Put yourself in the shoes of a wife living in Queensland, Australia with two young children. Things are not only tough, but you also have a lot to handle. Then, one day, you go shopping with your sons, when a man wearing sunglasses walks up to you. There’s something vaguely familiar about him, but the obvious is too difficult for your mind to accept, but can it be? That’s the unusual mystery that a woman by the name of Sandie Gillette had to deal with, and the answer was nothing short of stunning.
In 2006, Sandie and her husband, Russell Jenkin, were living in Werribee, which is a suburb of Melbourne. To most people, the couple seemed to have the idyllic life, but the truth was anything but perfect. They had a four-year-old son named Ethan, and a two-year-old brother named Charlie. One day, Sandie and Russell got into a big fight. Then Sandie took her children into another room while Russell went back to watching sports on television.
Sandie and her boys cozied up in a different room and began watching a movie, but Sandie couldn’t get the argument she had with her husband out of her mind. A short time later, around 9 p.m., Russell’s Toyota Yaris drove out of the driveway and Sandie heard it from inside the house. She assumed he was still angry, so she wasn’t worried. But hours had passed and Russell hadn’t come back. He also didn’t call, which started to concern her.
Sandie was already worried, and this concern grew the next day when she learned that her husband’s vehicle had been found at the Lara Australian Rules Football Ground abandoned 18 miles away from the family’s home. The vehicle contained some Russell’s wallet, his identification, and some cash too. Was the argument so bad that he just chose to abandon his family? If that were the case, then why did he leave his car, his money, and his ID behind? Sandie was obviously confused and angry, and she wanted to learn the truth about what really happened to her husband.
First, she had to report what happened to the police. Detective Sergeant Dennis Williams was assigned to work on the case of Russell’s mysterious disappearance. Despite this, Sandie decided to do some searching of her own. She scoured the entire Lara neighborhood in order to find clues as to her husband’s whereabouts. She knocked on strangers’ doors, she passed out flyers she designed, and spoke with potential witnesses. She tried everything possible to get the answers she needed.
Sadly, Sandie found nothing that could help her, and months of wondering turned to years. Her biggest concern was for her children, Ethan and Charlie, who would grow up without having a dad. Russell’s family still wondered what happened to their son and brother. After all, people don’t just vanish into thin air, but did he?
A decade had passed and Sandie had raised her kids alone. They were really young when Russell vanished and didn’t really have enough memories to remember what kind of man their father was. All they recalled was the argument that occurred the night before he had disappeared. The boys did have a couple of photos, but many of them had been washed away a few years earlier during a vicious flood. But, in an unbelievable twist, everything was going to change.
Sandie and her boys were living in New South Wales by January 27, 2017. That was 600 miles from Werribee, where Russell had vanished. Charlie was 12, and Ethan was 15 now. The family had taken a quick trip to the Queensland Sunshine Coast. There, they decided to visit the Caloundra Stockland Mall, which was located in Caloundra, Queensland, a coastal town over 1,000 miles away from Werribee. This is where the family was going to encounter something that was beyond life-altering.
As the family walked out of the mall and headed to their vehicle, they noticed a man walking towards them. They didn’t think much of it since there were people walking all over the mall. Sandie admitted that she barely noticed, but neither she nor her boys realized at the time that there was something stunning about this particular man. They got in their vehicle and got ready to drive away, but their day was about to change quite possibly forever.
Suddenly, Sandie got this eerie and unshakeable feeling that she’d seen him before. In fact, all of her instincts told her that this man was Russell, the husband who had vanished. And as she looked at him with more intensity, he looked back at. She told 7 News Online: “He ended up watching us just as much as we were watching him.” Obviously, Sandie was so stunned that she had a tough time reacting. But could this have been Russell?
Sandie was certain it was Russell the moment he removed his sunglasses. She was struck with the notion that she was staring at the husband who had vanished ten years earlier. She was so stunned that she hadn’t even tried approaching him. Then again, he hadn’t tried to engage his former family either. Sandie, Ethan, and Charlie were so shocked that they headed back to their car. After they left, they got stuck in a traffic jam. Again, they spotted him, but this time, he was standing next to a utility vehicle. Sandie regretted not jotting down his license plate, but obviously, she had a lot on her mind.
As soon as they got home, Ethan found an old photo of his dad. He wanted to know if the man they saw was really him. Sandie told The Sydney Morning Herald: “He looked up the missing person’s poster and he was 100 percent positive.” The man was heavier and his hair was grayer than the man that the family remembered. They assumed that this was just the result of the passage of time and Sandie knew in her gut that the man in the mall’s parking lot had in fact been her husband. But this meant that she had a bigger mystery.
If that had been Russell, then he would have been 47 years old. Suddenly, old questions began to plague the family. Why would an argument force him to leave his family behind? And why would he leave his ID, his money, and his car behind too? Sandie regretted not taking a moment to talk to the man, at least so that she could get some answers for her children. Her kids had the right to know why their father had abandoned them and had never once reached out to them.
Sandie continues to hope that Russell will prove he’s alive and well for the sake of his children, even if the truth ends up hurting her. She told The Sydney Morning Herald: “It’s always there, that not knowing. 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 may be a teenager, but he’s still confused about the mystery behind his father’s disappearance. Imagine what it would be like to know that your father abandoned you, then saw you years later, but didn’t reach out to you. But going missing isn’t a crime, even though it can hurt your loved ones. However, it’s vital that you reach out to the cops so they can inform your family that you’re alright. Hopefully, the family will get answers soon so that they can all get closure and move on.