A New South Wales teenager sent a one word social media message shortly before he walked into the bush never to be seen again, an inquest has heard.
Zac Barnes, who was 18 at the time of his disappearance, got out of a friend’s car on the night of November 13, 2016, in Thornton, in the Hunter Valley.
Mr Barnes was wearing just a T-shirt, shorts and work boots when he went missing.
He had neither his wallet nor phone on him.
An inquest has commenced at the NSW Coroners Court, in Lidcombe in Sydney’s west, to investigate what led up to and what happened after Mr Barnes’ disappearance, as well as police efforts to locate him.
But, said counsel assisting Tim Hammond, there was no hope the teen might still be alive.
“It must be concluded that Zac has passed away,” he said noting that Mr Barnes’ bank accounts, social media profiles and phone had not been used since that day in 2016.
Mr Hammond said his baffling disappearance – and the fact no remains or possessions had been found – had left a “hole that remains with his family and friends and never leaves,” reported 7 News.
Mr Barnes, who excelled at maths and football, worked as a bricklayer.
He was reported missing on November 14 by his parents Karen and Michael Gudelj, who attended the inquest.
The 18-year-old, from Metford near Maitland, had been through a troubled few days. He had lost his job after what’s been described as an “altercation” with a colleague, the Daily Mail reported. He then had to ask his parents to give him $1200 to pay down a debt.
Friends said he was emotional, crying and was drinking heavily.
After he was fired, Mr Barnes allegedly made an eerie comment.
“All I have to do is walk into the bush and take a number of pills and no one will ever find me”.
In a message on social media site Snapchat to a friend just days before he vanished, he simply wrote: “dead”.
The friend who received that message tracked down Mr Barnes after his parents expressed concerns about his welfare.
He was found at a mate’s house drinking and watching movies.
But Mr Barnes did not want to go home, worried about his mother seeming him in that condition.
He instead took a drive with a friend, where a witness has said he became aggressive.
Mr Barnes asked for the car to be stopped and walked away, into the bush.
“Zac was not heard from again that night or since,” Mr Hammond said.
Despite a search by NSW Police no signs of Mr Barnes have ever been found.
Questions have been raised about the length of time it took for detailed searches to begin.
“(The inquest) is an important first step to getting to the truth what happened to Zac,” Mr Barnes’ mother Ms Gudelj said.
“We’re hoping to bring our boy home, whether he’s alive or not”.
The inquest continues.