Madonna King: What I’ve learnt from Jesse Baird, Luke Davies and Samantha Murphy

Police on Tuesday found remains in the search for the bodies of Luke Davies and Jesse Baird.

Police on Tuesday found remains in the search for the bodies of Luke Davies and Jesse Baird. Photo: AAP

Jesse Baird. Luke Davies. Samantha Murphy. Names that would have passed without an iota of recognition from almost all of us, until earlier this month.

But over 15 days, Jesse, Luke and Samantha have bound us together in a way that is difficult, and perhaps even uncomfortable, to fathom.

Samantha is missing, not dead. And in the wake of the brutal murders of Jessie and Luke, we are hanging onto that word like no tomorrow. She is missing.

A word has rarely carried so much hope.

But how has the heartbreak – and hope – behind what has happened to three individuals been able to seep into our daily lives? Make headlines in the New York Times and the BBC, and in the backwaters of Queensland?

Samantha Murphy was last seen on February 4, 2024.

Why is that we feel drawn to all three people who were strangers to us in January, but who represent something so much more to us in February?

Perhaps it’s because they tie three states – Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland – together.

Jesse Baird, 26, grew up in Melbourne, moved to Brisbane and lived in Sydney. Luke Davies, 29, went to school in Logan, a city between Brisbane and the Gold Coast where the median age is just a few years older than he was, when he died this month. And Samantha Murphy straddles country and city Australia, raising her three children in Ballarat, Victoria’s third biggest city.

But that’s only a snippet of the story.

For so many of us, Samantha Murphy could be the person we see in the mirror each morning.

The hard-working mum trying her best to raise three children in a world that no doubt includes all the trials and tribulations our teenagers deliver.

The 51-year old-woman, peeking over the hill at middle-age.

Like the thousands and thousands of women this weekend joining park runs and fun runs, Samantha pounded the footpath each day; few of us ignorant to the unlikely but potential dangers lurking in the wide open spaces, while the sun shines overhead.

Since her disappearance, early on February 4, Samantha Murphy has been on our minds as we pack school lunches, work long hours, and try to weave into our busy days an hour for ourselves.

She’s many of us. And she’s run out of sight. Could that happen to us? Would our children cope? Which of our friends would take control, arriving home with torn knuckles and beads of exhaustion from joining any search on any day?

Samantha Murphy has a hundred of those friends and across the nation we are wanting and willing and wishing them success, so we all get to embrace the smile Samantha wears so well.

And perhaps the hope that we are being fed is especially important now, as Jesse and Luke’s families plan their peaceful final rest.

They almost definitely didn’t know Samantha Murphy, but their brutal murders have filled us with many of the same emotions.

Jesse and Luke were just like so many brothers and sons and even our children’s boyfriends. That’s how every one of their friends has described them.

Jesse was the good-looking guy on the TV. The fit-looking AFL umpire. The 26-year-old who brought love and laughter to any room he entered. His boyfriend Luke had a lust for life, an adventurous travel spirit, and a heart that meant he spent an entire flight with an elderly man, slipping into dementia.

Our lives would be better for knowing both of them.

But in many ways, we do now, and we’ve also joined hands in anger at the allegations facing their accused murderer and another example of how we have been failed, again, by an institution set up to value our trust.

Taylor Swift had us dancing in both cities, as we learnt about the lives of Jesse, Luke and Samantha. And she also provided a mighty lesson on people power, and how working together can deliver smiles that hang around for weeks.

It’s the same hope Samantha’s friends are talking about each night on the television news; a hope delivered on the back of a community working together for one of their own.

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