13 years on: A family still yearning for answers over missing mum


It was October 14, 2006, when 21-year-old Katie Lee Tanner disappeared into thin air – leaving her two young children behind.

It wasn’t long after when police began to suspect foul play.

At the time of her disappearance, Tanner was temporarily boarding with Keith Smart, her ex-partner’s father, in his Cranbourne North home.

Tanner and Keith Smart had gone out to a friend’s place for drinks before returning about 10pm. Neighbours heard a fight breakout on Smart’s property not long after their return and Tanner was never seen again.

Some of Tanner’s personal belongings, such as her phone and her purse were retrieved from the property, and small traces of her blood were found.

Upon further investigation, a rubber mallet (believed to be the murder weapon) covered in Tanners blood was found in Smart’s bin.

It was later divulged in court that Smart had borrowed his estranged wife’s car a few hours after he had returned from the party and that he had replaced one of the car mats with a new one.

Due to the large amount of circumstantial evidence, Smart was charged with manslaughter and later sentenced to 11 years in jail with a non-parole period of eight years, which he has served. He is now a free man.

Smart has never given up the location of Tanner’s body, but her family has not yet given up hope. 

Steven Tanner, Tanner’s uncle, has been undergoing his own investigation. “I have actively been engaged in trying to find answers, I am proactively and physically looking for Katie’s body in response to clues from clairvoyants and mediums,” he told D*scribe.

Steven Tanner and his daughter Emerald Tanner have been in contact with the famous American medium Allison DuBois who often helps US law enforcement with unsolved crimes.

DuBois will be coming to Melbourne to meet the Tanners next year.

Emerald Tanner remains hopeful. “More than anything my wish is for the killer to give up her final resting place, so that we can have somewhere to mourn her properly and so that we can finally have some closure,” she said.

Police are still offering a $25,000 reward to anyone that has any information on Katie Lee Tanner’s disappearance.

If you have any relevant information on this case, contact crime stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit www.crimestoppers.com.au



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