The case of missing Coledale man Bobby Neville will remain open after a coroner yesterday said she could not rule out the possibility the 30-year-old may still be alive.
Bobby left his parents' home on the morning of September 30, 2008, telling his mother Sue he was "going for a walk".
He never returned, and has not been seen since.
Police conducted a thorough search for Bobby, ranging from foot patrols around the neighbourhood to interstate data matching inquiries, but to no avail.
His heartbroken family, who have also spent countless thousands of hours searching Australia-wide for their son and brother, yesterday told Deputy State Coroner Geraldine Beattie that they were divided in their thoughts over his fate.
Bobby's father, Robert Neville snr, told the inquest he firmly believed his only son was still alive.
He said Bobby had a skill set that would allow him to live off the land, and believed his son would be happy doing so.
"Bobby's still out there, I'm sure of it," he said.
However, Sue Neville, Bobby's mother, said she couldn't believe that her son would stay away so long if he was still living.
"I can't believe he wouldn't be in contact with us ... that's where I have the doubt," she told Ms Beattie yesterday.
"I just feel we were always so close [as a family], he wouldn't have stayed away all this time."
Ms Beattie said despite evidence that Bobby had not been seen in the past five years, and that his bank account, among other things, had remained untouched, she could not rule out the possibility that he may still be alive and living off the land.
She acknowledged he had a history of mental illness that more often than not required medication to stabilise, but accepted evidence from Mrs Neville he had previously had periods without medication that were incident-free.
"It's possible he's someone who could live off the grid," she said, in reference to the absence of any paper trail leading to his whereabouts.
"I accept he has the skills to live rough in the bush; to make camp, to feed himself."
Ms Beattie ruled out suicide, however did say it was possible Bobby could have met with "misadventure".
"[But] I'm not going to make the finding that he is deceased," she said.
Bobby's case will now be referred back to the NSW Police missing persons unit and remain an open, active case.
Both Mr and Mrs Neville yesterday said they were pleased with the outcome and they would never give up searching for their son.
Mr Neville expressed great thanks to all those involved in the case during the past five years, particularly Wollongong officer Senior Constable Ray Comber, who led the inquiries.
"For a person like Ray to give part of his life to us, it runs very deep," Mr Neville said.
"He's now more like a family friend.
"We couldn't have done it without him."