MISSING MAN: Mates fear the worst
"HE WOULDN'T have gone off somewhere without letting somebody know."
Brooms Head photographer Stephen Otton can only guess what happened to his friend Kenneth (Kenny) Parker after he left to go fishing last week.
Late yesterday police call off the search for Mr Parker, who was last seen in Sandon village on Wednesday when he told a friend he was going fishing on the Sandon River.
Grafton duty officer Inspector Jo Reid said police would continue to monitor the region, but the active search had been halted.
Insp Reid said searchers were "behind the eightball" from the outset.
"When you don't know exactly where and when he went missing, you're at the mercy of nature," Insp Reid said.
"If he's in the ocean it's down to tidal flows and things like that."
Insp Reid said if Mr Parker did not turn up in the next few weeks, police would prepare a report for the Coroner.
Mr Parker, who is a Brooms Head resident, had become friends with Mr Otton over their shared affection for the Brooms Head brumby.
But despite days of searching, emergency services have been unable to find Mr Parker.
"No one knows any better," Mr Otton said. "The assumption is the inevitable. (He may) have fallen or had a heart attack. (He may) have fallen into the water and the tide has taken him up river or out to sea.
"I can't quite get over it, it's too fresh, he was part of the town, just like the brumby is."
Mr Otton first met Mr Parker when he saw him walking down the road with a wheelbarrow full of brumby manure.
"He never seemed to mind (when I took his photo), it was always a good photo of him walking down the street," he said.
The last photo Mr Otton took of the 72-year-old was on June 8, the morning after Lake Arragan broke out to the sea while they were standing on the bridge in the middle of Brooms Head.
The two men looked after the brumby, making sure they had feed for him at either end of town. But Mr Otton said Mr Parker was extremely close with the brumby.
"I've got to know Kenny a lot better because the brumby has damaged one if his legs, and as he picks up his manure, (the brumby) knows Kenny better," he said. "I'm getting close to the brumby too because I'm feeding him."
With an injured leg, the feeding time with Mr Otton and Mr Parker was more important than ever.
"The brumby is on medication, so it's very important we feed him," Mr Otton said.
"He's not relying on us, but he does enjoy the molasses.
"It's sad in lots of ways... Kay has lost a husband and the brumby has lost a friend."
Mr Otton said Mr Parker was also good for a conversation, especially when it came to the brumby.
"He's a guy that just spent his time in the vegetable patch, fishing and always had a story to tell," he said.
"He led a simple life. They came up from the south side of Sydney and they settled here in Brooms Head. They've become friends of the town.
"He wasn't a man who would go wondering off somewhere without letting anyone know."