Bruce Fairfax, photographed with his dog.Image result for bushwalker "Bruce Fairfax" missing

Bruce Fairfax and pet dog Tessa, photographed near Duckhole Lake, on the day he disappeared.

Information board for searchers looking for Bruce Fairfax near Duckhole Lake.

Bruce Fairfax bushwalking in snow, photo by Louise Fairfax.

PHOTO: Louise Fairfax's photo of her husband bushwalking in snow in August. (Nature Lovers Walks/Louise Fairfax)

Missing bushwalker Bruce Fairfax's tent.

PHOTO: Family of Mr Fairfax wrote a note for him in case he returned to his tent. (ABC News: Peta Carlyon)Family joins search for man missing in bush

Missing since: 
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Last seen: 
Duckhole Walking Track, Strathblane, TAS
Responsible jurisdiction: 
Year of birth: 



Bruce was last seen in the car park at the entrance to the Duckhole walking track, Strathblane, in the Huon Valley of Southern Tasmania.
Bruce has the advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which appears to have caused his disorientation.  Despite extensive searches for Bruce, he has not been seen since.
If you have information that may assist police to locate Bruce please call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.



Search for missing bushwalker Bruce Fairfax to resume on Tuesday

Updated 16 Oct 2017, 5:19pm - ABC

The daughter of Bruce Fairfax, who has been missing in Tasmanian bush since Saturday, has spoken of her "very loved" father, who has gone without his Parkinson's medication for days.

Yelena Fairfax, who joined searchers in the Strathblane area in Tasmania's far south, said her dad would find it impossible to think clearly without his medicine.

Mr Fairfax, 66, was walking on the Duckhole Lake Track with his wife Louise and dog Tessa when he fell behind and failed to catch up.

Parks Tasmania lists the four-kilometre track "through a forest of stringybarks and rainforest" as an "easy stroll" and "suitable for all age groups".

"We have 60 people out here looking today so that's obviously helping things a lot and it's quite thick bush," Ms Fairfax said.

"My sister is out in the bush with one of the search teams and Mum and I have just been going up and down the track."

Ms Fairfax said her parents loved being outside.

"He's amazing, he's a very loved man as you can see from all these people coming out to find him. It's really lovely that everyone has come out to help."

Ms Fairfax said her father had the "disease that Michael J Fox has, which is probably the most famous case of it".

She said without his medicine her father would be "unable to think as intelligently as when he's had medication".

The operation was suspended early this evening and will resume on Tuesday.

Senior Constable Chris Williams said police expected to find Mr Fairfax "off the track".

"We know he's not going to be mobile because the medication allows him to be mobile, without it he seizes up," he said.

"We expect to find him off the track, we don't expect him to acknowledge us or try to wave us down."

Senior Constable Williams said searchers found a "banana and apple core at Duckhole Lake" and they have been sent off for forensic analysis.

"Due to the nature of the wilderness down there — it's very thick, hard to penetrate ... it'll be very hard going, very slow work."

Senior Constable Williams said the couple's plan "was the wife was going to go ahead and take some photos of the waterfall which was a bit ahead".

He said the search would persist until they had a result.

"We're going to go all day today; we'll be back here tomorrow and after tomorrow," he said.

"We'll sit down with the family, talk to them, talk to the experts about how long someone would survive in this terrain, but it's certainly not something we're going to give up on at the moment."

Senior Constable Williams said a dog had joined the search.

"Hopefully the search dog may pick up his scent and may lead us to a new area to search," he said.

The trail at Duckhole Lake is described as "grade 2, suitable for all age groups" with "no bushwalking experience required".

In her bushwalking blog, Louise Fairfax has written about her husband's deterioration and the couple's efforts to keep him trekking.

In a post from August this year on the couple's trek in the snow at Walls Of Jerusalem National Park in Tasmania, Ms Fairfax wrote of having "taken huge measures to make myself stronger as he becomes weaker so we can both keep going" on trails.

"My husband had indicated after last week's successful foray into white wonder that he felt he was up to a weekend walk to the Walls, so we acted accordingly," she wrote.

"However, Parkinson's is a fickle disease: this week you can be fine (relatively speaking), yet next week, you're distressingly downhill. This week was not a good week, and he struggled badly.

"The further we penetrated into the white wilderness, the less coordinated he became. His pace slowed to a virtual halt.

"We have had many sad 'last times' since his illness has taken control of him, but this is one of the worst, even though it is not unexpected.

"At least he can still do day walks in the snow. For now."


Missing bushwalker Bruce Fairfax: wife pays tribute to 'giant felled by Parkinson's', as students mourn inspirational teacher

By James Dunlevie - ABC

Posted 22 Oct 2017, 10:16am

The wife of missing bushwalker Bruce Fairfax has posted a heartfelt goodbye and recalled their last trek together, as friends and colleagues of the former teacher share their memories of him.

Louise Fairfax, an avid bushwalker, was with 66-year-old Mr Fairfax on the day he failed to meet up with her after they set out on the 2-kilometre trail to Duckhole Lake, near Strathblane, in Tasmania's south on Saturday October 14.

On her bushwalking blog, Ms Fairfax posted a photo of a younger Bruce with one of their daughters, alongside an affectionate message.

"That handsome devil there is the love of my life, the father of my two utterly fabulous daughters, my soulmate and my best friend," Ms Fairfax wrote.

"Last Saturday, he got lost in the deep Tasmanian rainforest (he had Parkinson's disease which can cause great confusion) and we have not been able to find him. It is presumed he fell and couldn't get up before his medicines ran out.

"The police said they'd never seen so many volunteers searching — friends from our bushwalking clubs, from orienteering and from Church Grammar where he was deputy head and head of the senior school before retiring due to ill health last year.

"He loved his family with a great passion — and that includes not only our direct family members, but all the other 'adopted' ones that became extended family members along the way.

"He has inspired four decades of students to be better people, and they are all aching right now. I can't begin to tell you the stature of this giant that has been felled by Parkinson's."

Ms Fairfax said she had received "hundreds of emails from people telling me was the best teacher they ever had".

"He believed in people and was always patient, generous and kind. He had the most beautiful eyes on the planet (sorry all you others). RIP Bruce Fairfax."

On Thursday, Tasmania Police said they were ceasing their ground search efforts, following advice Mr Fairfax could not have survived given his medical condition and the length of time he has been missing.

A search of the Duckhole Lake flooded sinkhole by divers will happen in the coming weeks.

Students celebrate an inspiring teacher

Daniel Muggeridge, a former student of Mr Fairfax at Launceston Grammar, said he and others had remembered him at a small gathering at the lake to "say a quiet goodbye".

"We sang Amazing Grace and Dona Nobis Pacem. Gerard Manley Hopkins' poems Pied Beauty and The Windhover were read to honour a man who inspired many and who loved his family and his God — and shared generous love to many besides," Mr Muggeridge posted on Facebook.

"After days of search in warm sun there was a gentle rain that was said to reflect Bruce's tears as he said his last farewell. More than a few other tears were shed in response."

Mr Muggeridge praised the efforts of those who scoured the dense bush in efforts to locate Mr Fairfax.

"The search teams have been amazing, thorough, extensive, committed, and caring. No trace has been found, making closure really hard for the family. Please join us in praying for them as they struggle with waves of grief over the coming days and weeks and months."

"Bruce, you have inspired three decades of learners — even just at Launceston Grammar. You believed in all of us, and inspired us to be better. Your contribution to broader community will be felt for years to come. You are loved and honoured by so many, and we carry a part of you in our hearts. To say you are generous does not come close. You will be missed."

Former students and relatives joined Mr Muggeridge in fond remembrance of Mr Fairfax, who was an experienced bushwalker, accompanying his wife Louise on her many treks in the wilderness.

"Very sad news — he was my favourite teacher, along with many others I suspect. Will certainly pray for the family, and for some sense of closure and peace for them," wrote Rosalie Olding.

"Bruce Fairfax made an indelible mark on my mind and spirit in the time he taught me and in the many years since. He taught me to find peace, grace and hope in my darkest hours by showing me the beauty and power of words and I will carry those lessons all my life, and his memory in my heart," Bridget Archer posted.

"I feel deeply blessed to have known him."

Claire Little said Mr Fairfax had instilled in her a love of the poetry of English author Gerard Manley Hopkins.

"I have a very batted GMH book of poems that is one of my treasured possessions. After reading about his retirement I was reminded of what an influence he was to me," she wrote.

"I will remember you forever as a cheeky man, with such a heart and such a smile! You inspired us all to be more, to question the unknown and to strive for the future," posted Amber Botterill.

"It's been a good 15 years since I've seen that smile, but I will remember it forever. You are a brilliant and loved man."

'Life was about to take him away'

Louise Fairfax has previously written on her blog about her husband's battle with Parkinson's and the difficulty he faced while trekking.

On Saturday, she wrote of the couple's bushwalking trip at Arve Falls the day before he went missing.

"I was about to do my last ever bushwalk with the man who has been by my side for 10/13 of my life — a smidgeon more than 3/4s. I was a tiny, insecure teenager when he met me. I grew up with him beside me, sharing and shaping, but Life was about to take him away.

"Not knowing the future, we did not walk arm in arm. Instead, we buried ourselves in our anoraks, shoulders closed in on our chests, but this strategy provided little defence from the blast that was so noisy we couldn't hear each other."

Ms Fairfax wrote of scrambling at the lookout to get into a better position for a photograph "while my mother-hen husband clucked in angst as he watched his wife climb barriers and perch on ledges".

"He didn't find my antics to be a relaxing or pleasurable spectator sport. He was very fearful of heights himself, and didn't like me being in danger."

Ms Fairfax also wrote of the accommodation where they spent the night; where she would again stay over during the search for Mr Fairfax in the following days.

"The incredibly kind lady who greeted us at Driftwood was to later take us under her wing and offer us a place where we could 'relax' — well, none of that got done — after dark and before 7:00am as we continued day after day in our fruitless search for a wandered Bruce, but that is another story

Missing bushwalker Bruce Fairfax 'boyishly defiant' before vanishing at Duckhole Lake, wife Louise says

By James Dunlevie

Posted 24 Oct 2017, 3:26pm

The wife of Bruce Fairfax, who went missing in the Tasmanian bush more than a week ago, has written of his last day with her and how she went to bed after the first day of searching "convinced of his death".

Louise Fairfax was bushwalking to Duckhole Lake, a flooded sinkhole about 106 kilometres south-west of Hobart, with 66-year-old Bruce on Saturday, October 14, when they separated while on the two-kilometre track.

It is believed Mr Fairfax, who has Parkinson's disease, would have been unable to survive without his medication for more than a week.

Ms Fairfax has detailed her last day with him on her blog, writing that "Bruce and I have a 'handicap system' [for] when what I am doing is too hard for him, which happens quite often".

"We go to the same destination, I give him a few suggestions of where he can walk, and a time to return, and then I do my thing, faster, harder and further, while he does his. It has always worked in the past."

The pair had set out for several locations over a number of days, planning to finish at Creekton Falls - Mr Fairfax's favourite spot - the following day.

Ms Fairfax said on that October Saturday, Bruce was "exactly where he wanted to be: in the wilderness, wild and free like a normal person".

'Cheekiest look' just before he vanished

Ms Fairfax said she had walked about 150 metres ahead of her husband on the path through dense bush, when she turned around.

"I gave him a resigned little wave and smile and he had the cheekiest look on his face: 'Yep, I'm coming too, and I'm eating my apple while I walk (also not allowed)'," she said.

Mr Fairfax, a much admired former senior teacher at Launceston Grammar, "saw himself as being perfectly capable; just a little slower than some other (overly fast) people," Ms Fairfax wrote.

"His smile was boyishly defiant. He was not going to submit to a pusillanimous life of protection. He had not a clue in the world why the rest of us kept trying to mollycoddle him. It annoyed him, actually."

Ms Fairfax said her husband had been with her "in thick snow in the walls of Jerusalem" in August and, despite his condition, successfully made it to a plateau, being one of "only four out of 14" people who did so.

"He loved a grand adventure, and loved being in nature. Today was no different. The track I was on was really beautiful. Why should he be denied this?" she said.

"I never saw him again, and we have no idea what happened. We only know that he wasn't there at our meeting time. I presumed he was either in his dream world, which can happen, or that he'd somehow managed to wander off the track."

Fear set in after first day

Ms Fairfax said she called for help about 1:00pm "which gave them time for a thorough search before nightfall".

"I began to get worried that he'd choked on that apple doing two things at once, or that he'd fallen and bled to death," she said.

"Police searched every track and road in the area by car and foot, and searched from the sky using a helicopter that kept going until about 10:30pm. The 'copter had an infrared warmth detector and stunningly strong lights, but nothing was found.

"I explored off track in all the places where perhaps someone could go off to the side, but to no avail.

"I went to bed that night devastated, convinced of his death."

Family touched by kindness of police, volunteers

At 6:00am the next day, Ms Fairfax said she phoned daughter Kirsten "to tell her I needed her and Lenie (Yelena), both of whom had already offered, to come down".

Ms Fairfax wrote of being touched by the spirit of volunteers who joined the search for her husband, which included past Launceston Grammar colleagues of his, with many having "driven for five hours through the night, many leaving straight after work the night before, to be there".

"People cancelled work and other commitments, they went without sleep, they ripped their clothes and their bodies in the bush (one rescuer ended up in hospital).

"We called, we whistled, we yelled. The whole thing was done with military precision, and yet with incredible sensitivity to the girls' and my feelings."

She said her and her daughters were particularly touched by the actions of a police officer at Duckhole Lake, who would be "directing operations one minute and putting his arms around me the next".

Operation changed to 'search for deceased person'

"At the end of day three, Kirsten, Lenie and I were called aside to discuss what should happen the next day," Ms Fairfax said, with expert medical opinion consulted on "every aspect of how long a man in (Bruce's) condition, with his weight and height and health, could be expected to live".

"They said that if he hadn't been found by the end of the morrow, and if we agreed, they would switch the kind of search they were doing to be searching for a deceased person. By this stage, we also felt that he couldn't be alive by then."

The family was informed Mr Fairfax "had probably died of hypothermia or a heart attack," she said.

"These are both incredibly kind ways to go.

"We agreed to one final day of searching and to call it off by the end of day five."

Ms Fairfax said she believed if the family had insisted the search continue, police would have done so, praising them as being "incredibly sensitive to our wants".

"I write this, telling you of an event that still seems like some kind of story I've read," she said.

"I know that Bruce is gone. It is not that I can't believe the logic or that I want further searching, but some part of me is still in denial. It is expecting Bruce to wander in any second with that cheeky smile of his and look triumphant at fooling everyone for so long.

"He sure did that!"

Daughters' goodbye to 'Dada'

Ms Fairfax went on to describe the impromptu memorial service held at Duckhole Lake for her husband, where Mr Fairfax's family and others, including those who had searched for him, gathered to say their goodbyes.

Also present was the family's dog Tessa, which was with the couple on the day he went missing.

"We exchanged a few funny stories about this man we all loved so dearly, this gentle, patient, generous giant who has touched so many lives and taught so many people to fly. Then the boys left us, and we girls had our own time saying farewell.

"The girls yelled 'bye Dada'; I shared with them the words of the song I had been singing constantly to him as I searched:

"If I needed you, would you come to me, would you come to me to relieve my pain? And if you needed me, I would come to you, I would swim the shores to relieve your pain."

"If Bruce had been lying somewhere, able to hear but not respond, those words would let him know I was still searching.

"He already knew the extent of my love for him. There was no need for some 'last-minute' declaration."

A memorial service for Bruce Fairfax is planned for Friday, November 3, at a time and place yet to be announced.


Story By James Dunlevie - ABC - December 26 2018

Bruce Fairfax, a much-admired schoolteacher and avid walker, had waved on his wife along the trail to Duckhole Lake, a flooded sinkhole about 106 kilometres south-west of Hobart in October 2017.

His wife Louise would later tell police that her 66-year-old husband would usually be overtaken by her faster pace due to his Parkinson's Disease, a condition he steadfastly refused to allow spoil his enjoyment of Tasmania's wilderness trails.

Ms Fairfax told police at the time she had walked about 150 metres ahead of her husband on the path through dense bush, when she turned around to see him with "the cheekiest look on his face".

She would wait for him at their agreed meeting point, a picnic table near the lake. He would never arrive.

Days of searching involving police and volunteers, many familiar with the couple and their standing in the bushwalking community, would reveal nothing.

The forest canopy was just too thick for spotters in the air, the terrain simply impossible to search extensively, despite the use of quad bikes and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Later, family and friends of Mr Fairfax would gather near the lake to farewell him, his daughters calling out a final goodbye into the bush.