Paul Stevenson is an average Aussie bloke but one day disappeared completely. Then his family had to face the rumours circulating.
Paul Stevenson is not the kind of person you’d expect to see in the news.
Back in 2012, the then 47-year-old was just your average Aussie bloke. He loved his kids and had a long happy marriage. He was an involved member of his footy club, a motorbike enthusiast and a reliable employee at his job as a diesel fitter.
There was nothing strange or remarkable about his ordinary life. But that all changed on Sunday, March 11, 2012, when the father-of-two got out of bed for an early morning motorcycle ride – and was never seen again.
Paul had been due at an important meeting at the football club that morning, and when he didn’t show up or return his family’s many phone calls, they knew something wasn’t right.
“That’s where it sort of spiralled,” Paul’s daughter, Nikki told the I Swear I Never podcast.
“It was just a sickening feeling.”
“I just remember distinctively feeling like this knot of pure sickness in my stomach.
“And I remember we didn’t know whether we had to go to the police or not.”
The confusion about whether to go to the police or not came from American movies and TV. The family were under the belief that you needed to wait up to 24 hours to report a missing person.
They would later learn that isn’t the case in Australia, as Missingpersons.gov.au states: “Anytime you have concerns for the safety and welfare of someone and their whereabouts are unknown you can report them missing to your local police. You DO NOT have to wait 24 hours to report someone missing.”
The next day Nikki and her family went to the police and made a report.
They told the police that Paul had plans to go for an early ride out to Paradise Dam, about 80km southwest of Bundaberg where the family lived and the police assured the family they would get a chopper into the air to see what they could find along the roads.
The family and the police were both operating on the same theory at that point, that Paul must have been involved in a crash or accident and was injured, unable to call for help.
But later that day, the police made a baffling find, Paul’s black 1978 Honda motorcycle and helmet were found down an embankment on Mt Perry-Gin Gin Rd about an hour outside of Bundaberg.
The bike had some scrapes, the indicator on it was broken. But there was nothing to indicate any kind of serious high-speed crash. There was no blood, and there was no sign of Paul.
The family held onto hope that the bike had broken down and Paul would still be found, but that hope dimmed with each passing, day, week, month and year with no new information coming to light.
CCTV footage was found that showed Paul filling up his bike with petrol, on Sunday, March 11, 2012 around 4am after leaving his house for a ride. It was the last time he would be seen alive.
Rumours swirled in town, something Nikki found painful.
“I remember one person, and he was around Mount Perry and had no idea who I was, and pretty much just turned and said that dad just up and left,” Nikki said.
She said the rumours in town included everything from suicide to foul play neither of which fit simply into the facts around Paul’s disappearance.
Paul was celebrating his anniversary with his wife and eagerly awaiting the birth of his first grandchild. Nikki said he was planning for the future and there was nothing to make anyone think he might take his own life.
Losing a loved one is an unimaginably painful event for anyone to deal with. But there is a certain sense of closure that we are usually able to get when we understand how the person died, and what they went through.
For families of Australia’s 2600 long term missing persons, this closure is something they long for, but may never receive.
“What we’ve had to live through as a family is unbelievably hard, said Nikki. “We can’t grieve, we can’t, we just don’t know.
“And not having those answers, it changes the whole ball game.”
You can hear Nikki’s full story and other extraordinary stories from ordinary Australians on the I Swear I Never podcast.
If you have any information about the disappearance of Paul Stevenson please contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.