In a Sunshine Coast car park, Sandie Gillette and one of her sons had a chance encounter that made them too stunned to move.
The mother and son saw a man they had not seen for over 10 years, Sandie’s ex-partner and father to two of her children, who was last seen when he stormed out of the family’s Melbourne home.
In 2006, Russell Jenkin walked out of the family home after a fight with Sandie, where he left his two sons who were aged four and two at the time.
Despite countless appeals for help, Ethan and Charlie never knew what happened to their father.
But earlier this year, Ethan spotted his father inside a shopping centre car park.
“We were coming out of the shopping mall and he was coming towards us, casual-like, we then got into the car,” Sandie said.
“We drove past him and he was observing us, and he took his sunglasses off and I thought, that's definitely him.”
“It was a bit numbing … realising it was him. We could have approached him, but he could have approached us.”
Sandie, who lives in NSW, was on a holiday with her two boys in Queensland to visit her older daughter, the boy’s half-sister.
After all the years he had been missing, Sandie explained that she had never expected to see Russell in a different state.
When they returned from the shops, Ethan looked up a photo of his father on the internet, to be certain it was him.
“He looked up the missing person's poster and he was 100 per cent positive,” Sandie said.
“There's no reason for him to be there. He may have been passing through, but it was definitely Russell.”
Sandie said she understands if Russell did not want to be found, however, she wants him to tell authorities he is still alive, for his sons Ethan and Charlie’s sake.”
“It's always there, that not knowing,” she said.
“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.”
Russell left their home on September 22, 2006, after the couple had fought. Sandie explained that he had been watching football and at 9.15 pm that night she heard him reversing his car out.
Russell said goodbye to Ethan before he left, but had not made contact with his sons since.
Russell was described as wearing a maroon T-shirt and blue shorts when he was spotted in the car park. He is Caucasian and roughly 175cm tall, with a medium build, short brown hair and hazel eyes.
He was with a woman who had curly black hair and appeared to be in her 40s. She was wearing a black T-shirt and black shorts in the car park. The pair were seen getting into a black ute with a silver metal tray.
Wyndham police Detective Sergeant Dennis Williams urged Russell to come forward to authorities saying, “We just want to make sure you're safe and well.”
“It is absolutely not a crime to go missing, however it is important to make contact with police to let us know you're OK.”
Anyone who sees Russell Jenkin is urged to contact Wyndham Crime Investigation Unit on (03) 9742 9439, or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Article created in partnership with Over60