Rodney Clement BRADRIDGE
Above - Rodney's dad and brother give their DNA in the hope of a match
Rodney Clement Bradridge was last seen on the 22nd May 1997, after being dropped off on Frasers Road, Mullumbimby.
Searches have been conducted around the Frasers Rd area and possible camping areas nearby with no result. Rodney has not made contact with his family or friends since the 22nd of May 1997, and there are grave concerns for his welfare.
Anyone with information which may assist in locating the whereabouts of Rodney is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
More people go missing in Northern NSW than any other area in the state – and police can’t explain why. In a bid to give names to more than 300 sets of unidentified human remains, police have launched a bold DNA collection program.
Five years earlier, Rodney Bradridge disappeared in similar circumstances in Mullumbimby, near Byron Bay.
The charismatic 23-year-old had returned home after a stint living and working on the northern beaches in Sydney. The musician was staying with his mother in Byron Bay while he worked out his next move in life.
On May 22, 1997, Rodney, with a tent in his backpack, asked his mum
for a lift
to Frasers Road in Mullumbimby. He was an experienced camper and usually set off to the countryside on his motorbike, pitching a tent on the side of the road whenever he felt weary. His family expected to see him within a couple of days. “I wasn’t that worried because I thought he found a place to camp or hooked up with friends,” brother Craig Bradridge said.
“This was pre-mobile phones and the internet. But this went on for a few days and we still hadn‘t seen him.”
The State Emergency Service and NSW Police crawled through the dense bushland in the Northern Rivers Hinterland with cadaver dogs searching. No trace of Rodney was found.
“One of the experts came to the conclusion that he left that area because there was nowhere to camp, hitchhiked out of there and something happened,” Mr Bradridge, 48, said. “There is no way he could have disappeared without a trace.
“For the longest of times you just have to hang on that he is OK and will be OK.
“But you get to a stage and think you have to let this go, there is a possibility that you may never know.
“That’s the only thing you can be certain of — that you won’t ever know.”
Mr Bradridge, who lives near Ballina, and his father plan to travel Coffs Harbour next month to provide DNA samples as part of the missing persons collection program.
His mother had provided a DNA sample not long after Rodney went missing but police have asked for multiple family members to come forward.
While samples from close biological relatives, like parents or children, are best, police say it can help to collect samples from three or four other relatives, including siblings or grandparents, to compare against unidentified human remains.
One of the most difficult parts of being the family of a missing person is not knowing how to help, Mr Bradridge said.
“You feel so hopeless and that you can do nothing to help,” he said.
“But any opportunity that might give rise to the chance of answering this mystery is worth doing.”
Craig and Peter Bradridge are hoping a DNA collection program, launched in Coffs this week, will shed light on what happened to their loved one.
"They do say time heals all wounds, but even 24 years later there's a part of you that holds on to hope he's out there somewhere."
Craig Bradridge is still seeking answers on what happened to his little brother Rodney, who disappeared in 1997.
Rodney, aged 23 at the time, was visiting his family in Byron Bay when he failed to return from a solo camping trip near Mullumbimby.
"He wanted to go camping - it was something that he did. He'd just grab his tent," Craig said.
Rodney had organised with his mother to pick him up after a number of days, but he failed to show.
"Mum contacted me and I said he's probably alright - he's probably found somewhere good to camp.
"Then a couple of days went by and he didn't turn up, and we contacted police."
Rodney would be turning 47 this year - and he is one of around 190 long-term missing persons in the northern region.
This is the highest number of historical cases across the state, which is why the Missing Persons Registry Unit has launched their pilot DNA collection program in Coffs Harbour.
As part of the world-first pilot, a pop-up collection centre has been set up at the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre, and relatives of missing persons are being encouraged to visit.
The familial DNA collected will be stored in a database, in a bid to determine the identities of some 330 bodies and human remains.
Craig and his father Peter were some of the first visitors to the centre which opened on Monday.
It will remain in Coffs Harbour both today and tomorrow (February 9), before heading to Port Macquarie on Thursday and Friday.
"I think the hardest part is not knowing how to deal with the situation initially, because you don't know when to actually start grieving," Craig said.
"We'd do anything to shed light on what happened to my brother. It's a small sacrifice to take a couple of hours out of the day."
Craig and Rodney's father Peter still has a lock of his missing son's hair, as well as a tooth.
He said he hoped the new pilot program would provide closure after enduring several disappointments.
"We've done numerous searches but we haven't got the answer or solution.
"When opportunities like this come along … it's good but of course it brings up a lot of harsh pain.
"Hopefully this time we might get some answers. That's our hope, anyway."
Speaking at the launch in Coffs Harbour, Missing Persons Registry Coordinator Detective Inspector Glen Browne theorised the high number of cases in the northern region was due to the "lifestyle."
He said a large number of the cases were linked to marine accidents.
"Statistically, this is the place where we have the most long-term missing people," he said.
It is expected the program will eventually be rolled out to regional centres across NSW.