The last person to speak to a missing grandmother before she mysteriously disappeared has revealed she looked ‘ill’ and was ‘laying’ in her car parked on the side of the road.
Colleen South, 58, drove her Hyundai Getz from her home in Renown Park SA across the Victorian border on July 1 and was spotted stopped on the side of the Calder Highway on July 2.
‘When we got back there she was just laying in the car with her head back. She looked really, really tired or a little bit ill I thought, her eyes were very glassy,’ Mary Headon, who pulled over to check on her told A Current Affair.
The next day a farmer noticed the vehicle travelling along nearby Jeruk River Road about 3:30pm.
But later that evening on July 3, her car was found abandoned in a ditch at Bunguluke about 545km from her home back in the Adelaide suburbs.
Now her family are desperately seeking answers and are calling on the police to treat the case as suspicious.
Veronica South (pictured right with her mum Colleen) insists her mother’s disappearance is out of character and should be treated as suspicious
Ms South’s niece actress Farah Mak said she is holding out hope the family ‘will find her together’ (pictured)
None of the surrounding farmers or any of the 600 people in the nearby town of Wycheproof have seen or heard from Ms South.
Her belongings including a bag and journal were found metres from her car, which had the airbags deployed, but her mobile phone has not been located.
About 10 worried relatives have visited Wycheproof as the family searches for any clues.
Her daughter Veronica has made the five hour drive from SA repeatedly in the last two weeks; liaising with police, chatting to locals and putting up missing persons posters.
‘Mum, if you see this, we just hope you’re safe and we’re not giving up on finding you, we’re here searching as much as we can and that we’re not going to give up,’ Veronica said.
Ms South’s actress niece Farah Mak has also been trying to uncover what really happened saying she ‘keeps visualising that we’ll all find her together, which would be incredible’.
‘There’s this eeriness, like you’re following in your footsteps and wondering, what were her steps? What was she thinking? What was she doing?
‘We’re looking around looking for clues, for evidence of where she might’ve walked, where she might’ve been.’
Veronica sent a message to her mum telling her they are ‘not giving up’ on finding her (pictured with her aunt and Ms South’s sister)
After previously critiquing the police response, the family said they were pleased to see a large number of officers out searching on their latest visit.
About 40 specialist officers have joined the search.
‘We’ve had our mounted branch on horses. We’ve had our special solos on motorbikes. We’ve had our canine police with their dog squad here,’ Inspector Gerard de Vries said.
‘We’ve got a number of police on foot both some police from Melbourne, Swan Hill, Mildura.
‘We’ve got the location that the vehicle was discovered, and we’ve broadened that, but that’s reviewing our maps and GPS tracking about what we’ve done previously and broaden that out into areas that we feel need to be looked at.’
Veronica said he is holding out hope the family will find Ms South soon.
One relative of Ms South previously claimed her uncle found ‘spent shotgun shells at the scene’, but detectives ‘have not followed up on this, nor reported it’.
While ‘out of character’, Victoria Police said they were not treating the grandmother’s disappearance as suspicious.
Medication found by Veronica South and her friends in the area where her mother disappeared
Ms Mak, previously hit social media to slam Victoria Police over allegations it had bungled the investigation.
‘My cousin found footprints and a lit out fire nearby – @victoriapolice said there was no footprints found,’ she wrote.
‘Photos taken by @victoriapolice show that there are tyre trucks of a vehicle pulling right up next to my Aunty’s personal belongings where she would have been sitting – no crime scene investigation. My cousin and her friends were told ‘this could’ve been from anything’.’
Victoria Police issued a statement on Monday afternoon dismissing the family’s claims that Ms South may have become a victim of a crime.
It also hit back at claims a proper investigation had not been conducted.
‘Victoria Police commenced a comprehensive search of dense bushland in the surrounding area conducting Air Wing and Drone searches along with Mounted Branch, Canine Unit, officers on foot and in vehicles along with SES,’ the statement read.
‘Local farmers were also asked to check buildings and sheds on their properties.’
Detectives claim the only fears they hold for Ms South stem from a known medical condition and her ‘disappearance was out of character’.
Her journal found in her abandoned belongings contained a handwritten note with the words ‘help me please’.
It’s been almost three weeks since Colleen South (pictured) was last seen by loved ones
A concerning note asking for help was found inside Ms South’s journal near her abandoned car
‘Our hope is that we get action and outcome from Victoria Police by treating this as a crime and investigating accordingly to find Colleen ASAP,’ Ms South’s niece Farah Mak (pictured) told Daily Mail Australia
Veronica told Daily Mail Australia she had made the five-and-a-half hour trip from Adelaide at least three times in the last week to conduct her own searches in Wycheproof.
She believes her mother’s disappearance is suspicious because her belongings were left behind with the car door locked.
‘Also … there’s no trace of my mum, or footprints where she has walked, and no scent detected from the dogs.
‘Also my mum didn’t go to the farmers for help. The house is right next door to where her car was found, so she would have definitely gone there for help but there has been no record of anyone seeing her which I think is odd.’
A Facebook page called Bring Colleen Home set up by Ms South’s family has grown to more than 500 members.
Her daughter took to Facebook on Sunday night to provide an update on her harrowing ordeal.
‘It’s been two weeks since you’ve been missing Mum,’ Veronica wrote.
Ms South was last seen by a witness in her Hyundai Getz (pictured) on July 3. The car was found abandoned an hour later
Ms South’s personal items, including bags and keys, were found 20 metres from her car
‘Although, it feels like a really long time but I’m just getting started with this search. Spoke to locals today and have been meeting with farmers, there was no luck of getting any new evidence today.
‘I am praying we find you soon and everyday feels like I’m getting a step closer to finding you. It hasn’t been easy. I am missing you every day.
‘Tomorrow we may have an update from the police of where to go with the search from here. We are thinking positive and hopefully we will get a positive outcome.’
CCTV footage captured Ms South visiting a Liquorland at St Agnes at about 11.50am on July 2, with police believing she then made her way to rural northern Victoria.
The last reported sighting was made the following day, when a witness spotted her behind the wheel of her Hyundai Getz in Ninyeunook, 267km north of Melbourne.
Around an hour later, a farmer noticed Ms South’s car abandoned parked under a tree off the side of Mackies Road, 26km away in Bunguluke.
Two days later, the farmer called police after realising the car had crashed into a ditch and sustained damage, with airbags deployed.
Ms South’s belongings were found about 20 metres from the car, including her handbag, purse, keys and a journal.
On Saturday, the group found Ms South’s essential medication, downtrodden grass, a pen, footprints and a recently lit campfire.
Ms South is described as 154cm tall with a heavy build, green eyes and brown hair. She was last seen wearing blue jeans, black and white striped shirt.
Anyone who sees Colleen or has any information is urged to contact police.