One of the last people to see Zac Barnes before he disappeared into the bushes expressed grief for the teen’s family as they continue their seven-year search for answers, revealing the last thing he said was ‘don’t stress’.
Zac, 18, was last seen getting out of Courtney Jones’ car and heading into the bush near Thornton railway station in the Hunter region of NSW shortly before 8:00pm on November 13, 2016. .
The teen did not have his phone or wallet with him and was wearing a faded blue T-shirt, blue shorts, and work boots.
He has not been seen or heard from since and his phone and social media accounts have remained inactive ever since.
The coronal inquest into the disappearance of the bricklayer’s apprentice continued on Tuesday at the New South Wales Coroner’s Court in Lidcombe, Sydney.
Several witnesses who saw Zac the weekend he disappeared gave testimony. They all told the court that they believed Zac “had not been himself.”
The friends, Mrs Jones and her partner, Matt Hindwood, were the last to see Zac as he got out of his car near Thornton train station, crossed the road and headed into the bush.
Zac had spent the previous 48 hours at his home in East Maitland.
Ms. Jones recalled Zac’s behavior that weekend and ended her testimony with a heartfelt message to Zac’s mother, stepfather and siblings who were at the investigation.
One of the last people to see Zac Barnes told the inquest his heart breaks for his family (pictured leaving the inquest Tuesday)
Matt Hindwood (pictured leaving the inquest) was one of the last friends to see Zac Barnes and recalled the encounter on the second day of the forensic inquest.
The last person to see Zac Barnes (pictured) recalled the teen’s final moments before he disappeared without a trace into the bushes.
‘Honestly, my heart breaks for them. I wish I could give them more,” Ms Jones told the court.
Zac had shown up at Mrs. Jones’s house on the Friday afternoon before he lost his job.
He spent much of that weekend at the house with the couple and another friend drinking, watching movies and playing Monopoly.
On Sunday night, things escalated when Zac became agitated.
Mr Hindwood and Mrs Jones tried to calm Zac down and a short time later he got into the car with them to be dropped off at East Maitland railway station.
“He was still irritable and aggressive,” he told the court.
We kept asking him what was wrong but he said not to stress and not to worry about me.
He said no one cared about him and we didn’t need the extra stress.
Mrs Jones stopped en route at a nearby IGA to buy cigarettes.
Zac then asked for a ride to Thornton station, but on Hausmann Drive, near Tripp Close, he became agitated again.
“He started yelling to be let out of the car,” Ms. Jones said.
“I was really angry and paranoid. He was banging on the windows and was pretty aggressive at the time.
The last thing she saw of Zac was walking ‘quickly’ across the street into the bushes.
“I pulled away and made a U-turn, but when we passed again, we couldn’t see Zac anywhere,” Ms. Jones said.
Several witnesses said at the inquest Tuesday that Zac Barnes had not been himself the weekend he went missing.
Earlier on Tuesday, Hindwood recalled the final moments he and Zac shared before he disappeared.
The pair became friends after meeting at TAFE nine months earlier.
Two days before he disappeared, Mr Hindwood came home on Friday afternoon to see Zac asleep on his terrace.
Zac told her that he had lost his job after getting into an altercation with a colleague.
“He was upset and didn’t seem like himself,” Hindwood said at the inquest.
He also gave evidence about Zac’s drug use that weekend.
“I was definitely stressed, I realized that I wasn’t the giggly character that I normally was,” he said.
Driving to Thornton on Sunday night, he recalled trying to calm down his friend sitting in the backseat before Zac started yelling to be let out of the car.
“He grabbed the back of my seat and shook it,” Hindwood said at the inquest.
He said the couple spent five minutes smoking a cigarette as he recalled Zac’s last words.
“He was starting to calm down,” Hindwood recalled.
“He said ‘I’m going to see a guy on the road’ and that I’d see him tomorrow and not stress about it.”
‘He gave me a hug and said ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’
Zac’s mother Karen Gudelj (right), stepfather Michael and younger sisters Makayla and Mia will have the chance to talk about him on the final day of the inquest on Wednesday.
Zac Barnes (rear left) was not himself after losing his job Friday, according to the investigation.
She remembered seeing Zac walking into the bushes before she lost sight of him.
“He lived in a suburb and I knew he had a lot of friends in the area, so I wasn’t too worried about him,” Hindwood said.
The next day, Monday, Mr. Hindwood went to work and didn’t find out about Zac’s absence until that afternoon. He then joined the search for Zac organized by his stepfather and his brothers.
Zac’s mother, Karen Gudelj, and stepfather Michael attended the inquest for a second day Tuesday, supported by their two older brothers and two younger sisters.
Three final witnesses are expected to testify on Wednesday, the third and final day of the inquest.
Assistant State Coroner Carmel Forbes has invited the family to ‘bring the individual to life’ at the end of tests on Wednesday.
Zac is presumed dead with no sightings since the night he was last seen on November 13, 2016.
Zac would be 25 years old if he was still alive today.
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