so much gossip.”
Has she made peace with the idea that she may never know? “I think so, yes. It has taken all this time. It is too self-destructive if you don’t. When to let go is different for everybody. It was a gradual process for me. I’d walk the fells absolutely streaming. I still do it, but…” She doesn’t finish the sentence.
What has the effect been on this tight-knit family? Her older two grandchildren had nightmares for a while after Kate’s disappearance. The younger two made a necklace spelling out their aunt’s name for Kate’s birthday earlier in the week; Elizabeth wears it. Her other two daughters, she says, “if I’m going to be completely honest, I’m not sure if they’ve ever really let go. Nor Patrick. The thing is, we frequently have a laugh with Kate – how she’d react to things. We all of us actually laugh more with Kate than we cry any more. Much more.”
She started writing her book for herself and her family. “It became a mission and I think that was good for me, and more than anything else I wanted it to be a tribute to Kate. I wanted people who don’t know Kate, never knew her, to know about the real Kate. And she was definitely worth writing about.” Going through her old letters and photographs, she says, “There was as much laughter as there were tears.”
There are beautiful photographs of Kate, with her huge smile, and she sings from the page – an intrepid, unconventional young woman who loved dancing, and parties, and seemed to have hundreds of friends. “She was such an incredibly vivid personality,” says Elizabeth, smiling. “I can see her walking through the gate when she came home, in a particular jumper she bought in South America – she kept everything. Big smile on her face. It kind of brought her alive.” Emine Saner, The Guardian, 19 May 2018


Bishop John Richardson of Bewcastle writes: Sometimes you come across a book you cannot put down. "Remember to Smile: Looking for Kate" is one such book. It’s a story which is at once compelling, tragic, true and celebratory. It is also beautifully written... She seemed to have an affinity for the vulnerable in any society, the outsiders, the lonely and the lost. As she grew to adulthood, her rebellious, big-hearted spirit tried it all, exploring the world and testing the boundaries, a world of increasing risk and danger, a danger that finally grew beyond her control... This book tells that story and I cannot commend it too highly.







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