Questions: Railway Hotel manager Brenda Portch with the ashes of Hazel Diane Starr which were found by cleaners in a cupboard at the pub.
Questions: Railway Hotel manager Brenda Portch with the ashes of Hazel Diane Starr which were found by cleaners in a cupboard at the pub. Craig Warhurst

Abandoned ashes still a mystery

HAZEL Starr was only 26 when she died on March 30, 1973.

Thirty-seven years later, she still hasn’t been laid to rest.

Why she hasn’t is the mystery haunting two cleaners at Gympie’s Railway Hotel who came across Hazel’s ashes in a cupboard under the staircase in the historic pub.

The cleaners, who don’t want to be named because, they say, no-one wants to see their  “old faces in a photo in the paper”, believe it’s time to locate Hazel’s family or, at the very least, find her a resting place.

“We found the ashes tucked in a corner of the cupboard under the stairs about five years ago,” they said.

“The box hadn’t been opened – no-one seems to have touched them.”

And that, apart from the ashes being there in the first place, is what’s really got the cleaners baffled.

Still sealed in their original box, Hazel’s remains were found along with a letter from the The Necropolis Springvale crematorium whose trustees, according to the letterhead, also administered the Melbourne General Cemetery Carlton and the St Kilda General Cemetery.

The letter, dated August 1, 2001 and addressed to a Mr D B Starr, of Curra, says, “Dear Mr Starr, in response to your request, we wish to advise that we have forwarded to you at the above address by Registered Postage the cremated remains of the late Hazel Diane Starr aged 26 years. The date of death being the 30/3/73”.

The letter requests that Mr Starr complete and return an enclosed Form of Receipt for Hazel’s cremation certificate, which the Railway cleaners also found with her ashes.

“I was the one who broke the seal on the box and when I saw what was inside I went cold,” one of the cleaners said.

“We found them when Neville Mayfield bought the pub. It’s had a few owners since then.

“Everyone talked about doing something about the ashes but no-one ever did.

“We came across them again the other day and decided to do something about it.”

Which still brings the Railway Hotel staff to a dead end.

What relationship was D B Starr to Hazel and why were her ashes forwarded to him 28 years later?

And why, ask the cleaners, were the ashes left at the Railway Hotel? Did Mr Starr leave the district, only to return five years ago and check into the hotel? Did he bring Hazel’s ashes with him and forget to take them with him when he left?

“There’s a note on the back of the letter saying D. Starr, Room 1,” the cleaner said.

“He must have cared for her, because the letter says he requested her ashes. Was he her husband, her father, her brother?

“Something could have happened to him while he was here. Why else would they have just tucked them in a corner under the stairs?

“It’s a sad ending – she was only 26. That’s quite young to pass away.”

Whoever Hazel was, the cleaners say she died too recently to be the one who haunts the Railway Hotel.

“They’ve always reckoned the pub is haunted – all these old pubs are. But the Railway has had a ghost for years and years, so it wouldn’t be Hazel.

“Anyway, all we want to do now is give her back to her family.”

Checks through the Electoral Role and the phone directory failed to find reference to a D B Starr at Curra or anywhere in the Gympie or Sunshine Coast regions.

If anyone can shed some light on the mystery of Hazel Diane Starr’s ashes, phone the Railway Hotel 5483 7600.

Gympie Times


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