Aussie families go on road trips all the time. Our country is vast and in many parts, very pretty, so it’s extremely normal to all cram into the car and see the sights of our bloody gorgeous country. But when the Tromp family – who owned and ran a red currant farm in Silvan, Victoria — decided to hit the proverbial road back on August 29 2016, the entire nation was transfixed. Because this wasn’t your average road trip, and some of us are still scratching our heads about it, nearly 3 years later.
That’s why we talk about it in Season 1, Episode 11 of PEDESTRIAN.TV’s unsolved mysteries podcast, All Aussie Mystery Hour.
We all know the story: parents Mark and Jacoba “Coby” Tromp and their kids Riana, then 29, Mitchell, 25 and Ella, 22, piled into Ella’s grey Peugot SUV in the morning of Monday, August 29, which wouldn’t raise any alarm bells apart from the fact that when police arrived a few days later they found the house unlocked, all the family’s phones and credit cards behind, keys in the ignition of other vehicles and paperwork relating to the family businesses stacked in piles around the house.
They headed north, reaching the NSW town of Bathurst, 800km away, by Tuesday AM. Mitchell had secretly brought his phone along and been forced by his parents to throw it out of the car window just after leaving the house because they thought it was being used to track them. Seemingly unaffected by the paranoia that gripped other members of his family, he decided to make his way back home. After that, Mark, Coby and the two girls travelled to the Blue Mountains area which is where Riana and Ella separated from their parents.
The sisters stole a car and drove south to Goulburn, where they then split – but not before reporting their parents missing, which is when police (and the media) got involved, bringing the strange case to the country’s attention. We all began to speculate what had caused this family to flee their farm is such haste. Money problems? Something in the water? Farm chemicals affecting their brains?
We all read about Riana scaring the life out of a local man when she stowed away in the back of his ute and he found her there in a “catatonic state”. We also knew when Ella drove herself home in the stolen vehicle and when Mitchell arrived just after her. The pair, clearly shellshocked by the whole experience, made a statement outside the family home and attempted to explain why they’d fled and why Mark and Coby thought people were “out to get them”, with Mitchell saying:
I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s really hard to explain or put a word on it but they were just fearing for their lives and then they decided to flee. It was a build-up of different, normal, everyday events – just pressure – and it slowly got worse as the days went by.
Soon, Mark and Coby became separated and while his wife was located in Yass, Mark was missing for several days near Wangaratta, frightening some local residents by tailing them in the car. While he was found and the family reunited, very little was given by way of explanation – which is fine, it was clearly a family / mental health issue and it’s actually not our business. But with a strange and very public case like this, it’s pretty natural to be curious as to why it happened in the first place.
For a look at the events that unfolded and the rare psychological condition that could have been behind it, check out the episode of All Aussie Mystery Hour. Subscribe on iTunes HERE, or on Spotify HERE. Or, you can just listen / download below.
And of course, make sure you join the All Aussie Mystery Hour Facebook group HERE to share your own wild theories about the case.