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Byron Shire
June 7, 2023

DNA could solve a Mullum mystery after 24 years

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Rodney Bradbridge was 23 when he disappeared during a camping trip near Mullumbimby. Image NSW Police.

Rodney Bradbridge travelled from Sydney to visit family in Byron Bay in 1997. A few days later his mother dropped him ‘out the back’ of Mullumbimby to go camping, and he was never seen again.

Rodney’s brother Craig and his father Peter recently attended a pop-up DNA sample collection day at Coffs Harbour.

A familial DNA collection pilot program, which aims to assist detectives with ongoing historic missing persons investigations, includes the establishment of two pop-up centres – one at Coffs Harbour and one at Port Macquarie. The aim is to capture samples and other data required for upload to the National Missing Persons Victim System database.

Familial DNA samples will be uploaded into the Volunteer Limited Purpose Index (VOLMPU), where they will be searched against the Unidentified Bodies Index.

At the same time, interviews will be conducted with family members to capture further information that may assist investigators.

Families comes forward to give DNA samples

Rodney’s brother Craig and his father Peter. Image NSW Police.

Craig and Peter Bradbridge gave their DNA samples to police in the hope that it might help them find put what happened Rodney.

Rodney’s brother Craig thinks the DNA collection is a great idea. ‘Anything can assist the missing person, if they can be found, or anything that can assist or give some peace of mind to the family and friends who are still wondering what’s happened to their loved one, is great.

Rodney Bradbridge and a mate before he disappeared. Image NSW Police.

Graig says that it’s been really hard not knowing what happened to Rodney. ‘I think the hardest part is not knowing how to deal with the situation. Initially, you don’t know when to actually start grieving for the person who is no longer here.

‘There is always a part of you that still holds on to the fact that he may still be around so it doesn’t really feel appropriate to grieve. That’s especially profound in the first couple of years. You’re just really expecting him to one day knock at the door and there he is.

‘Even 24 years laters, there is still a part of you that still holds on to the hope that he is still out there somewhere and he will be found, as unlikely as that may be.’

Hope for a resolution

Peter Bradbridge giving police a DNA sample at the Coffs Harbour pop-up collection point. Image NSW Police.

Rodney’s father Peter he feels the time stretch out between now and the last time he saw his son. ‘It’s coming up to 24 years and he was 23 when he went missing, so he’d be 46 now going on 47. It’s a long process that basically goes on, there isn’t any resolution.

Rodney Bradbridge. Image NSW Police.

Peter hopes that giving a DNA sample will hold a key. ‘When opportunities come along like we’ve got now, where we can follow up and perhaps get some closure, it’s good. But of course it also brings up a lot of past pain because, I suppose you would say, of what’s transpired and there’s no resolution. In coming forward like this, our hope always is, that ultimately, there will some sort of resolution.

Peter says while he is hopeful – he and his family have been disappointed quite a few times before. ‘We’ve done numerous searches of the area because we know where he went missing, but we haven’t got the answer, we haven’t got the solution.

‘We’ve come forward, we’ll give the DNA, we’ll do these things. We’ve given them [the police] samples of his hair and teeth and hopefully this time we’ll get some answers.

‘That’s our hope anyway.’

Familial DNA samples are provided via buccal swab and are only compared against missing persons databases in Australia.

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