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Former Cook Islands resident missing in Torres Strait

Tuesday 9 May 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Features, In Depth, Local, National

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Former Cook Islands resident missing in Torres Strait
Georgia Langdon and Denne Bourke pictured in the Cook Islands. SUPPLIED/ 23050809

The search for a popular local identity in the Torres Strait, Denne Bourke, who is a former resident of the Cook Islands, has been scaled down.

According to Australian news reports, Bourke was last seen paddling his outrigger in the Torres Strait between Thursday and Horn Islands last Wednesday. The following day his canoe was discovered around 100 metres off Thursday Island.

Thirty-eight-year-old Bourke has strong ties to the Cook Islands.

His partner for many years is Cook Islander Georgia Langdon, who is of Manihiki descent and was the former Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) senior fisheries officer – data manager in the Offshore Fisheries Division.

During their time in the Cook Islands, Bourke was the national women’s cricket coach, an avid oe vaka paddler involved in Vaka Eiva and the operations manager at Reefside Rarotonga coffee shop in town.

The couple has been residing in the Torres Strait – a strait between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea – for some years now and became parents for the first time just three months ago.

Bourke owned a popular coffee van on Thursday Island called “The Coffee Department” and recently brewed coffee for the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

He also served as the president of the Torres Strait Outriggers Canoe Club, and was popular in the community.

An experienced outrigger canoeist and a popular sight from the inter-island ferry, he regularly paddled the 3km distance between Thursday and Horn Islands.

Cook Islands paddlers Beal Vogel Beal and Maria Pokia from The Hekili Paddlers Club in Cairns, Australia and their members have teamed up with Bourke for outrigger races in the past. The club has posted a message online: “Hear our Prayers – Akarongo mai i ta matou pure, e te Atua”.

While land-based coastal searches have been put on hold, Queensland Police stated they will continue their underwater and helicopter searches.