Revelle Balmain: Inquest probes whether Sydney model missing since 1994 was killed over a debt

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Sarah Blake
The Nightly
5 Min Read
Missing Sydney model Revelle Balmain.
Missing Sydney model Revelle Balmain. Credit: Supplied

A new inquest into one of Sydney’s most enduring murder mysteries will hear fresh evidence about the last movements of missing woman Revelle Balmain and probe a debt she allegedly owed to a high-end escort agency.

The model and dancer was 22 when she disappeared from Kingsford on Saturday, November 5 1994, after attending what she had planned to be one of her last jobs as an escort ahead of moving to Japan.

Former staff at Select Companions, the Potts Point agency Ms Balmain was working for, would give evidence during the new inquest that commenced on Monday in the NSW Coroner’s Court in Lidcombe, said senior counsel assisting Matthew Johnston, SC.

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The agency’s owner Zoran Stanojevic and his former wife Jane King — who according to police were two of only four people who knew Ms Balmain’s location at the time she went missing — would also give evidence.

Mr Johnston said witnesses from Kingsford would tell the inquest of hearing a high pitched woman’s scream on the night Ms Balmain disappeared, followed by a screech of car tires.

He also said there was evidence Ms Balmain was “moonlighting” on escort jobs, keeping some of the money she made for herself, and that she was in debt to parties including the escort agency.

The new inquest seeks to solve one of Sydney’s most high-profile missing persons cases and comes three years after NSW Police offered a $1 million reward for information about the disappearance of Ms Balmain.

An initial inquest in 1999 found she had been killed by “a person or persons unknown” and the case was referred to the NSW Police Unsolved Homicide Unit. The investigation languished until 2020 when Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Bell picked it up after a formal review and was appointed lead investigator for Strike Force Aramac.

Photo of model and dancer Revelle Balmain (22) on poster produced by her parents Ivor and Jan Balmain, who has been missing, believed murdered in Sydney since 05/11/1994.
Police reveal they have begun a new line of inquiry into the disappearance of Revelle Balmain, and want to speak to an unknown man. Credit: Supplied

Det Bell told the inquest he had interviewed 135 witnesses, uncovered new DNA evidence and followed 12 lines of inquiry as he sought to establish Ms Balmain’s full movements on the night she vanished.

He said his investigation led him to believe that Ms Balmain’s belongings were scattered on a street in Kingsford near the home of the last client she was booked with, in an attempt to implicate him in her disappearance.

That client, Gavin Samer, was treated as the main person of interest for years after Ms Balmain’s disappearance and an earlier inquest heard he had multiple opportunities but no clear motive for killing Ms Balmain.

He has always denied any involvement in Ms Balmain’s disappearance and gave evidence over video link to the inquest on Monday in which he said he had given his initial interviews with police “under duress”.

Mr Samer paid about $300 for his appointment with Ms Balmain, which he paid partly with cash and partly by a cheque made out for cash.

He said that during her time at his home, Ms Balmain had several messages to her pager, including one that was about “another job coming up after she had finished with me”, and that she had made several phonecalls while there.

He last saw her when he dropped her at the nearby Red Tomato Inn pub on Anzac Pde just after 7pm.

Det Bell said on Monday that Mr Samer, along with Mr Stanojevic, Ms King and a receptionist at the escort agency were the only four people who knew Ms Balmain’s location on the night she vanished.

“Jane (Ms King) controlled the business and Zoran was the driver,” Det Bell said in court.

“On occasion, Zoran would collect money from escorts in the car and would take it back to the brothel, particularly if the escort was leaving or if it was their last shift.”

The court heard Ms Balmain did not have a mobile phone at the time and that evidence was gathered from pagers used by her and others.

“One of the theories of the investigation is that the person responsible… had to know that she was at Gavin Samer’s premises,” Det Bell said.

The court heard Ms Balmain was booked for a job later that evening with some contacts of Mr Stanojevic who were described by Ms King as VIPs.

Det Bell said Ms King had impressed on Ms Balmain the importance of the scheduled meeting.

“She called her on the morning and told her about the appointment and said words to the effect of ‘don’t go disappearing on me’,” he said.

He also said witness accounts of a “new, sporty, black” BMW seen driving near Mr Samer’s Kingsford home matched the car Mr Stanojevic drove at the time.

Ms Balmain was reported missing on the Sunday after she disappeared when she didn’t meet her mother at Newcastle train station.

She had planned to move overseas and was working her last night as an escort when she disappeared, said counsel assisting Johnston.

“November 5, 1994 was the last night she intended to work before travelling overseas to Japan,” Mr Johnston told the inquest.

“There was also evidence she wanted to catch up with friends before heading overseas.”

In opening remarks at the five-day inquest, Deputy State Coroner Joan Baptie described Ms Balmain as “a much-loved daughter and sister and friend to many” and offered a moving message to her sister Suellen Simpson, who was in court.

Revelle Balmain
Ms Balmain was last seen on Saturday, November 5 1994. Credit: News Corp Australia

She offered “my personal condolences to you for the loss of your sister, particularly in circumstances where for years you have had no clear explanation as to what happened”.

Warning that at times “the evidence will be confronting and challenging” but that it would be necessary, she apologised in advance.

Ms Balmain’s parents died without knowing her fate, and at the time the reward was announced, her sister, Ms Simpson, said she hoped to be able to “put her to rest”.

“For many years, our family worked tirelessly to find out what happened to my sister – but sadly both our mother and Revelle’s father, Ivor, passed away without ever knowing what happened to their little girl,” Ms Simpson said in 2021.

“Losing someone that is close to you — you’re never the same person again. I truly hope this reward will prompt someone to come forward with information that will help police find those responsible for Revelle’s disappearance.

“It is my personal hope that this reward may also help us find Revelle — so that I may finally put her to rest.”

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