THE finalisation of an inquest into the presumed murder of young Bathurst man Andrew Russell has only provided more pain for his grieving parents.
Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame could provide no definite answers to the question of what happened to Mr Russell after he was last seen alive more than seven years ago
Instead, the official findings were delivered in the same cold, legal terms we have seen several times before: “I find that Andrew Russell died on or shortly after June 2, 2009.
“While it is likely Andrew died in the Bathurst/Sofala area, I am unable to determine the exact place of his death. His death is suspicious.”
Deep down, Bruce Herbert and Suzanne Wallace may have been expecting just that but they allowed themselves to hope for so much more.
Ms Grahame extended her “sincere and heartfelt condolences” to Ms Wallace and Mr Herbert for the trauma they have suffered since Mr Russell’s disappearance and thanked them for attending the inquest, yet could not find the concrete evidence needed to give them the final answers they crave.
In the end, the fact Mr Russell’s body has never been found weighed just too heavily against the coroner handing down a definite finding in the inquest.
Previous inquests into the disappearance of Bathurst women Janine Vaughan and Jessica Small came to similar conclusions.
As is the case with Mr Russell’s disappearance, the bodies of those two women have not been found either, robbing the coroner and investigating police of the most vital evidence in each case.
And yet, someone knows where each of these former Bathurst residents now lay.
In each of these cases, there are people who know the full story and yet they resist all enticements for them to come forward and finally offer some solace for their grieving friends and families.
The pain of losing a child would be too much to bear for any of us.
But losing a child and being robbed of even the chance to bury them is a torture just too cruel to imagine.
To have three such mysteries in our city’s recent past is a stain on Bathurst that will now never be cleansed.
We have so much to be proud of in Bathurst, but we also share in this shame.