"I HAVE not seen my brother since 1971."
That is the startling confession of 69-year-old Sharyn Anne Irwin, one of eight siblings at a loss to the whereabouts of their only brother.
"We're not even sure if he's alive," Sharyn told The Observer.
William Allen Kenneth Cowie (Bill) was born in New Zealand in 1950.
"We had a bad start to life. A lot of us kids ended up in orphanages and were shunted out to different homes," Sharyn admitted.
"When we came back together as a family it was just a wee bit late and so we fractured into different areas.
"Only a couple of us has had really close contact."
Sharyn and her sister Kristene are two of those siblings who stayed close.
By 1971, Bill had left New Zealand and his immediate family behind and married.
He and his wife had two sets of twins before they became estranged.
"In 1971, he was driving and came around a bend when he saw two little kids playing in the road," Sharyn said.
"He had to swerve so he wouldn't hit them.
"They didn't think he would live, he was in critical care.
"But then he made it."
Following the crash, Bill briefly returned to New Zealand before leaving again for Australia.
"That's when we really lost touch. We never heard from or of him again," Sharyn said.
She admitted the family had not known about his children's existence until they, and Bill's estranged wife, moved back to New Zealand without him.
The accident left Bill with significant brain damage, causing him to have fits on a regular basis.
"He had plates in his head because it had been split open from one side to another.
"The doctor said he could never drink again," Sharyn said.
"It was very hard to get close to him after the accident.
"He just disappeared when he went back to Aussie."
Sharyn and her sister said they had no expectations of their brother but simply wanted to know how he was.
"He might not want anything to do with us but if he did it would be wonderful," she said.
The sisters in search of their long lost brother admitted they had no other means of contacting Bill, which is why they contacted The Observer with their story.
According to the family, Bill used to have a business near Gladstone several years ago called Bill's Helping Hand.
The last time Bill was seen by family, he had blue/grey eyes and curly hair.
He was described as average height and fair skinned.
"If he doesn't want to be found he won't be answering but we can hope that he might," Sharyn said.
"A lot of water has passed under the bridge, maybe it's time he had some family around him."
If you know of Bill's whereabouts or have any information at all, please contact The Observer at newsroom@gladstone observer.com.au.