Skeletal remains found during bike track works in the escarpment at Mount Kembla last month have been identified as those of long-term missing Cordeaux Heights man, Saverio Ganino.
Police used a DNA match on a missing persons' database to close the case on the 23-year-old mystery of Mr Ganino's whereabouts.
Mr Ganino was 38 when he vanished on March 22, 2000, having lingered at a Unanderra bus stop that morning so he could mouth to his wife what would become his last known words - "I love you".
Coroner Chris McRobert called time on the police investigation into Mr Ganino's disappearance in November 2007, finding there was circumstantial evidence to indicate he had died.
The court heard Mr Ganino, a technical engineer, had suffered from the debilitating auto-immune disease lupus, and that shortly before disappearing he had learned the disease had spread to his brain.
The day before he vanished, he told his wife Filomena he "didn't want to do this any more".
He dropped Filomena at the bus stop the morning of March 22, 2000 and - even though he was supposed to pick her up that afternoon - insisted she take an umbrella.
Mr McRobert found Mr Ganino's behaviour was consistent with him saying goodbye to his family.
"What we don't know is whether he took his own life or he perished possibly from exposure or the effects of his illness or a combination of those," he said, in 2007.
Mr Ganino's son Nathan, then 10, was the first to raise the alarm when his father didn't collect him from school.
Mr Ganino's black Mitsubishi sedan was spotted at 6.15pm that night in a driveway off Harry Graham Drive, Mount Kembla, sparking an air and land search.
Vandals got hold of the vehicle before police did, robbing investigators of potentially important information as to the car's exact position.The Mitsubishi re-appeared on Mt Keira Road two days later, with its wheels stolen and windows smashed.
On the one-year anniversary of her husband's disappearance, Filomena told the Mercury she accepted that he must be dead.
"For the first few days I didn't shut my eyes. I kept thinking he was going to pull into the drive-way," she said.
"At first I thought he'd come home, or be found. Then I thought he was dead, but he would be found.
"Now I don't know what to think. I accept that he is dead and I would like to know what happened."
Skeletal remains were found in plain site at Mount Kembla on Wednesday, September 27, less than two weeks into long-awaited works to create a network of bike trails in the vast escarpment.
The discovery was made just off a bush trail, off Harry Graham Drive, about 400m from a boundary of Wollongong Motorcycle Club.
Police said at the time that it was unclear whether the remains had been washed out of their original resting place.
Wollongong detective sergeant Simon Day confirmed Mr Ganino's family had since been informed of the positive DNA identification.
"It's good to give the family some answers but it still doesn't bring their loved one back, I suppose," he said.
Investigators turned to the DNA database - standard practice in all long-term missing persons cases - to be sure the deceased person was Mr Ganino.
The state's coroner will now be tasked with determining the circumstances surrounding Mr Ganino's death.
With thanks to Wollongong Local Studies Section.
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