'Not Knowing Hurts': Mum's Agonising Search For Her Only Son
It has been almost 14 years since Jeni Bindon last heard from her son, Ashley.
Holding onto a grainy framed photograph of Ashley at Christmas in 2004, months before he disappeared in Sydney, Jeni was emotional as she described her adventurous and intelligent son.
"He was at a bit of a crossroads in life … he’d done uni, and everything that was expected, and he was up for adventure," Jeni said on Monday, as police re-launched an appeal for information into his disappearance as part of Missing Person's Week.
I would just like to know if Ashley's okay ... if he chose to go missing, I'd understand. But not knowing, hurts.
Ashley was last seen when he arrived at a friend's home in the eastern Sydney suburb of Rose Bay on the morning of February 26, 2004. His mother said he was living in Surry Hills "with his buddies" at the time.
According to the Missing Person's Register, Ashley left the home about 5pm that day -- possibly on a bicycle and carrying a khaki backpack.
He has not been seen since.
Ashley's mother reported him missing to police two days later, and has been on her own search ever since.
"I thought he was going to turn up but he didn’t ... I commenced my search straight away," she said.
"I've travelled to Darwin, right across [the country]."
Jeni said an online blog she set up led police to a woman in 2012, who believed she had seen Ashley on several occasions in the Darwin suburbs of Nightcliff and Palmerston in March 2005.
NSW Police Superintendent Julie Donohue on Monday said police were not able to confirm whether the sighting was in fact Ashley.
Donohue confirmed police were not currently following any further leads, but urged anyone with information about his disappearance to contact police.
"As a mother myself, thinking of not seeing your child for so long... it must be so heartbreaking for her," the police officer said.
"Today, we are appealing for information for anyone who might know something about Ashley's whereabouts or anything you think might assist in the investigation -- no matter how insignificant it might be."
For Jeni, the search goes on. In two days time, it will be her son's 40th birthday -- a milestone she said she now marks by trying to look after herself as well.
"A lot of self-care," she said.
"It's not easy to sustain after that length of time."
At the time of his disappearance, Ashley was described as being of Caucasian appearance with a fair complexion, about 170cm tall with brown hair, blue eyes and facial hair.
"He could be homeless, he could have a beard… I wouldn’t have a clue. He might have chosen a different life and look completely different again," Jeni said.
"He has great skills. I’m confident in Ashley if he decided to go missing... But I’m left with some grainy photos of a person who probably might not look like that before."
She had one last message for her son:
Hey, Ash. Whatever the story is, let us know if you’re okay, if you can.
Missing Person's Week launched on Sunday to raise awareness around the 38,000 Australians who go missing every year. About 2000 of them will remain missing long-term.
As part of the Missing Persons Advocacy Network's 'The Unmissables' initiative, a number of cafes across the country are serving coffee in biodegradable cups, marked with the faces of eight Australians who have been missing for up to six years.
Anyone who has seen Ashley Bindon, or has information on his whereabouts, is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Police are reminded the public not to report crime information on its social media pages.
Featured image: Supplied via NSW Police