DOUG Morris has lived on the outskirts of Charters Towers for more than 40 years.
He says few things have baffled the small north Queensland town more than the disappearance of Newcastle's Jayden Penno-Tompsett, who was passing through on his way to Cairns on New Year’s Eve.
“I’ve lived here 40 years and I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it,” said Mr Morris, who lives near where the 22-year-old was last seen.
“No one has seen him. We’re all looking but it is just so mysterious. It’s terrible.”
In Charters Towers, Mr Penno-Tompsett’s disappearance is front page news.
In pubs, cafes and on the main street, shocked locals are asking the same question: where is Jayden?
The highly unusual disappearance has his family baffled, as well as authorities who are grappling to piece together the puzzle.
On Wednesday, police door-knocked properties and completed an aerial search of a five-kilometre area near Stockroute Road, a dusty and lonely road that cuts through farmland about 20 minutes north-east of the Charters Towers central business district, but it was unsuccessful.
Detectives believe it is a possible last known location for Mr Penno-Tompsett after his travelling companion, Lucas Tattersall, gave a general description of the area.
It is understood an enraged Mr Penno-Tompsett was driving erratically on his way out of Charters Towers before he pulled off the highway and onto Stockroute Road.
It was there where he is believed to have left the car and stormed off before vanishing.
Earlier reports: The search for Jayden continues
Charters Towers officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Graham Lohmann said police were satisfied with Mr Tattersall’s version of events.
“At all times the witness has been cooperative and he just wants Jayden home, as does everyone else,” he said. “We can substantiate much of his actions that day.”
Senior Sergeant Lohmann said police were “not closed to any possibility” and have not ruled out that Mr Penno-Tompsett hitchhiked out of Charters Towers.
Detectives were investigating other potential areas Mr Penno-Tompsett may have been. They were following up a number of Crime Stoppers reports but as yet there has been no confirmed sighting.
Senior Sergeant Graham Lohmann made a direct appeal to anyone in Newcastle who may be in contact with Mr Penno-Tompsett to come forward to police.
“Jayden is not in any trouble,” he said. “We just want to know where he his. For his family’s sake, come forward.”
Mr Morris said he held out hope for Mr Penno-Tompsett but “at the back of everyone’s mind” is the fear he met with something sinister.
“That’s what I’m worried about,” he said.
‘He is my mate and I’m hurt too’
THE friend travelling with Jayden Penno-Tompsett before he vanished has denied claims he is “heartless” and says he is actually heartbroken at the disappearance of his mate.
Lucas Tattersall was a passenger in the Nissan Pulsar when the men were passing through Charters Towers in North Queensland early on New Year’s Eve.
The pair took off from Newcastle and had taken turns in the drive up to Cairns via the Gregory Highway, which passes through towns including Emerald and Clermont, before it becomes the Flinders Highway at Charters Towers.
In Charters Towers, police believe Mr Penno-Tompsett became angry and for an unknown reason turned onto a back road – possibly Stockroute Road, which connects cattle grazing farms – before vanishing.
Mr Tattersall has not responded to media requests for comment but on Facebook said he had tried to calm Mr Penno-Tompsett to no avail.
“I’m sorry to tell you but if someone wants to just up and leave and f*** off then that’s what they are gonna do,” he wrote. “[You] don’t understand how hard I tried to help Jayden when I with him and calm him down so we can sort this out [sic].”
He added: “He is my mate and I’m hurt too please stop making out I’m just some heartless prick that left him out there to die.”
Asked why he drove off, he said he was “owed money” in Cairns that he needed to fix his car because it was “on the verge of breaking down”.
“I had to wait about 4/5 days until I could get it fixed. Otherwise if I didn’t do what I did I’d be stuck in Charters Towers with no money or nothing,” he said.
Two helicopters, including one piloted by a cattle grazier with extensive local knowledge, scoured the area near Stockbridge Road.