A devoted son’s desperate search for his missing mother has ended with the harrowing discovery of her skeletal remains in rubble at a Malaysian building site.
It’s believed that Anna Jenkins, 65, was snatched off the streets while on a trip to Penang in 2017.
But her Adelaide family claims that, when they raised the alarm, Royal Malaysia Police did little to help, sparking her son Greg’s own epic bid to find her.
He spent more than $300,000 on 34 trips to Malaysia to crawl through rat-infested sewers and tsunami tunnels on an 80,000km trek criss-crossing the country looking for any trace of his mother.
Devoted son Greg Jenkins found the skeletal remains of his missing Australian mother dumped at a Malaysian building site as he rummaged through the construction rubble
He found part of his mother’s vertebrae lying among the rubble and boulders. There were also many of her possessions including a cross and her favourite Vicks cold lozenges
ONE-MAN’S HUNT FOR HIS MISSING MOTHER
Australian grandmother Anna Jenkins, 65, is believed to have been snatched off the streets while on a trip to Penang in 2017 and was never seen again
Greg Jenkins spent three years in a relentless search for his mother after local cops showed little interest.
The serviceman was helped by his veteran mate who now works in the security industry and they were given tips on how to conduct the investigation by a contact in the police who specialises in missing persons.
He interviewed more than 1000 people and created 12,500 flyers and posters which he personally put up and handed out across Malaysia.
He faced the gruesome task of checking countless random unidentified bodies in morgues and scoured lists of amputated limbs in the hunt for his mother – and even crawled through sewers.
Greg Jenkins interviewed more than 1000 people and created 12,500 flyers and posters he put up around the country
‘There are tsunami tunnels around the area where mum was that you can lift the grates off and go through them,’ he said.
‘I saw rats there that are doing gym workouts! They were huge…
‘But there was never a moment I was ready to give up. There were moments I s***myself – but I was never giving up.
‘I was chased by a Chinese gang once – they use these gangs to protect certain areas and they have free rein to ignore some laws as long as it’s not against people who live there.
‘I went to hand out flyers to them and then two guys came out of the bushes with machetes and came towards me, followed by the 10 other guys I had seen, so I just thought I needed to show them how quick I can run.’
The flyers, offering a $20,000 reward eventually paid off when one construction worker made contact by WhatsApp with pictures of his mother’s possessions and the remains of her coccyx bone.
Finally, three years after she vanished, a tip-off led him to the spot where a construction worker had found some of her possessions, including a dentist appointment card, and her coccyx bone.
Mr Jenkins, 43, alerted local police as he waited an agonising five weeks for permission to travel to Malaysia during Covid lockdown.
But it took another 10 days before he could persuade the police to go to the site and check the worker’s claims.
When Mr Jenkins finally managed to get to Penang, he was assured police had done everything they could to search the area but nothing else had been found.
He insisted on travelling to the spot at Kensington Gardens, a newly-built wealthy suburb 10 minutes from Penang’s Georgetown CBD, which backs onto jungle.
And within moments of arriving he spotted his mother’s shoe lying loose on the surface, despite the police insisting the area had been thoroughly checked.
When he returned to the scene a few days later, he finally made his crucial breakthrough after years of searching.
‘I asked the building site security guard to just take a video of me lifting the rocks and searching,’ Mr Jenkins told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It was weird. At that moment, the whole place just filled up with these dark blue and black butterflies. It was just flooded with these butterflies.
‘I sat down but didn’t think much of it apart from it being weird – and then I just looked down and spotted mum’s vertebrae.’
A thorough search eventually revealed dozens of other bones and bone fragments lying just beneath the soil surface.
‘The gravity of it didn’t really hit me for months,’ he admitted.
‘It was very much a mix of emotions… I’m very good at compartmentalising everything.
‘But I know it destroyed [his sister] Jen and dad [Frank] as well.’
Mr Jenkins later found out the remains were originally discovered six months earlier by workers at the $107million housing development.
But rather than go to police, the worker who tipped him off told Mr Jenkins they were ordered to move the bones off the main site and dump them in the nearby rubble where they were eventually rediscovered.
‘I believe my mother was snatched off the street, robbed and murdered, and then her body dumped in what was then jungle,’ Mr Jenkins said.
‘The remains of a man and a child had also previously been found there. I think it was just a dumping ground for killers.
‘But the new housing development was aimed at wealthy Chinese buyers – and traditionally they can’t buy a home anywhere that’s had human remains on it.
‘This development cost over $100million to build but the selling price of the luxury villas meant it was worth more than a billion – so everyone just hushed it all up.
‘They didn’t want word leaking out that dead bodies had been found there as it’s taboo and could have killed off the market for Chinese buyers.
‘So they moved my mother’s bones off to the side to an area which was going to be a water feature in parkland, and wouldn’t be residential land.’
Greg Jenkins and his sister Jen Bowen (pictured) searched relentlessly for their mother
FAMILY’S FURY AT ‘MALAYSIAN POLICE INCOMPETENCE’
Anna Jenkins’ family have endured a constant battle with Royal Malaysian Police who they say refused to thoroughly investigate her disappearance.
Police initially said the beloved Malaysian-born grandmother, from Glenelg in Adelaide, South Australia, was an adult and could choose to abandon her family.
She was last seen leaving her dentist and getting into an Uber to visit her 101-year-old mother who lived nearby – but she never arrived.
The Uber driver claimed she asked to be let out on a busy road close to a mosque.
The last contact anyone had with her was a phone call she made to her husband Frank to tell him she was being followed by ‘two Ukrainians who were after her passport’.
Anna Jenkins’ family have endured a constant battle with Royal Malaysian Police (pictured with Anna’s sone Greg, centre) who refused to investigate her disappearance
Daughter Jen Bowen, 44, raised the alarm with her brother Greg when she couldn’t reach her mother on the phone.
Greg is a serving member of the Australian Defence Force and was on duty in Hawaii at the time of the call but wasn’t initially concerned.
‘I honestly didn’t think much of it,’ he admits. ‘Because, you know, at the time you don’t think the worst is ever going to happen to you.
‘We thought she had just stayed over at grandma’s.’
It was only after they heard about the panicked phone call to their father – who suffers from dementia – that the alarm bells began to ring and Greg returned to Australia to fly out to Malaysia.
His father filed a missing person’s report but Greg says the local cops wrote the disappearance off as a ‘family issue, not a police issue’.
The family handed out flyers across the country in the hunt for Anna
‘We just thought that if this happened in Australia, police would do ground searches,’ he said.
‘They’d be asking people, it’d be in the media, especially if it was a foreigner. And none of that, none of that occurred.
‘They never checked CCTV around the area she was last seen – I found six cameras overlooking the area and they were never checked.
‘We tried having meetings with the police – and they just never showed up.’
During the hunt for Anna, Malaysian police came up with a string of absurd theories for her disappearance including:-
- She had walked into the jungle and was ‘just hanging out there’ living off bananas and mangos
- She was running away from domestic violence at the hands of her husband and son and was in hiding after seeing the flyers looking for her
- The 65-year-old grandmother had suddenly taken up hiking in the jungle
- She had the right to disappear and the right not to be found
- She was confused by the effect of an anaesthetic from the dentist (she had not been anaesthetised)
- She was running out on her dentist bill (she’d used the same dentist for 16 years and hadn’t been billed)
- She was involved in the international drug trade
Even when the remains were found, police searched in the wrong location and found nothing, yelling at Greg for 30 minutes when he questioned them.
Even when the remains were found, police searched in the wrong location
Greg’s search uncovered 36 bones and his mother’s possessions, including her smashed sunglasses which appeared to be the result of an injury.
But a vital piece of skull fragment – which could have shown evidence of a blunt force trauma – was then ground up by detectives, who claimed they were looking for DNA.
Police only returned 34 of the recovered bones, and at last week’s coronial inquest in Malaysia, they presented a bag of what they said was the ground up vertebrae of his mother.
Testing revealed it was actually just the soil and gravel that had been cleaned off her vertebrae when it was found. The vertebrae is now believed to be lost.
‘I knew they weren’t serious about the investigation when they gave me back all the her bones and possessions,’ admitted Greg.
‘There’s a killer on the loose in Penang and these are vital clues and evidence. They should have been holding on to it.’
Instead his mother’s bones were given back to him in evidence bags and then bundled into a recycled cardboard box.
Greg Jenkins’ mother’s bones were given back to him in evidence bags and then bundled into a recycled cardboard box
‘There was no respect there, none at all,’ he said. ‘They’ve completely lost touch with the human side of the job.
‘They even suggested snapping some bones in half so they would fit in glass jars for me to take home.
‘I was pretty numb and and pretty emotional. So I grabbed the box, went back to my room and just sat and cried for a little bit.’
Malaysia held a coronial inquest into the death last week, but it was branded a farce by Mr Jenkins after it visited the wrong location until he stepped in to guide them.
He said crucial evidence – including soil samples which showed his mother was probably murdered at another location and then dumped – was never followed up.
And he believes a missing fragment of his mother’s skull was deliberately destroyed to hamper any murder investigation.
The Malaysian coroner is set to hand down his findings next month but Greg now wants a fresh inquest in Australia to probe the death in detail.
He has been backed by local SA-Best MP Frank Pangallo who has written to the South Australian attorney-general requesting the state government intervenes.
‘The family deserves justice,’ Mr Pangallo said.
‘They deserve closure. They deserve to be treated respectfully.
‘I do appreciate this presents some formidable international obstacles. However it could be the last option for the Jenkins family in achieving the closure they are so desperately seeking.’
Malaysian-born Anna Jenkins married husband RAAF serviceman Frank Jenkins and moved to Australia in 1970, raising son Greg and daughter Jen in Adelaide, South Australia
Foreign minister Penny Wong met the family last year to discuss the case and staff from Australia’s department of foreign affairs attended the inquest.
‘The Australian government has made further representations to the Malaysian Government, following the end of hearings,’ department spokesman said.
‘The government will continue to advocate for a just and speedy resolution to the coronial inquest, in line with the wishes of the Jenkins family.
‘The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade continues to provide consular support to Mrs Jenkins’ family, who have suffered an immense burden since her disappearance.’
TIMELINE OF THE HUNT FOR ANNA
December 5, 2017 – Retired RAAF serviceman Frank Jenkins and his Malaysian-born wife of 47 years, Anna, make their regular trip from Adelaide to see Anna’s 101 year-old mother on the island of Penang.
December 13, 2017 – Anna has a 3pm dentist’s appointment and the receptionist calls her an Uber afterwards to go on to visit her mother. She is last seen at 4.45pm. Around 5.30pm, Frank says he gets a call from his wife saying she is being followed by ‘two Ukrainians who are after her passport’.
The family raises the alarm and hotel staff help search for her. Anna never arrived at her mother’s nursing home.
December 14, 2017 – Police are alerted at 9.28am and a missing person’s report is filed.
December 15, 2017 – Greg Jenkins arrives in Penang to join the search for his mother, alerts police to six CCTV cameras near where she was last seen.
Earlier CCTV footage had captured Anna Jenkins with her husband Frank talking to a local outside their hotel before she vanished
December 16, 2017 – Family claim police lost interest in the search from this point on, ignoring offers to search her hotel room or phone records.
December 21, 2017 – Distressed husband Frank, who suffers from dementia, flies home to be with his daughter Jen. Greg remains.
December 24, 2017 – Police tell the family they will not be following up on the Uber driver after he gave a statement which they ‘consider to be true fact’ without any corroborating evidence.
January 2018 – Police fail to attend several meetings with Greg, despite a string of possible sightings. Requested CCTV footage is no longer available as it expires after three to six weeks. A series of possible sightings of Anna throughout the year are apparently ignored by police.
October 16, 2018 – Anna’s elderly mother dies without knowing what happened to her daughter.
2019 – Greg continues to travel to Malaysia to hunt for his mother
June 25, 2020 – Greg receives a WhatsApp message from a construction worker saying he’d seen his mother’s dentist’s appointment card among possessions and bones dumped at a building site. He supplies pictures showing items from her bag, including her cross and asthma inhaler, and a coccyx bone. Greg begins five week process to get permission to travel to Malaysia during Covid lockdown.
The WhatsApp message that changed everything in the hunt for Anna Jenkins
WhatsApp messages (pictured) from a Malaysian construction worker proved to be the breakthrough. The worker found some of Anna’s possessions and went back to try to find more for the family
June 26, 2020 – The worker hands in the possessions to police.
July 3, 2020 – The family is told the lead police investigator has gone on leave for two weeks.
July 29, 2020 – Greg Jenkins finally gets to the construction site and immediately finds one of his mother’s shoes, weeks after police were alerted to the location and were said to have searched it.
August 7, 2020 – Greg finds his mother’s vertebrae and other possessions in the rubble next to the area where police had been searching. Further digging finds more bones and bone fragments
April 12, 2022 – Police give Greg all his mother’s remains to bring home to Australia in a cardboard box filled with bags of bones.
January 23, 2023 – Malaysian coronial inquest sits for a week but is branded a farce by the family after it visits the wrong location and mistakes a bag of gravel and sand for ground up bone fragments. Vital clues for a murder investigation, including a skull fragment showing trauma damage, are destroyed. The findings are due later this month.
February 2023 – SA-BEST MP Frank Pangallo calls for a South Australian coronial inquiry into Anna’s disappearance.