Forty-four years after hundreds of students, teachers and local residents who witnessed a UFO fly over an Australian suburb were silenced by authorities, amateur detective Shane Ryan is going back to find an answer to the mystery.
On 6 April 1966, in the Australian suburb of Westall, hundreds of students, staff and local residents watched as a strange object hovered overhead for several minutes, landed briefly, then lifted off and vanished. Witnesses described it as low flying, silver-grey and shiny, shaped like a ‘cup turned upside down on a saucer’ and accompanied by five light aircraft.
A mass of excited students surged out of school and ran after the object. Many reported seeing a circle of flattened grass on the ground where it had landed. Others observed men in uniforms cordoning off the ‘landing site’ and removing soil samples by the truckload. Some say they saw uniformed men torch the area a few days later.
The incident was reported on television news that night and in the local newspapers. But despite the evidence, that day at Westall High School, the headmaster called a special assembly. He told students and staff that they had not seen a flying saucer – in fact, they hadn’t seen anything at all. And they were not to talk about it to anybody.
Afraid of being ridiculed or punished, many witnesses kept the secret of that day. Some are still angry about not being believed. Others say the incident has affected their lives and continues to haunt them today.
Forty-four years on, amateur sleuth Shane Ryan is stirring up the past. Motivated by a deep sense of injustice at how the students were treated, he’s tracking down former students and staff and searching for the authorities that presided over the day.
This contemporary detective story is set against the backdrop of an Australian city, but it reflects on a fascinating and pivotal period in world history when rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union was played out in a massive conventional and nuclear arms race, the space race and the Vietnam War.
With its undercurrent of Cold War paranoia, and a burgeoning military relationship between Australia and America, this 1960s story has deep resonance in the current climate of cover-ups and lies delivered by governments in the interests of national security.