Cruel decision parents had to make to find their son
It's been three years since the deputy state coroner recommended Faye and Mark Leveson receive police commendations for the tireless efforts in locating the body of their son, Matthew.
It was a considered statement on the final page of Elaine Truscott's report after the Levesons had spent the previous decade not taking no for an answer from the police, lobbying the government and coroner, to discover Matthew's whereabouts.
It led them to a shallow grave in the Royal National Park, where he'd been dumped. The Leveson's drive out of love for and devotion to their son ensured Matthew's body could be returned and buried with the dignity he deserved.
But what have they heard from the police since Truscott's recommendation on the very final page of her report?
EXCLUSIVE: As a subscriber you have early access to Season 2 of I Catch Killers with Gary Jubelin. Immediately below are Parts 1 and 2 of his interview with Faye and Mark Leveson.
Part 1 (above): When Mark and Faye Leveson's son Matthew went missing in 2007, feared dead, their world changed in an instant, never to be the same again.
Part 2 (above): After 10 heartbreaking years a breakthrough in the search for Matthew came in 2017 when the man who disposed of his body, Michael Atkins, was forced to reveal its location.
"It says it all, really" says Faye Leveson, 13 years after their life was forever altered when their middle son Matthew, brother of Jason and Peter, went missing, never to return.
Faye and husband Mark reveal in detail their search for Matthew, their fight for justice and the heartbreaking decision that no parent should ever have to make - do they let the person suspected to be responsible for their son's disappearance go in return for his body? - in the latest episode of Gary Jubelin 'I Catch Killers' podcast.
Three years after finding Matthew, who was 20 at the time of his death, the Levesons continue to advocate for the families of victims and why they should never take no for an answer from authority.
While they will be forever grateful for the help of many police in their search for Matthew, their 10-year ordeal was littered with setbacks and continual heartache, including a 2009 trial when his older boyfriend Michael Atkins was found not guilty of murder.
Their experience included being told by one officer Matthew was killed because of his lifestyle (he was gay), evidence not being allowed at trial because Atkins hadn't been cautioned properly prior to an interview, to police telling them to avoid the media until week six of his disappearance because it would impact the integrity of the brief.
Mark, who has a tattoo "It's not a justice system, it's just a system" hammers home that ongoing communication with victims' families is vital.
"This is the perception of victims and I think it's across the board. If you hear nothing, if you're told nothing, you perceive nothing's being done.
"I've spoken twice at Goulburn (police academy) to the homicide class down there. They have a victims' afternoon and one of the strong points I make is this - it's that communications are key.
You've not got to say we've solved the matter because that's impossible. At least say to the victim, look … we're on the case, we're pursuing our leads. That's all. Take this time and that's not much to ask just for that."
For the Levesons, nothing will erase the moment they were told on the front doorstep of their home by police that the investigation into their missing son had become a homicide case.
"It's all your worst nightmares coming to fruition. It's like your heart's been ripped out. You've got no nowhere to go, nowhere to turn. It's just, it's horrible. Emptiness just comes over you," Faye tells Jubelin.
The second of three boys, Matthew was well-known for his love of life, his family and his pranks.
"You never knew what to expect. You'd go to the toilet and you put the seat down and hear this bang, because he had this little device under the seat," Faye recalls.
"He was a little ray of sunshine that came into the world quickly and, unfortunately, he lived a short life."
Nothing diminished their resolve to find out what happened after Matthew was last seen leaving the ARQ nightclub in Darlinghurst with his older boyfriend Atkins in September, 2007.
At 2017's coronial inquest Mark Leveson told the inquest into his son's death that the circumstantial evidence suggested that Matt was killed by Atkins - 23 years his senior and a convicted drug dealer.
Atkins had already been found not guilty of Matthew's murder in a 2009 trial, a bruising, belittling encounter with the justice system for the Leveson family.
At the start of the coronial inquest into Matthew's disappearance, Atkins, who was forced to give evidence, said he believed Matthew had taken off and could be living in Thailand. All along he knew where his body was.
And he was soon forced to reveal that location after he perjured himself during the course of giving evidence. While anything Atkins said at the inquest could not be used in a criminal trial, if he was found to have lied on the stand, he was likely to be jailed.
When he tripped up and did perjure himself, an unprecedented deal was reached which meant, if the Levesons agreed, that Atkins would avoid jail if he revealed the location of Matthew's body.
It was the cruellest and most heartbreaking of decisions to make. Knowing that the man who dumped your son's body in bushland was not going to face jail. Atkins is currently a free man, believed to be living in Queensland.
But the Levesons were determined to bring their son home and, after careful consideration, accepted the deal.
"As a mother, that was the worst, worst thing ever. I could see the pain in the three of their eyes, but particularly in Jase's eyes and Pete's eyes. To put them in that sort of situation to get their brother home. We had to do that," Faye says.
"And it is a deal with the devil and people say, 'oh, you shouldn't have done it,' but put yourself in our shoes. That was my baby out there. That was my son who I carried. And he didn't like the dark as a child, as a baby. We always had night-lights. We just wanted him home. And so as much as I didn't want to do that deal, I had to."
Three years after the fight to find their boy ended and he was reunited with his family, the pain remains for the Levesons. There is no such thing as closure, both Faye and Mark find it an insulting term.
"Closure is probably the worst word that any victim can hear. closure to us is nothing less than mat knocking our front door saying, 'sorry, I haven't called'. That's closure," Mark says.
"I'll never move on. I might move forward. And we take every day, day by day. But you can never move on. You can never, ever move on. That's just like saying Matt's never existed," Faye says.
With Christmas almost upon us, Matthew's absence is felt more than ever by the Leveson family where there is an empty chair at the table for their son and brother.
"(He was) our little elf at Christmas time. He loved Christmas. I always tell people that helped me put up the decorations. He loved the Christmas atmosphere," Faye says.
I CATCH KILLERS PODCAST
Episode 1: Haunted by fatal shot - Police sniper Brett Pennell
Episode 2: World's post in-demand policeman - Former top cop Nick Kaldas
Episode 3: Hardcore cop, novelist and Page 3 model - Karen Davis
Episode 4: Mysterious death of soldier Jake Kovco - Wayne Hayes
Episode 5: How top cop spoiled bikie party - Deb Wallace
"I did a lot of cooking and I had a chocolate fountain. So I had all the lollies and fruits and everything else. And he'd sit there with his brothers and cousin and they'd just pig out on this chocolate fountain, because that always came out at family events. And I've got fond memories of him. They're just sitting there laughing and having a good time … and even one time with his partner (prior to Atkins) Daniel dancing round the kitchen island to the Lion Sleeps Tonight. So while I hear that song, it takes me back to him. "
The one moment that remains vividly with Faye was from another family get-together in Shellharbour. It was the last time she saw her son.
"That last hug, that last kiss I had with him, I'll always treasure. He said, 'I love you, Mum. I love you.' And the hug seemed to go on for a long, long time."
Originally published as Cruel decision parents had to make to find their son