Can you help find Ruth? A family search for answers
The Ridley family has been torn apart.
A suspected murder-suicide that has left three young adults without their mother and father.
“It’s… it’s… my… it was my dad that did it,” Nathan Ridley told me through his tears.
“It tore me apart inside because I didn’t want to believe that was what he would do to her.
“It’s bad enough that mum was murdered, but for Gary to then hide the body from us is just like … it tears my heart apart.
“There’s nowhere to bury her.”
Nathan is uncomfortable using the word “dad” when talking about the man he idolised as a boy and became mates with as a man.
“I find it hard to acknowledge it all the time that my dad would do this … sorry,” he emotionally told me.
It’s a case that has baffled New South Wales and Victoria Police since Ruth Ridley vanished in October 2019.
Gary Ridley’s body was found in a car on the Victorian side of the border.
He apparently took his own life.
It’s suspected he murdered his wife, Ruth, and disposed of her body somewhere in bushland on the border soon after they left the family home at Tumbarumba in New South Wales.
“We’ll be saying to the coroner that we do believe that Gary is responsible for Ruth’s death,” Detective Leading Senior Constable Andrew Leonard, from Victoria’s Family Violence Investigation Unit, said.
“We’re now at the end of the investigation.”
The detective has just filed a report for the Coroner.
New South Wales Detective Senior Constable, Mick Parker, began the investigation when Ruth and Gary – a former Queensland policeman – were reported missing by their other son, Steven.
“We were fairly sure we were looking at something unfortunately nasty,” Detective Parker told me.
“To find Ruth – however we find her – is a big hope.
“Just to be able to give her back to the family.”
Investigations have revealed a history of domestic violence in the Ridley marriage.
“We’re looking at Ruth being involved in a violent relationship with Gary for over 40-years,” Detective Parker said.
“The picture that I draw of his character is that he was a fairly organised person – albeit very manipulative.”
Security camera footage obtained by A Current Affair shows a timeline of events leading to the discovery of Gary’s body at a dam near Shelley.
- October 24, 2019 – security camera footage shows the couple together in an Albury Supermarket.
- October 26 – footage shows Ruth’s Pajero leaving Tumbarumba towing her caravan.
- October 27 – the Pajero returns – minus the caravan. Gary is seen buying fuel.
But it’s a photo of Gary – taken on Ruth’s phone on or about October 27 – which police believe holds the key.
It shows Gary holding a fish he’d caught where he and Ruth had been camping at Neil’s Bend Reserve on the banks of the Murray River.
Detectives hope other campers – who were at Neil’s Bend Reserve on the weekend of October 26 and 27 – might come forward with information.
“There were another four campsites scattered around,” Detective Leonard said.
“The only frustrating thing for me, personally, is the fact that we haven’t been able to find her body or perhaps a location where he’s disposed of her body.
“Ultimately, from a policeman’s point of view, I’d love to be able to give the family total closure.”
Ruth’s close friend, Marion Bremner, lives in Tumbarumba.
“She was like a sister – we were very close,” Ms Bremner told me.
“She felt that one day Gary would kill her.
“I used to say to her ‘why do you stay?’ and she said, ‘well we’re married, for better or worse’.
“I miss her a lot and I do expect her to walk through the door and sit down and have a cuppa – we used to hug and talk.”
Nathan suspects his father tricked his mother into joining him on the camping trip on the pretext it was to catch up with her children and grandchildren.
“I think that Gary was being an extremely nice person to her again. I believe that the week leading up to that point it was like as if they were back being a loving couple,” he told me.
“The thing was mum didn’t want to be that loving couple anymore, she wanted to make the steps to get away from him.”
Nathan wants his mum to be remembered and cases such as this to not be just short-term headlines.
“I just want everyone to see that it doesn’t just end,” he said.
The ramifications are never ending.
“If you are in a domestic violence situation – whoever the aggressor is – just move on from it … just move on,” he begs.
“It’s human lives you are affecting, and you are affecting the children in the relationship as well.”
He dreads the day he’ll have to explain all this to his baby son.
“I don’t how I’m going to do it … it’s going to be embarrassing for me,” he said trying to hold back the tears.
“I’ll feel ashamed to have to tell them the story … it’s my … it was my dad that did it … and it’s … it’s going to be hard.”