UPDATE: A family’s hope that their missing father was still alive has been dashed.
In 2009, Senior Sergeant Mick Isles disappeared into the bush without a trace.
A Queensland coroner reluctantly ruled in 2012 that Sen-Sgt Isles had died from suicide, but because no body had ever been found, there was speculation that he may still be alive.
There was fresh hope that he may not have died this week when a “weather-beaten” man matching Sen-Sgt Isles’ description and some footprints were seen at a remote grazier property.
But police have tonight released a statement that has ruled out this possibility.
“Police would like to advise that the investigation into a possible sighting of Mick Isles has concluded,” Queensland police said in a statement.
“A property owner in Millaroo via Ayr spoke to a man who he believed resemble Mick Isles on January 11.
“A 58-year-old man was located by police camping on the banks of the Burdekin River. He is the man the property owner spoke to, and police were able to confirm that he is not Mick Isles.”MORE: Sighting may be clue to NorthQueensland cold case
It was September 23, 2009 when Sen-Sgt Mick Isles was reporting missing. He had failed to show up to a course at Townsville police station that morning.
The troubled cop had been going through a tough time, exonerated of drug trafficking and money laundering allegations just months earlier and was still plagued with the shame of his arrest.
He had returned to work and was due to be retrained in defensive skills at the course beginning that day in Townsville, about 90 km northwest of his Ayr home, but he never showed up and was never seen again.
Days later, a search would find Sen-Sgt Isles’ police issue car abandoned with his keys inside and his police uniform stuffed under the seat, 80km in the direction opposite where he was due.
There were signs that indicate he didn’t want to be found, but the family, Mick’s wife Fiona, daughters Lisa and Nicole and son Steven were tireless in their search and didn’t want to give up on trying to find him.
In the month following his disappearance, Steven told Fairfax the family was “absolutely lost”.
“But we will not give up hope. We are doing everything we can,” he said.
Steven knew his father had issues but he was determined he was alive.
Such a determined search was bound to deliver a few false starts and Steven said he had taken seriously details of dreams members of the community had approached him with, and even consulted a clairvoyant.
In the days following Isles disappearance, a truck driver reported seeing a man matching his description in the remote area of Landers Creek on the Burdekin River, a few kilometres from where his car was found.
Thousands supported the family’s search on social media and they followed every lead they could but none turned up any answers.
When a coroner decided Mick had committed suicide in 2009, the closure it brought for the family was “purely administrative”, Steven said at the time.
“It’s a strange feeling. Certainly there is no sense of relief. In my mind, there is no sense of closure,” he said.
“I stand here, I have no answers, no body.”
This week, Mr Isles travelled to Ayr-Dalbeg Rd by the Burdekin River the same area a man at the time thought to be his dad had been seen soon after he went missing, to meet a grazier couple who said they had seen a man matching the description of his father.
Bill and Elizabeth Tudehope had seen a “weather beaten” man, about the same age and height as Sen-Sgt Isles, the Townsville Bulletin reports.
The couple said they saw the apparently homeless man walking along the cane track on Sunday, carrying a bag that appeared to holding his possessions.
Mr Tudehope told the Bulletin he was concerned for the man’s welfare, so stopped and offered him a lift.
“He wasn’t interested in talking to me and didn’t want any help,” he said.
After being called by the couple, Mr Isles met them at their property and assisted them in searching the area.
They found footprints that Mr Isles said were the same size as his father’s.
“There were a lot of similarities in appearance. We have to check this out and I really appreciate the Tudehope giving me a call,” he said.
Steven said back in 2012 he thought it was unlikely there would be any further searches for his father’s remains, but police are taking what’s been reported seriously, interviewing people in the area.
Mick’s wife Fiona and his children Steven and Veronica accepted a service award on his behalf in 2012. They were still determined to find him.