The wife of a missing Bunnaloo man never believed in limbo.
Until she started living in it three years ago.
‘‘The not knowing is the worst part,’’ Helen Gray said.
‘‘Most of the time I try not to think of him otherwise I’ll go crazy. I still have to keep trying to live my life.’’
It was September 11, 2015, when the 66-year-old sheep stud owner drove out the front gate of his Bunnaloo property never to be seen again.
Helen recalls the day her husband of 21 years disappeared with extraordinary clarity.
‘‘He got up early on the Friday and got dressed in the lounge room,’’ she said.
‘‘He took about $3000 in cash, which we usually don’t have lying around but I’d just sold my buzz box.
‘‘He sneaked out of the house and was on the verandah but our son Paul was there talking to his wife on the phone. Paul said he was behaving very differently and wouldn’t talk to him.
‘‘Ian put his boots on and made his way to the ute and filled it up with fuel. Paul followed him and asked Ian if he would like him to come and Ian nodded no.
‘‘The last Paul saw of Ian was him driving down the driveway.’’
A week earlier, Ian had admitted to Helen that he was depressed and to make him a doctor’s appointment which she did.
‘‘The doctor ordered a brain scan and blood tests for the following week and Ian started antidepressants on the Thursday (the day before he disappeared),’’ Helen said.
‘‘We were due to go to the Australasian Sheep Show the following day so up until then, he was preparing the show sheep.
‘‘He didn’t have the usual energy and started saying the show sheep were no good.’’
Helen, who now lives in Heathcote, raised the alarm shortly after her husband’s disappearance, as he had left without attending to his livestock and without his wallet, driver’s licence and phone.
Police, family and friends have spent countless hours searching the region, hoping to find the grandfather of nine.
The family even chartered an aircraft on four separate occasions — two from Echuca and two from a property at Tocumwal — looking for any sign of the farmer or his vehicle.
Police believe a distinctive stock crate on the back of Ian’s 2006 Holden Rodeo ute could hold the key to finding him. He left in a vehicle bearing NSW plates AG-46-AJ.
With no confirmed sightings of Ian, Helen embarked on a 4000km journey through outback NSW and Queensland last year.
In her eye-catching van printed with her husband’s missing person poster, Helen visited general stores and farms looking for information.
‘‘Everywhere I stopped, I handed out flyers and I talked to stock agents,’’ she said.
Well known to the area, Ian was part of the Poll Dorset Breeders Association, which has 700 members Australia-wide.
At the time, she said ‘‘The Ian I’m looking for is not the Ian that left. He would never leave his family or his animals without telling them’’.
And while she doesn’t know where he is, Helen does not believe her husband is dead.
‘‘A static target would be easy to identify,’’ she said.
‘‘I think he’s on a farm somewhere being useful. He’s got a roof over his head and is being fed, no questions asked.
‘‘There are plenty of places where this happens.’’
It is this belief that keeps Helen’s hopes alive.
‘‘I’ll always have hope,’’ she said.
In the meantime, Helen just lives one day at a time.
‘‘The enormity of it can be overwhelming,’’ she said.
Helen and her family are pleading for anyone with information about Ian’s whereabouts to come forward.
‘‘All I want is for him to come home, all the family loves and misses him.’’
Murray River Police District Inspector Paul Huggett is also encouraging anyone with information to contact police.
‘‘Police continue to work in an effort to locate him,’’ he said.
Content courtesy of:
WIN News Bendigo 2015.
Interviewed by: Ivy Jensen.
Produced by: Kimberley Price and Vivienne Duck.
A Riverine Herald production.