Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 17, 2023


Jenkins, Mrs A.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO (15:45): Five and a half years ago, an Adelaide grandmother visiting her elderly mother in Malaysia vanished and was never seen again. Her name was Anna Jenkins, she was 65 years old and was a much loved and devoted wife, mother and grandmother. It was a trip that Anna, a Malaysian-born woman, and her husband, Frank, an Australian former Air Force officer, made many times after they relocated to Adelaide in the 1970s, after first meeting while Frank was a serviceman at the Butterworth Air Base in Penang.

Along with her beautiful family, I too suspect that Anna was kidnapped and murdered, with her body dumped on the outskirts of Penang. I travelled to Penang last week to support Anna's son, Greg, and his family, as the coroner added further insult to the Jenkins' family's determined pursuit of justice, by declaring an open finding in a scant three-minute summary.

The inquest was a farce from the start. Held over six separate sessions over a 13-month period, the inquest took place over a total of 24 days and called 30 witnesses, but such is the Malaysian justice system that it only sat for a maximum of 40 hours or, on average, little more than 90 minutes per day.

Adding insult to injury, some witnesses told blatant lies to try to absolve themselves or others of blame, evidence which inexplicably was not able to be cross-examined by the Jenkins' family lawyer. Witnesses were allowed to say whatever they liked without a legal requirement to provide any evidence or documentation to support their outrageous allegations, which included:

that Anna was involved in the drug scene in South Australia, which SAPOL had to later rebuke;

that she was fleeing a domestic violence relationship with her husband and son—again, an outrageous and unfounded allegation;

that she was affected by anaesthetic from an earlier dentist appointment and simply walked into a forest, something strongly refuted by the actual dentist, who confirmed that Anna did not have an anaesthetic at her appointment; and

that she was trying to escape paying a dentist bill.

On the day she was abducted, 13 December 2017, Anna left her husband of 40-plus years at the hotel where they were staying to attend the dentist appointment, later taking an Uber, booked by the dental clinic, to drive her to an aged-care facility where her mother lived. She was never seen again.

The Uber driver gave evidence at the inquest that Anna requested to be dropped off outside an orphanage, telling him she was going to be picked up by friends. His evidence was not questioned, and the vehicle's GPS tracking system, given to police by Uber's law enforcement response team, at Greg's request, was lost twice by police and never examined. That evening, a distraught Frank Jenkins was driven around Penang by hotel staff trying to find Anna. The next day he reported her missing to police.

The early stages of any police investigation are critical, and it is clear that the incompetent Royal Malaysia Police botched things from the start. Police officers attended the hotel to receive Frank's report but insisted that he lodge the report in Malay, which he did not speak. In his police report, Frank said Anna called him, in distress, the afternoon she was abducted and told him she was being held against her will by two Ukrainians who promised to release her in exchange for her passport as ransom. That claim was never investigated.

Greg arrived in Penang two days after his mother's disappearance and discovered almost immediately the incompetence of the local authorities. It was Greg Jenkins who actually investigated his mother's disappearance over a period of five years, at a cost of more than $400,000, in which he has travelled to Penang something like 40 times. Despite the initial abduction and kidnapping report, police only classified Anna's disappearance as a missing person, a classification that holds little weight in Malaysia.

In 2020, some of Anna's skeletal remains and belongings were discovered by a worker at the site. Aware of the case from thousands of fliers that Greg had put up throughout Malaysia, the worker had contacted Greg, who soon after returned to Penang and visited the site, where he discovered more of his mother's remains. Again, there was little interest from local police to investigate. Even the task of having a coronial inquiry conducted into their mother's death was arduous, not that it has shed any new light on what happened. It was a disgrace, and it is little wonder that it attracted the ire of both international and domestic media.