One year since his disappearance, Zac Barnes' family are still searching for answers

Search for answers: Zac Barnes' mother Karen Gudelj and step father Michael Gudelj at a search earlier this year and (inset) missing teenager Zac.
Search for answers: Zac Barnes' mother Karen Gudelj and step father Michael Gudelj at a search earlier this year and (inset) missing teenager Zac.

It’s a milestone Karen and Michael Gudelj hoped would never be reached. 

November 13, 2017 will mark one year since their son Zac Barnes was last seen, dashing from a friend’s car into bush near Thornton. 

It’s been a difficult 12 months for the 18-year-old’s family.

Zac’s younger sisters still wake in the middle of the night when it rains, scared their beloved older brother is somewhere outside, getting wet. 

The family’s concern for their missing boy hasn’t eased for a second of the last year, leading to their latest attempt to find out what happened that night on November 13.

Related content:

They’re calling for volunteers this weekend for a search of the bushland where Zac is suspected of disappearing. Karen hopes it will shed some light on a question that pains their family every day. 

“We just want to know if he’s in there or not,” she said of the stretch of bush along Haussman Drive. 

If Zac isn’t located there, they can at least focus on different areas and possibilities, Karen reasoned. 

The most recent search comes almost a year after Zac was last seen.

The apprentice bricklayer was at a friend’s house before he suddenly wanted to leave to get a train at Thornton railway station, according to his friends. On the way Zac asked his friend to stop the car, then got out and ran off into the bush off of Haussman Drive.

The teen with the distinctive VB beer tattoo on his calf hasn’t been seen since. 

Karen said the one year milestone was unlikely to be commemorated at their home.

“It’s not a really a day I want to remember,” Karen said of her son’s disappearance. 

“I’d rather remembers his birthdays and stuff like that.”

She admits she was surprised by the toll the looming date has had on her. 

“It has hit me harder than I thought it would. I’ve been in a fog for the last few weeks.”

She’s always been confident that Zac didn’t take off to start a new life.

That hasn’t changed. 

“I know Zac would have never taken off and never contacted us again,” she said. 

“Zac’s not a loner, he needs his friends around him.”

Her push for answers is motivated by her fear that the case will go “cold”. 

“I have to keep it alive because otherwise it’ll go quiet,” Karen said. 

Zac Barnes, third from left.

Zac Barnes, third from left.

“I don’t want Zac to become a cold case.”

She hopes the in-depth grid search this weekend will help clarify what avenue will be the next explored; whether it be misadventure or foul play.

The weekend will kick off on Saturday, 9am, at a gazebo at Metford Oval.

Karen emphasised volunteers must register, so they can be assigned to a team and a location to search. 

Volunteers need to be prepared for what they are looking for – and what they might find – Karen said. 

For those under 18 or not able to scour the bush, volunteers are needed to help with manning a sausage sizzle, handing out cold drinks, first aid and registering searchers.

The search will then continue on Sunday.

For more information, visit the Search For Zac Facebook page.

This story Zac’s family’s anguish: the search for answers a year on first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.