Missing Presumed Dead



Missing Presumed Dead is Gerard Reed's personal journey to discover what became of Heinrich Bornkamp, a German soldier of World War One, whose wallet he discovered in a collector's shop window in Adelaide, South Australia. Gerard felt connected to past lives as the wallet revealed notebook entries and poignant letters from Heinrich’s loved ones.

Heinrich’s wallet was also a link to a loss in Gerard's family as his great uncle Pat Murphy was 'missing presumed dead' in World War One. Gerard felt compelled to seek some resolution for this man whose family had kept the door unlocked for the day he would return, a day that never came. By returning Heinrich’s wallet Gerard hoped to redress oblivion for one man by revealing the fate of another.

Press Reviews

On the hunt for a soldier, this time in hope and kindness

MISSING PRESUMED DEAD 9:30pm, ABC: Here's a wonderfully simple story which reminds us that television isn't necessarily better and more provocative when it's driven by extremes or controversy.
… This doco began when Gerard Reed was drawn to certain objects on display in the window of a collector's shop in Adelaide. The items included a wallet belonging to a German soldier, Heinrich Bornkamp, who perished in World War I. Reed was moved by the contents of the dead man's relics – his handwriting in poignant notebook entries, letters from family and fiancée that he carried at the time he and the wallet were separated – and other personal effects. Reed's own great-uncle Pat Murphy, had also been listed as MIA (presumed dead) during the Great War, a fact that accelerated his decision to try and return Bornkamp's papers to surviving relatives – a task of considerable magnitude given the soldier had no known grave and 90 odd years had elapsed.

Knowing there was a family somewhere in Germany who had been left wondering – as his family had about the fate of Pat Murphy – Reed embarks on an initiative in search of some kind of mutual "closure".

Doug Anderson
The Sydney Morning Herald



THIS is Gerard Reed's personal journey to discover what became of Heinrich Bornkamp, a German soldier of World War I, whose wallet he found in a collector's shop in Adelaide. Gerard describes how he felt moved by the German soldier's handwriting, his notebook entries and the poignant letters from his loved ones and fiancée. And though it seemed unlikely, he felt a responsibility to restore the diary to the soldier's family.

Sunday Mail TV Guide


ABC1, 9.35pm

THIS is the story of Australian Gerard Reed's remarkable attempts to discover what became of two World War I soldiers, the first his great uncle Pat Murphy, the second a German named Heinrich Bornkamp, whose wallet Reed happened upon in a collector's shop in Adelaide. With no remains found, and no way to give him a proper send-off, Pat Murphy's death has for decades haunted Reed's close-knit family in the colliery village of Washington in Durham, England. Praying that his eldest would one day return from the war, Pat's father never locked the front door again after being told his boy was missing presumed dead.

The Age Newspaper

Pick of the Fortnight

... This simple, moving documentary is made all the more powerful by its understated and unflinching approach to the task in hand. There are no judgements, no ideology, no stand is taken. But the viewer is left to ponder the shocking, mad, wastefulness of war ... Missing Presumed Dead is a small masterpiece ...

Will Lowes

Wallet helps solve mystery

Missing: Presumed Dead, ABC1, Thursday 9.30pm.

FOR most of his life the only link Gerard Reed had to his great uncle Pat Murphy was a faded black-and-white photo ...

Reed never met Murphy – he was born decades after his great uncle died in the Somme – but he always felt a connection. There was no grave to visit in a French field because Murphy had been declared "missing: presumed dead" after the plane he was serving in as a spotter caught fire and crashed during an encounter with a German plane.

But when Reed found a wallet in an Adelaide antiques store that had belonged to a soldier from the other side – a German infantryman named Heinrich Bornkamp – he set out to discover what happened to both men ...

Sarah Nicholson
The Courier Mail

Pat Murphy

Long journey home for soldier’s memory

Walking down a street in Adelaide, historian and filmmaker Gerard Reed spotted a battered wallet in the window of an antiques shop ... Reed felt an instant connection to ... its original owner ... and a desire to return the wallet. This is the beginning of a ... documentary that follows the progress of Reed’s journey ... This story has a parallel with ... one closer to home for Reed. Reed’s great Uncle Pat Murphy never returned from the war. He was missing presumed dead – the painful and inconclusive phrase taken by Reed for this poignant ABC documentary ...

Helen Crompton
West Australian

(Read the Courier Mail article)

Missing: Presumed Dead
ABC1, Thursday, 9:30pm

A WALLET belonging to a German soldier gives Gerard Reed an opportunity to lay a lost relative to rest in this documentary that Reed narrates. Stumbling upon the wallet in an Adelaide shop inspired Reed to research the life of its owner, Heinrich Bornkamp, a World War I soldier. Pat Murphy, Reed’s great-uncle was one of the many “missing, presumed dead”during World War I. And the lack of resolution over his relative’s fate provided Reed with the impetus to find Bornkamp’s family and return the wallet to them.

TV Eye – The Guide takes a critical look at the best on our screens ...
Herald Sun

891 ABC Adelaide
(Download the radio interview with Gerard Reed and Carole Whitelock)
Radio interview conducted prior to screening of Missing Presumed Dead on ABC 1

ABC Television
(ABC 1 Program Summary of Missing Presumed Dead)

Produced in association with

(ABC TV Documentaries to search for Missing Presumed Dead) (ABC TV Program Makers featuring Missing Presumed Dead)

(ABC 2 Program Summary for Missing Presumed Dead)

As seen on

Available on

Developed with financial assistance from

History Channel Foxtel South Australian Film Corporation
Screen Australia

(The History Channel Program Guide)


(Screen Australia Find a Film Search for Missing Presumed Dead)

Sales Agent


Carlos Alperin
Managing Director
Galloping Films Pty Ltd
9 Atthow Avenue
Ashgrove Queensland 4060
+61 7 3040 2664

(Galloping Films listing for Missing Presumed Dead)

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