‘We’d do anything’: Family still seeking answers 24 years on
"They do say time heals all wounds, but even 24 years later there's a part of you that holds on to hope he's out there somewhere."
Craig Bradridge is still seeking answers on what happened to his little brother Rodney, who disappeared in 1997.
Rodney, aged 23 at the time, was visiting his family in Byron Bay when he failed to return from a solo camping trip near Mullumbimby.
"He wanted to go camping - it was something that he did. He'd just grab his tent," Craig said.
Rodney had organised with his mother to pick him up after a number of days, but he failed to show.
"Mum contacted me and I said he's probably alright - he's probably found somewhere good to camp.
"Then a couple of days went by and he didn't turn up, and we contacted police."
Rodney would be turning 47 this year - and he is one of around 190 long-term missing persons in the northern region.
This is the highest number of historical cases across the state, which is why the Missing Persons Registry Unit has launched their pilot DNA collection program in Coffs Harbour.
As part of the world-first pilot, a pop-up collection centre has been set up at the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre, and relatives of missing persons are being encouraged to visit.
The familial DNA collected will be stored in a database, in a bid to determine the identities of some 330 bodies and human remains.
Craig and his father Peter were some of the first visitors to the centre which opened on Monday.
It will remain in Coffs Harbour both today and tomorrow (February 9), before heading to Port Macquarie on Thursday and Friday.
"I think the hardest part is not knowing how to deal with the situation initially, because you don't know when to actually start grieving," Craig said.
"We'd do anything to shed light on what happened to my brother. It's a small sacrifice to take a couple of hours out of the day."
Craig and Rodney's father Peter still has a lock of his missing son's hair, as well as a tooth.
He said he hoped the new pilot program would provide closure after enduring several disappointments.
"We've done numerous searches but we haven't got the answer or solution.
"When opportunities like this come along … it's good but of course it brings up a lot of harsh pain.
"Hopefully this time we might get some answers. That's our hope, anyway."
Speaking at the launch in Coffs Harbour, Missing Persons Registry Coordinator Detective Inspector Glen Browne theorised the high number of cases in the northern region was due to the "lifestyle."
He said a large number of the cases were linked to marine accidents.
"Statistically, this is the place where we have the most long-term missing people," he said.
It is expected the program will eventually be rolled out to regional centres across NSW.