The wife and daughter of missing man Ray Speechley are now more determined than ever to find him after an extensive search on the weekend failed to find any trace of him in bushland.
Jan Speechley and her daughter Nikii Smith are hoping Mr Speechley was picked on the Princes Highway by a passing motorist, was taken somewhere and will be found.
“We are disappointed,” Mrs Speechley said. “They seemed so confident that they were going to find Ray in the bush. I got a shock when I went down there and saw all the people, cars and other resources. How wonderful are they giving up their time and it wasn’t easy and would have been so hard out there.”
“I believe he is still out there,” said his wife of 58 years. “I really feel it in here that he is still alive.”
Inspector Greg Flood said police could not rule out either possibility that Mr Speechley had become lost in bushland or that he had been picked up on the highway.
He thanked all the volunteers from the SES, VRA, RFS and wilderness bushwalkers and also the Westpac rescue chopper that conducted the search in very difficult terrain on the weekend.
Police would now take advice from experts whether to go back into the bushland to search the more remote and inaccessible areas, Inspector Flood said. Police would also begin preparing a report for the coroner.
And as always, police urge anyone with any information to contact Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000 or Batemans Bay police on 4472 0099.
Ms Smith has been following up several leads on social media, including a possible sighting at Goulburn on Sunday. She raced up to Goulburn and worked with local police, but it turned not to be her father.
“Someone out there is looking after him,” she said.
Ray, or Raymond, Speechley, 77, was last seen about 4pm on Thursday, July 7, at the IRT Dalmeny aged care facility on Ruth Place, Dalmeny.
There was a confirmed sighting of him in the highway construction zone and then a short time later, Mrs Speechley was driving north on the highway though the zone when she saw someone leaning into a red-coloured car that had pulled over on side of the northbound lane.
By the time she turned around and came back, that red or maroon four-door sedan similar to Honda Accord was pulling away and did not stop continuing to head north. It is the driver of this car that the family is desperate to make contact with. The vehicle was captured on a passing motorist’s dash camera.
Mr Speechley’s Alzheimer’s disease deteriorated after he went to hospital in Canberra for treatment for a form of leukaemia and he had just been placed in the IRT Dalmeny aged care facility to give his wife some respite.
The retirement home at Dalmeny operated by IRT has already improved its facility in an effort to prevent other elderly patients with dementia from escaping.
"IRT is deeply saddened that Mr Speechley has not yet been found,” said IRT Care chief executive officer Craig Hamer. “Since he went missing on 7 July we have made it our priority to support the search and increase security measures at the care centre.
“The dementia garden fencing has been upgraded and we're undertaking a comprehensive review of our policies and procedures. We continue to hope that Mr Speechley is found."