The Disappearance of Missing Teen, Bernadette Walker
Guest Submission by Paul Maillardet
Bernadette, 17, from Millfield in Peterborough in England, was reported missing by her parents on 21st July 2020. She has not been seen or heard from since.
Her parents, Sarah Walker, 37, and Scott Walker, 50, said Bernadette ran away from them on July 18th. They became concerned and reported her missing three days later.
In a turn of events, on the 16th September both Sarah and Scott Walker were charged with their daughter’s murder at Peterborough Crown Court, Cambridgeshire. Both parents did not enter a plea at the hearing. They will stand trial in March 2021.
Bernadette’s body has not been found at the time of this article.
So, did Sarah and Scott Walker murder their daughter? Is their daughter simply missing as they say, and they are innocent?
The Walkers made three media statements prior to their arrest – by analysing these media statements and calls for Bernadette, can we shine more light on this case?
Whilst they may have been charged by the police, they are innocent until proven guilty. In Statement Analysis, we always work from the basis the subject is innocent, their words will guide us and signal if there may be information to the contrary.
Let’s take a look together and see….
Media Plea 1
“We need to make it clear that she's not in any trouble, we're all worried and want to know that she's safe."
The first thing we note is they do not speak to Bernadette directly, and do not use her name.
Instead their language is directed to us, the audience. Rather than immediately to call to their daughter to come back home, or to call-out to anyone that she may be with or may have her, they have a need to persuade us that Bernadette is “not in any trouble”.
We have to ask why Bernadette would be in trouble? It is unnecessary for them to tell us, and may well signal that the last time they spoke to Bernadette something did indeed happen, and she was in trouble with them. Bernadette would not be in any ‘trouble’ if they have knowledge she is dead, which could lead to such an assertion appearing in their language.
Their “need to make it clear” tells us that they feel they have to let us know that they are good parents, and are not responsible in any way for Bernadette being missing. This tells us they are very aware of their audience, and their language signals they may feel under scrutiny.
They go on to say that they “…want to know that she’s safe.” – note that they have not said they want her back – just to know she is ‘safe’. They do not tell us they want Bernadette back home, or her back ‘safe and well’.
Note that they do not use Bernadette’s name – the omission of names in a statement can often signify that the subject/s wish to psychologically distance themselves from the victim. They may not be able to bring themselves to say the victim’s name if they still harbour anger, regret or remorse or guilty knowledge. Killers can often continue to harbour anger towards their victims as they will feel that the victim is responsible for putting them in the position they face, and this can leak into their language. Let us keep track and see if this becomes a common feature or not.
She added: "I believe the police are doing their job, but as a parent I need more. I'm desperate for my daughter to be found. When will they up the risk to high instead of medium?"
‘We’ has now become ‘I’ and their unity before is now gone. Here we are told she ‘believes’ the police are doing their job’. She does not tell us she has been in touch or engaged with the police.
“…but as a parent I need more.” This is concerning – her daughter is missing, yet she does not describe herself ‘as Bernadette’s ‘mother’. She remains a parent as she has other children, but she distances herself from Bernadette yet again maternally and emotionally. She does not make it clear what needing more may be.
“I’m desperate for my daughter to be found” – She does not say she wants her daughter back home, but ‘to be found’.
Her language does not tell us that she wants her back with her - that she wants her home back with her and the family – that she wants her ‘safe and well’. Whilst her language here seems sincere, the use of “found” is passive. We would leave the possibility open that this may be ‘Leakage’ in her language in that she may know her daughter is dead, that she won’t be returning home, but that she will only be found – we find that this often reveals itself in the language of those that are guilty or have guilty knowledge.
Note we are still waiting for the Bernadette’s name to be used – she is ‘my daughter’.
Mum Sarah Walker has asked the public to help her in distributing posters, hoping that if she gets them into every area of the city, Bernadette will be found and will return home.
Sarah said: "We have had no contact with her since 1am on July 20, when she texted me to say she would be home soon. None of her friends have heard from her and she's not accessed social media."
“We have had no contact with her…” – We look at her choice of words here, she does not say ‘We have not heard from Bernadette…’, but passively tells us they have not heard from her. The urgency and emotion of finding their missing daughter is not present. There is nothing in her language to say they have been trying to make contact with her, or that they have spoken to any of her friends. Bernadette’s name is still not being used by the mother.
The word ‘with’ in Statement Analysis signals distancing, in this case her mother distances herself through her language from any contact with ‘her’.
She added: "I can't eat or sleep properly. I miss and love my eldest princess so much, she's missing out on her baby sister, who has learned to smile and coo already. I have to think that she is hiding at one of her friend's homes, worried about coming home now that the police will want to speak to her, I can't think of any alternative scenarios, I just can't.
We would understand that parents of a missing child would not eat or sleep properly. However, instead of conveying her concern for Bernadette - where she may be, if she has eaten, if she may be in danger – her focus is on Self and to convey that she is worried in what we would consider as being almost ‘scripted’ language.
“…she’s missing out on her baby sister…” – In Statement Analysis we often find the perpetrator of a crime will find subtle ways of blaming their victim after the fact, as they seek to justify their actions or indirectly blame the victim for putting them in the situation they are in. Here, whilst we can listen to the words in the literal sense, in our analysis this can be a sign of subtle blaming of Bernadette – whose name she still can’t bring herself to say.
“I have to think that she is hiding at one of her friend’s homes…” – Why has she not been instrumental in contacting and searching all of Bernadette’s friends’ homes? Again, this speaks to a weak assertion and lack of urgency and involvement – we would ask why?
“…worried about coming home…” – the mother contradicts her previous statement in which she told us that she needed to make it clear that Bernadette wasn’t in trouble.
“…now that the police would want to speak to her.” – Earlier she tells us Bernadette wasn’t in trouble but has a need to drop-in that the police would want to speak to her.
This is significant – rather than her statement being a warm and reassuring call for her daughter, instead we the audience are told why Bernadette would not come home. She’s ‘not in trouble’, but she may be worried about coming home, and the police will be waiting to speak to her if she does. The mother has a need to convey the reasons her daughter won’t be coming home.
“I just can’t think of any alternative scenarios, I just can’t” – In analysis, the word ‘just’ means that the person is comparing one thing with another. In this case she combines this by telling us in the negative what can’t have happened, rather than what she thinks may have happened, and her repetition of the word ‘just’ makes it even more sensitive. We would see this as a potential flag that she can think of alternative scenarios, and there is a scenario which is sensitive to her which could be from guilty knowledge.
"I know my baby girl wouldn't be out in the open. She's scared of being out in the dark alone, that's what makes me think she's at a friend's house. I just wish someone would just say she's here and she's safe. I want to cuddle her, but right now I'd accept that she's safe and well."
“I know my baby girl wouldn't be out in the open.” – How can the mother know with certainty she would not be in the open – this could be leakage once again if she knows that she is in fact concealed.
‘I just wish someone would just say she’s here and she’s safe’ – She does not say ‘there’ and she’s safe. This could suggest that she knows Bernadette is close to her ‘here’, perhaps close enough she could reach-out and cuddle her, but she knows she cannot.
September 10th Statement
Her mum Sarah Walker shared the news on social media, she wrote:
"Please keep sharing. The police have now put Bernadette Walker as a high-risk missing person due to the amount of time she has been missing. “
"Bernadette if you can see this, please let us know that you are safe. You can set up a new Facebook or Instagram darling and message us, that way you can let us know that you're safe without giving away your location."
Finally her mother uses her name…but not in a warm-way. Instead she uses her full-name, with extreme distancing language from Bernadette. She does not reference her as ‘my daughter’ and even further distances herself by referencing her as a missing ‘person’. With the Rule of Economy, she could have finished at ‘high risk.’, but instead disassociates herself further by using the gender-neutral term ‘person’. This is not what we would expect from the mother.
In her final sentences, for the first time she uses much of the language missing from her previous appeals. She is likely acutely aware of her audience and this is very scripted.
She does not call for Bernadette to come back home, just to message them to let them know she is safe. The urgency remains absent – a call would be an immediate plea to their daughter for her to make contact, or to any person who may have her or know where she may be. Instead Bernadette is guided by the mother to set-up new social media accounts in a convoluted means to avoid detection – why would her mother wish to highlight any means of her being located and conveying this?
· The mother has the opportunity to use Bernadette’s name 19 times but doesn’t do so. This is extreme distancing linguistically from her daughter. This could signal her need to disassociate her from Bernadette if she has knowledge or involvement in her disappearance, and also possibly continued anger towards Bernadette if she blames her for anything that may have happened.
· The language does not convey the natural urgency and emotion by a parent of a missing daughter.
Conclusion: Deception indicated via missing information.
The statements are linguistically negative towards Bernadette, which given the circumstances is not what we would expect to find, looking at expected vs unexpected.
Her language indicates that she is withholding information.