Cops 'baffled' as missing gran search enters eighth day
Investigators have been left "baffled" by the disappearance of grandmother Ruth Ridley, as the search for her body enters its eighth day, hampered by the hilly and desolate landscape surrounding the Murray River.
The religious 58-year-old was reported missing last Wednesday by her son when she and her estranged husband Gary, from whom she had split four weeks earlier, failed to make contact for several days.
Detectives are now working on the theory former police officer Gary Ridley, 61, killed her before taking his own life. Both had taken out AVOs against each other in recent weeks.
Gary Ridley was found dead on Wednesday morning in his wife's blue Mitsubishi Pajero, abandoned on a dirt track on Shelley Rd at Walwa, Victoria - just across the NSW-Victorian border - when a motorist driving past saw him slumped over the steering wheel and raised the alarm.
Officers this morning called off the search for Mrs Ridley, 58, around Neil's Reserve on the Murray River in Victoria, with NSW police picking up the hunt on barren landscape around the Murray River east of Jingellic, where they believe the pair were sharing a caravan - which was being towed by the blue Pajero - on Monday.
Detectives have failed to electronically track Mrs Ridley's movements because of the scarcity of mobile phone masts around the barren landscape.
"We are really keen to speak to anyone who saw the car and the towing caravan near Jingellic in the Hume Shire," said Inspector Adrian Telfer.
"We are baffled by what has happened in this case. It's been tricky because of the hilly terrain and lack of phone masts. We're struggling to piece together exactly what happened.
"We're struggling to pick up a signal for Ruth because of the remote area and lack of phone towers.
"By all accounts Mrs Ridley is an upstanding member of the community and her family are worried for her."
Police are interviewing family and friends in a bid to establish the nature of the couple's relationship in the weeks before they agreed to meet in Tumbarumba for a camping trip to work through their differences.
"We're sitting everyone down now and talking to people to find out who did what and who said what," Inspector Telfer added.
LAST KNOWN MOVEMENTS
Mrs Ridley was last seen shopping in a supermarket in Albury four days before her ex-husband was found dead in her car on a remote stretch of road near the NSW Murray River 100km away.
Police are sifting through CCTV footage in the search for clues about her movements, after she drove her blue Mitsubishi Pajero and caravan away from the supermarket to visit family and Gary Ridley at Tumbarumba, in the NSW southwest.
She had travelled from her home in Port Macquarie on the mid-north coast to collect some belongings from her estranged husband's house.
The pair had taken out apprehended violence orders against each other after recently separating, with Mrs Ridley moving hundreds of kilometres away to Port Macquarie on the north coast to get away from her ex, who lived in the state's southwest.
On Monday, her distraught son Steven, who raised the alarm and reported his parents missing to police, said the family was praying for his mum's safe return.
"We don't know anything about Mum yet, we have no news on anything," he said.
"All I can say is we're hoping to find Mum.
"Mum is deeply caring and kind, adores her grandchildren … if anyone sees her, please contact the police."
On the days before the pair went missing, police believe the Pajero and caravan were possibly at camping sites along the Murray River.
Gary Ridley was seen filling the Pajero with petrol at Tumbarumba on Sunday, October 27, days before his body was found in the vehicle on Shelley Rd at Walwa, across the NSW-Victorian border.
Ms Ridley is a regular at Point Community Church in Port Macquarie where her fellow worshippers have described her as gentle, kind and dedicated to her family and grandchildren.
"She's such a beautiful soul, everyone loves Ruth,'' one member of the congregation said. "She lives for her family and is besotted with her grandchildren. Her family is her life."