Zac Barnes’ Inquest Into His Disappearance In Thornton NSW Concludes As His Mother Vows To Persist In Pursuit of Answers.
The sorrowful mother of the missing adolescent, Zac Barnes, wept as she pledged to continue her quest for answers after friends recounted more distressing details about the days preceding his enigmatic vanishing.
Eighteen-year-old Zac was last observed alighting from a companion’s vehicle, in a state of panic, near Thornton railway station in the picturesque NSW Hunter region on the night of Sunday, 13th November 2016. He ventured into the nearby bushland, devoid of his phone or wallet, and has not been sighted or heard from since. His phone and social media accounts have remained inactive ever since.
The mystery surrounding his disappearance and presumed demise became the central focus of a three-day coronial inquiry in Sydney this week. Several witnesses, including Zac’s closest friend, employer, and numerous friends who saw him during the weekend he vanished, testified before the court.
During the inquest, unsettling details emerged about Zac’s substance abuse involving drugs and alcohol. After three days of confronting evidence, Zac’s mother, Karen Gudelj, summoned her courage and took the stand to deliver an emotional tribute, expressing her wish to lay her son to rest if indeed he had met his end.
Her poignant speech commenced with a poignant slideshow displaying photographs of Zac at various stages of his brief life, portraying him as a caring son, stepson, brother, and friend engaging in activities like camping, swimming in the pool, attending birthday celebrations, and other cherished family gatherings.
The inquest, dedicated to the investigation of Zac Barnes’ disappearance, unfolded in Sydney during this week.
“I wanted to reveal the true essence of Zac,” she addressed the court. “We’ve been extensively discussing the events of the past few days, but he was so much more than that.”
“Zac treated everyone with respect, and he deserves the same in return. If Zac’s life has come to a tragic end, we ought to be granted the opportunity to bury him and preserve his memory.”
Ms. Gudelj affectionately described Zac as a cheerful, cherubic boy who served as her “little protector,” especially when she first introduced him and his brothers to her husband Michael.
Zac demonstrated immense love for his younger sisters, Makayla and Mia, caring for them from a young age, changing their diapers, and reading them bedtime stories when he was just ten years old.
Initially harboring aspirations of becoming a doctor, his life took a turn at the age of ten when he switched schools, and his academic performance began to decline as he sought a more active social life. He eventually opted to leave school to enter the workforce, contemplating joining the army at the age of seventeen. Subsequently, he arranged his own work experience and embarked on an apprenticeship as a bricklayer.
Zac’s mother, Karen Gudelj, her husband Michael, and their two younger daughters were present throughout the inquest, witnessing the harrowing testimonies over three days. The evidence took an emotional toll, especially during the final hour of Ms. Gudelj’s testimony.
“It was heart-wrenching to compile those pictures. I hadn’t looked at them in a while, and it truly reminded me of the lingering pain,” she confided to reporters afterward.
Despite the difficulty of the process, she had mentally prepared herself for the ordeal after fighting for this day to come for so long. She expressed deep gratitude for the witnesses who came forward, displaying openness, honesty, and vulnerability, as their testimony paved the way for the next steps in their journey towards closure.
The inquest featured a poignant slideshow, providing an intimate glimpse into the real Zac, capturing moments with one of his sisters.
Ms. Gudelj extended her thanks to people across Australia and around the world who had sent messages of support during their arduous journey.
“We couldn’t have endured this without the unwavering support of the community,” she acknowledged. “There were times when complete strangers encouraged us, saying, ‘We stand with you, we support you, keep moving forward.’ Those words provided enough strength to face each new day.”
At present, Zac would be twenty-five years old if he were alive. The last sighting had him clad in a faded blue singlet, blue board shorts, and work boots.
Deputy State Coroner Carmel Forbes is expected to deliver her findings at a later date, determining whether Zac perished and the circumstances surrounding his passing, along with any recommended actions.
Additionally, the response of emergency services to Zac’s disappearance is under examination.
“With the recent influx of information, we anticipate progress,” Ms. Gudelj stated confidently. “We’ll persevere and locate him.”
For confidential support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.