Imagine for a second that you are a wife with two young kids living in Queensland, Australia. Your life hasn't been easy, and to say that you have a lot on your plate — and your mind — would be an understatement. While out shopping with your boys, you're approached by a man wearing sunglasses. He looks strangely familiar, but the unbelievable prospect running through your mind is too crazy to be true. Or is it? That's what Sandie Gillette was faced with, and the answer is nothing less than shocking
City News Toronto
It all began back in 2006, when Sandie and her husband, Russell Jenkin, were living in the Melbourne suburb of Werribee. From the outside, the couple appeared to be living a perfectly normal life, but looks can be deceiving. Ethan was four at the time, and his brother, Charlie, was two. On the day in question, Sandie and Russell got into an argument. Russell continued to watch some sports on TV, and Sandie took Ethan and Charlie into another room.
Enter Motors Group
When Sandie and her sons got settled down in another room, they started watching a movie together. Sandie tried to put the argument aside, but the disagreement was still tugging at her. Only a little while later, shortly after 9 p.m., Sandie heard Russell’s Toyota Yaris pulling out of the driveway. Figuring he was still upset, she wasn't too concerned. But when the hours and minutes ticked away and Russell still hadn’t returned or called, Sandie began to worry.
City Of Greater Geelong
If you thought she was worried then, that was nothing compared to when she found out the next day that someone had discovered Russell’s vehicle, abandoned at the Lara Australian rules football ground 18 miles away from his home. Inside, they found all of Russell’s possessions, including his wallet, his identification, and a sum of cash. Was he so upset about the argument that he decided to leave his whole family? But then why wouldn't he take his ID and the money, not to mention his car? Sandie was understandably upset and confused, and she wanted answers.
National Missing Persons Coordination Center
The first step was to report the incident to the local authorities. Dennis Williams was the detective sergeant who was working Russell’s disappearance case. Although he was called into action, Sandie took matters into her own hands and searched the entire Lara neighborhood herself hoping to find some clues about her husband’s disappearance. She knocked on doors, she designed and passed out flyers, she spoke to possible witnesses. She was doing everything she could to try and get some answers.
Sydney Morning Herald
But unfortunately, she came up with no answers. Pretty soon the days turned into months; then the months turned in to years. She was concerned for Ethan and Charlie, who were now without a father, and Russell’s own family were concerned what had happened to their brother and son as well. People don't just up and disappear, or do they?
Sydney Morning Herald
For over a decade, Sandie was forced to raise her boys alone, and they weren't given the chance to get to know the man who was their father. They were so young when he left that they didn't have that many memories of Russell, and the last thing they remembered was the arguement the night that he left. They also only had a handful of pictures, as the majority were washed out in a flood a few years back. However, things were about to change in an unbelievable way.
By January 27, 2017, they had moved to New South Wales, about 600 miles away from Werribee where they had lived when Russell disappeared. Ethan was now 15, and Charlie was now 12. The family decided to take a short trip to the Queensland Sunshine Coast. They were enjoying some time at the Caloundra Stockland mall, a retail complex in the coastal town of Caloundra, Queensland, more than 1,000 miles from Werribee. It was there that everything was about to change.
When the three of them left the mall to go back to their vehicle, they saw a man walking across the parking lot. This is obviously nothing unusual, as there are people walking around everywhere in a retail complex. Sandie said they didn’t think much about it, but little did they know there was something very extraordinary about the man they were seeing. They got in the car and prepared to move on with their day, a day that would change their lives forever.
But all of the sudden Sandie was struck with a completely improbable but incredible thought. Something about that man led her to believe that he was none other than her long-lost husband, Russell. And as she observed him, he started to stare right back. “He ended up watching us just as much as we were watching him,” she told 7 News Online. As you can imagine, Sandie was so shocked that she could barely react. Could that really be him?
When he took off his sunglasses, Sandie was left with no doubt. Suddenly she knew that the man she was staring at was indeed her husband who had been missing for 10 years. Numbed and in shock by what she was seeing, she didn’t even think to approach the man, and he didn’t try to talk to the three of them either. In shock, Sandie, Charlie, and Ethan went back to their car, and as they were leaving, they got caught up in a traffic jam and spotted him standing outside beside a utility vehicle. Looking back, she wished she would have written down the plate number, but she wasn't thinking clear at the time.
When they got home, the set out to investigate once again. Ethan dug out an old photograph of his dad to see if it really was the same man whom they had seen. “He looked up the missing person’s poster,” Sandie told "The Sydney Morning Herald," “and he was 100 percent positive.” While the man they’d seen in the mall parking lot was much heavier and had grayer hair than the Russell they remembered, that was the natural progression of time. Sandie was convinced he was the same man, but now she was left with more questions.
If that as in fact Russell, who would now be 47 years old, the questions began surfacing all over again. Why would one simple argument cause him to leave his family and never come back? And why would he abandon not only his family, but his car, his ID, and the money? She said she now regrets not talking to him when she had the chance, if only for the sake of her boys. They deserve to have answers as to why their father left, and why he has never tried to make contact.
Despite the fact that she's hurt, Sandie still hopes Russell will come forward for the boys' sake and prove he's still alive. “It’s always there, that not knowing,” she explained to "The Sydney Morning Herald." “The boys would like to know him, and if he is out there, he doesn’t have to contact us – just the police. They know who he is, and they still think of him as their dad, and they want to know what happened.”
Ethan, who is now a teenager, is pretty confused by the whole situation. You can imagine the hurt in knowing that your dad left, and possibly saw you again without making contact. But it's not a crime to go missing — even if it hurts the ones you love — but it is important to make contact with police to let everyone know that you’re okay. Here's hoping that the family gets some answers — and some closure — so that the boys can move on with their lives.