REAL LIFE

I woke up and he was gone

Nikki's parents had only just celebrated their anniversary when events took a baffling turn.
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Nikki Stevenson, 20, Bundaberg, Qld

The sound of clinking glasses and chatter filled the room. ‘Happy anniversary!’ I beamed.

My mum Julie and dad Paul, both 48, had been married for 22 years and all the family had gathered to celebrate. I hope we’re as happy as they are after two decades, I thought, looking at my boyfriend Brenton, then 20, across the dinner table.

We’d been together for over two years – and four months earlier we’d discovered I was expecting a baby. I was only 18 at the time and the pregnancy hadn’t been planned. At first I’d worried about telling Mum and Dad, but they were supportive.

‘I’m so happy I’m going to be a grandpa,’ Dad told me, smiling and wrapping me in his arms.

His reassurance made me realise that age doesn’t matter. Mum and Dad first got together when they were just 20, after all.

They’d met at a pub in Mum’s hometown of Mt Perry, Qld, and although they’d had their ups and downs along the way – like any couple – they seemed really happy. Ours was a close-knit family.

As my younger brother Tom, then 16, and I grew up, Dad was always there for all of my dance rehearsals and his footy games.

At weekends we’d head down to the local junior football club where Dad was president, or have mates over for barbies in the backyard. A few years later Dad bought an old motorbike and started spending his free time fixing it up.

It wasn’t an easy job. Dad worked long hours as a diesel fitter and most of the money he earned went on supporting the family. But finally the repairs were complete, and Dad was able to go on weekend rides exploring roads near Bundaberg.

Sometimes Tom would join him and the two of them did charity rides to help raise money for local cancer funds. ‘I feel so free exploring the open roads’ he’d say.

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He didn’t sleep well so he would often get up early and take off before anyone else in the house was awake.

On the night of Mum and Dad’s anniversary, Brenton and I stayed for ages chatting. ‘We should get going,’ I said finally. I was staying at Brenton’s, but I intended to return the next day to spend time with Mum.

‘Night love,’ Dad said warmly as I kissed him on the cheek. Little did I know that was the last time I’d see him.

The next day, I went back as arranged. ‘Your father had a meeting at the footy club this morning,’ Mum told me. ‘He’ll be home in an hour or two.’

The plan was to go and visit a family friend later in the day and we knew Dad would want to come. But one hour passed, then two, with no sign of him.

Mum and I both tried calling and texting but the phone rang out. As the clock kept ticking, I had an uneasy feeling I couldn’t quite explain. Dad was usually so good at staying in touch.

Finally, at 6pm, Mum called the footy club to see if he was still there. ‘I’m afraid we haven’t seen Paul at all today,’ said the person on the end of the phone.

He’d never even turned up at the meeting. A feeling of panic began to grip me. Where could he be? Dad’s bike was missing. Had he crashed it?

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Straight away, Brenton and I started driving around looking for signs of a wreck or any clue of where he might be. Returning home with no answers, our sense of dread just grew.

All night we hoped Dad might walk through the front door with a story about his bike breaking down – but when there was still no sign of him the next day, we knew we had to call the police.

Officers began searching the area by foot and air. Friends and family joined them on the hunt too. A bit later that afternoon, a psychic who’d heard what had happened through a friend, got in touch. ‘I see a steep slope, and he’s gone down it,’ she explained, saying she didn’t think Dad was far from home.

Could it be true? That night, as I tried to sleep, her words rang in my ears and when I finally drifted off, I dreamt of the mountain ranges of Mt Perry. Was this a clue?

Desperate for answers, I told the police of my dream and the psychic’s vision – and just hours later a phone call came through.

‘We’ve found your father’s motorbike and helmet down an embankment,’ a police officer said. It was a few metres from the Gin Gin-Mt Perry Road. But still there was no sign of Dad.

‘There is some superficial damage to the bike,’ he told me.

But the police weren’t sure if therehad been an accident, or if the bike had been moved there deliberately. There was no sign of Dad’s wallet, phone, sunglasses or binoculars.

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The mystery deepened when the police found CCTV footage of Dad filling his bike with petrol at 3.28am on the day he went missing. He’d always got up early, but this was early even for him. What did it all mean?

At first I hoped that now we had his motorbike, Dad would be close by. Perhaps he’d hit his head and wandered off? But the trail ran cold. Later that week, the police called off the search.

My brother’s 18th passed without Dad there to see him blow out the candles on his cake and as my baby bump grew, the ache in my heart remained. In June last year, I gave birth to a little girl, Mia – and when my family came to visit my eyes instinctively darted towards the hospital room door. Dad had been so excited about being a grandpa. I so wanted him there.

But he isn’t here – and it has now been nearly two years since that night I kissed him goodbye. His bank accounts haven’t been touched and there have been no reported sightings.

I don’t believe he would have left us like this intentionally – he loved us too much. But we need to find out the truth.

So if you know something, anything, please speak out. Help us solve the mystery – for my family’s sake.

Paul Robert Stevenson
Paul Robert Stevenson, now 49, was last seen on Sunday March 11, 2012. He left his Bundaberg home around 3am. CCTV images captured him filling his black 1978 Honda motorcycle with petrol in Bundaberg. The bike was later located 16kms east of Mt Perry township. Extensive land and air searches of the surrounding area failed to locate Paul, who has brown hair and eyes, a fair complexion and is 178cm tall.

If you have any information, contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000

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