The Strange Disappearance of Australian Teen Donny Govan

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The photo above is the last image of 16-year-old Donald “Donny” Govan. Shortly after, Donny disappeared without a trace, never to be seen again. The photo shows the clothes he last wore. The people with him that night likely know more than they have said.

The Strange Disappearance of Donny Govan

Donny, his sister, Rachael O’Keane, and three friends went camping at the Murray River bushland reserve, about a half mile north of Braund Road in Echuca, Victoria, for the weekend. It was Donny’s first camping trip to Echuca; he usually resided with his father in Ballarat. 

You can get an idea of the Murray River area below.

The group was having a typical trip until August 31, 2012. According to Rachael, when night fell, Donny suddenly became distrustful and feared that two of those three friends wanted to harm him. The following day, September 1, Donny was his usual self until night fell again.

Donny gradually drank several alcoholic drinks throughout the day and smoked marijuana. 

Once it became dark, however, his behavior became problematic again, and he started exhibiting paranoia. Donny was “freaking out and basically just wanted to go home, but myself, I’d been drinking throughout the day as well, and I was unable to drive,” Racheal said.

Donny and the group got into a heated argument.

“One of the boys chased him 100 meters down the dirt track then he shot off into the bush – it was dark, it was 8.30 at night,” she recalled.

And they wonder why he reacted this way.

“We left it for about half an hour but when he hadn’t returned … we were still searching for him until 3 a.m.”

However, Racheal gave a slightly different version on a local television show about a year after her brother disappeared.

“We waited three hours before we called the police, just we were hoping that basically he would calm down, he needed to just time to himself and he would return back to the campsite and three hours later when he hadn’t returned, I started getting very worried and that’s when we called the local police.”

Donny’s other sister, Jacinta Jackson, recalled in 2019:

“The group searched for him but as time wore on and the temperature dropped below zero, the police were soon called in.”

What has remained consistent is that Donny and the gang had a heated exchange of words. According to Racheal, in the later interview, Donny threw his hands into the air and suddenly ran into the bush without a cell phone or money. 

He was not a good swimmer and had little outdoor survival skills in the bush, police said. 

When Donny vanished, he wore white three-quarter-length Billabong shorts, a black t-shirt with a Flight Path logo on the front, and black skate shoes. Police described him as Caucasian, 173 centimeters tall, with a slim build, shaggy light brown hair, and wearing a spacer earring. (Quinlan, 2012)

Searching for Donny

Donny Govan

Subsequent days saw a massive search for Donny. Local police, a search and rescue team, and Australian SES volunteers conducted grid searches in and around the campsite and on the banks of the Murray River.

Police theorized Donny likely fell into the river due to intoxication. Search crews conducted daily boat and vehicle patrols along the Murray River and surrounding areas. They also joined their NSW counterparts to strengthen the search and regularly contacted Donny’s family.

Unfortunately, they never found any sign of Donny.

When Donny never showed up for the birth of his other sister’s baby three days after he vanished, his family believed something terrible had happened to him because he would not have missed it.


On September 3, 2012, the police received information from a resident who believed she had given Donny breakfast on Sunday morning the day before.

The older woman said a teenage boy matching Donald’s description spoke to her around 10:30 a.m. at her farm, six miles from the campsite. He said he had spent the night in the bush. However, temperatures dipped dramatically that night, and Donny was not wearing appropriate clothing.

The boy also told the woman that he intended to travel to Bendigo.

Police believed the new information credible and widened their search to include the Bendigo region. If this was Donny, he was heading toward his home in Ballarat.

Donny’s family searched for him and even spoke to a psychic who contacted them through Facebook. That person said the missing teen maybe 100 meters off either Pyramid or Tennyson Roads, which both lead into Bendigo.

“We’re going to go check out these streets and the back roads of Bendigo,” Rachael said.

“We’ve been to train stations, truck stops, servos, bus stops, milk bars, we’ve even been to pubs, just in case any truckies have seen him,” she said.

In November 2012, a Lake Boga man, Brad, told The Courier he was backing his car out of his driveway when he encountered the boy he believed to be Donny. Brad said the boy was hanging around his street and approached his vehicle at about 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, November 1, 2012. (Oliver, 2012)

“He stuck his head in my window and asked for $5,” Brad said.

“Usually I would have just said no, but he looked too young to be out walking the streets, so I gave him $20.”

Brad asked the boy if he needed a ride somewhere, but he only mumbled a response.

“I didn’t think too much of it, but when I got home I saw the photos of Donny and I knew I had spoken to the same kid. I’m 99 percent sure it was him.”

Brad claimed that he had searched the area and discovered an old World War II bunker with signs that somebody had been sleeping inside. (Oliver)

“The local paper had just done a story on him and I found a ripped-out page with his story on it down there,” he said. “It could be just a coincidence, but who knows.”

Brad allegedly spoke to another boy, who he presumed was homeless or had run away. That boy told him he saw another boy matching Donny’s description on November 5, 2012.

“I gave him an old phone and asked him to ring me if he sees him again,” he said.

It does not seem logical that Donny would have abruptly taken off from an unfamiliar area without making contact at some point. It also does not make sense that Brad never contacted the police over the sighting.

There have not been any reported sightings since then.

Donny’s family created the Facebook page, Missing Donny Govan, to assist in finding him. They have received many tips over the years, but they have never been able to locate Donny, and he has never contacted anyone to this day. 

Donny Govan missing poster

TCD’s Thoughts

I think that the camping group knows more than they say. I believe someone spiked the marijuana or his drinks with something. Because Donny was allegedly fine during the day, but later, he SUPPOSEDLY became distrustful and feared the two boyd. I’m not sure I buy that either unless someone spiked his drinks/marijuana.

And why did two of the “friends” chase after him that night? As I wrote above, and they wonder why he reacted this way. JFC. It’s because he feared for his life, and he obviously had good reason.

Look at the very last photo of him. You can see the distress on his face. Those people were tormenting him.

Does that group want us to believe none of them had cell phones? When his sister knew Donny wanted to go home, why didn’t he use one of their phones to call his father or someone else? They probably refused. You know damn well those young kids had phones.

If that was him, the older woman fed, he may have been headed toward his home in Ballarat. So, what happened to him after that? One source said the police confirmed this sighting but not the second one. Another source said police could not confirm the first and second sighting.

I find Brad’s story bizarre. Why did this man worry so much about a boy he never knew? Why didn’t he contact authorities when he recognized Donny from the photos? Instead, he searched for him, gave a stranger a cell phone, and interviewed the local media. WTF. The police should have investigated Brad. Maybe he did call the police but I found the media interview strange.

Lake Boga is opposite to the first sighting shortly after he vanished—about 85 miles northwest of the campsite and over 100 miles from Bendigo.

It does not make sense that if Donny was trying to get to Ballarat, he didn’t ask the woman for a phone call to call his father. Did he honestly plan to walk or hitch a ride? Well, I think that’s what happened. The wrong person picked him up, offering to take him to Bendigo. Maybe he planned to call his father from there. 

Donny’s case is definitely mind-boggling.


“Donald (Donny) Govan.” Victoria Police.

Oliver, Jordan. “New lead in missing Donny case.” The Courier, November 6, 2012. Via Australian Missing Persons Register.

Quinlan, Kim. “Search for Donny enters second week.” The Courier, September 9, 2012. Via Australian Missing Persons Register.

Yasa, Dilvin. “‘We’re frozen in time’: When a loved one disappears without a trace.” Sidney Morning Herald, June 1, 2019.

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I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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