RACHEL Penno’s gut instinct tells her there is something more to the disappearance of her only son.
“I just don’t know what that is at this moment,” she said.
“But my gut is telling me there is something else. Jayden just wouldn’t go bush like that.
“I’ve got to let the police piece this puzzle together.”
Ms Penno did everything to get from Newcastle to Charters Towers, in North Queensland, where Jayden Penno-Tompsett mysteriously vanished on New Year’s Eve on a boy’s trip to Cairns.
She hadn’t slept, battled car troubles after hitting a kangaroo, and, just 20 kilometres out of Charters Towers, ran out of fuel on the lonely Flinders Highway in the dark of the night.
When she finally got there, she met with detectives and went looking for herself, sifting through the dry country and navigating the maze of back roads that weaves through farmland, even getting lost herself.
It isn’t hard to do.
On Wednesday, she was there again with police as they ramped up the search to find Mr Penno-Tompsett, canvassing a massive area that spans 85 square kilometres of rugged terrain near the Burdekin River, north of Stockroute Drive, an area police were told the 22-year-old left the car.
Emergency services have vowed not to stop despite the “huge effort” they have on their hands.
Described by senior police as a “slow, arduous” process, the search area is full of dry creeks and large vegetation that has prevented the use of helicopters.
Recent rain, including a massive dumping on Monday of 86.1mm, the drought-stricken town’s wettest day in five years, has hampered search efforts.
From one extreme to the next, there has also been searing heat.
But Townsville District police Inspector Roger Whyte insisted the search effort was “evidence-based” and he vowed to leave “no stone unturned”.
Some authorities still believe Mr Penno-Tompsett could be found alive with various water sources in the area.
Detectives have also not ruled out the possibility the 22-year-old hitchhiked out of Charters Towers.
“We would not be searching here if we did not believe we could find Jayden,” Inspector Whyte said on Wednesday.
For a mother in uncharted territory, hope is everything.
“I still have hope he’s going to come back,” Ms Penno said.
“I just want him to come back … I just want him to come back.”
Police again appealed for anyone in Newcastle or the Hunter Region who may have information about Mr Penno-Tompsett’s disappearance to come forward.