Police believe this photo of ex-police officer Gary Ridley, 61, holding a fish could prove he killed his wife Ruth in a murder-suicide
A wife’s photo of her husband holding a fish on a camping trip could hold the key to finding her body and proving he killed her in a murder-suicide, police believe.
The body of ex-police officer Gary Ridley, 61, was found lying in the reclined driver’s seat of his car at Pikes Dam in far north-eastern Victoria on October 29, 2019.
He is suspected of murdering his wife Ruth Ridley, 58, in the days before after they left their home in Tumbarumba, NSW on the other side of the border.
The couple – whose four-decade long marriage was plagued by domestic violence – are believed to have gone camping on the weekend of October 25-27 at Neils Bend Reserve on the banks of the Murray River.
At 6.30pm on the Saturday, Mrs Ridley sent a video to her daughter-in-law of her husband fishing in the river.
Police hope another photo showing him proudly holding up a fish he caught to the camera will reveal exactly where the pair had been camping.
Police strongly believe Mr Ridley murdered Mrs Ridley (pictured) before taking his own life after a four-decade long marriage plagued by domestic violence
‘This photo is the only information we have about the likely place where they would have camped,’ Victoria Police Senior Constable Andrew Leonard told A Current Affair.
Authorities have appealed for other campers who were at the popular scenic spot that weekend to come forward if they have any information about Mrs Ridley’s disappearance.
Their son Nathan has speculated the only way his mother would go camping alone would be if her father lied to her and said other family members would be there for the trip.
At 10pm on October 26, she attempted to sign into her Netflix account, but by 7.30am the following morning, Mr and Mrs Ridley’s phones were disabled.
‘We have a tree that we’ve engraved her name into (at Neils Bend Reserve) – that’s all we’ve got,’ Nathan Ridley said.
‘I find it hard to acknowledge it all the time that my Dad would do this – I think it puts a little space between me and him if I refer to him as “Gary”.’
Just 24 hours before he killed himself, Gary Ridley had left another son Steven an eerie letter saying: ‘Look after yourself, everything will be OK in the long run. Love Dad.’
Police believe the couple intended to rekindle their romance after a tumultuous four-month period, during which Mrs Ridley took out an AVO against her ex-husband in August.
Gary Ridley (pictured) was found dead in his ex-wife’s car in bushland in Shelley, Victoria on October 29
Mrs Ridley had embarked on a 1,000km road trip from Port Macquarie, on the NSW north coast, to visit her husband in Victoria
Mrs Ridley had embarked on a 1,000km road trip from Port Macquarie, on the NSW north coast, to visit her husband in Victoria ahead of the camping trip.
In the years before, Mrs Ridley confided in her best friend Marion Bremner about her husband’s abuse.
Mrs Ridley told Ms Bremner she believed her husband would one day kill her, while police had taken out an apprehended violence order to protect her from Mr Ridley.
Mrs Ridley’s movements in the days before she was reported missing on October 30
‘Ruth called me upset and said Gary had threatened to kill her and told her how he would do it. He told her he’d put her somewhere no one would ever find her,’ Ms Bremner told The Daily Telegraph in 2019.
Mrs Ridley had previously told Mrs Bremner she feared ‘Gary is going to kill me one day’ and ‘I wished he would do it already so I can go to heaven’.
Mrs Ridley had tried to leave her husband a number of times over the years.
In 2005, Tumbarumba police intervened to help Mrs Ridley collect her belongings from their home.
Gary Ridley left his son Steven (pictured) an eerie letter saying: ‘Look after yourself, everything will be OK in the long run. Love Dad’ before he killed himself
On another occasion, a minister at the local church let Mrs Ridley stay at his house after leaving her husband.
Police seized the grandmother’s diary, which contained chilling entries asking God for the strength not to go back to her abusive husband.
While police are unable to determine exactly what happened to Mrs Ridley without finding her body, they believe she was strangled to death.
Mrs Ridley, a loving grandmother, confided in her best friend about her husband’s abuse, and feared he would one day kill her
Their hunch is based on comments Mrs Ridley made to her friends about her husband strangling her until passing out.
Later in the day, hours after their phones were disabled, Mr Ridley returned to the family’s Tumbarumba home.
He told his son Steven that his mother was with her best friend, Mrs Bremner.
Steven noticed a mark on his father’s face but Mr Ridley claimed a branch had simply scratched him.
Mrs Ridley’s blue Mitsubishi Pajero (pictured), where Mr Ridley’s body was found
Her car was found on October 29 and the caravan (pictured) she had been towing was found the following day 86km away in Tumbarumba
Mr Ridley left the house, and the pair parted ways.
But on October 30 when Steven’s calls to his parents’ phones weren’t going through and he found his father’s haunting note and his mother’s handbag in the kitchen, he called police and reported her missing.
When Senior Constable Peter Thomson arrived at Ms Bremner’s house, she instantly knew her friend was dead.
Mr Ridley’s body was found 10 hours later lying in the front seat of his Pajero, parked at Pikes Dam.
Police found the couple’s disabled phones hidden under the seat, but there was no sign of blood or a struggle in the caravan.
A TIMELINE OF RUTH RIDLEY’S DISAPPEARANCE
Friday, October 18: Ruth Ridley drives a dark blue Mitsubishi Pajero from her home in Port Macquarie to Tumbarumba, New South Wales
Friday, October 25: Mrs Ridley was last seen shopping in a supermarket
Friday – Sunday, October 25-27: Mr and Mrs Ridley were believed to be camping in a reserve on the Murray River at Walwa on the NSW-Victorian border
Sunday, October 27: Mr Ridley was last seen putting petrol in the tank of the Pajero in Tumbarumba
Tuesday, October 29: Her husband Gary Ridley is found dead inside a car on Shelley Road, Shelley in Victoria
Wednesday, October 30: Mrs Ridely’s family report her missing to police. Her caravan is also found in Tumbarumba
Monday, November 4: A desperate search is launched to find Ruth Ridley
Tuesday, November 5: A police officer working on the case says ‘the most likely scenario’ is murder-suicide