The family of a Port Douglas grandmother who has went missing near a croc-infested waterway have spoken of their heartbreak over the tragedy.
In an exclusive interview with the ABC, Anne Cameron’s son Craig Eggins said they were all devastated and still in shock.
Ms Cameron, 79, disappeared from aged care facility Ozcare on Tuesday afternoon after she went for a walk.
Yesterday police and SES crews made a grisly discovery of human remains, jewellery and Ms Cameron’s walking stick on the banks of a creek inlet near the Mowbray River.
Police say it is “highly likely” they are the remains of Ms Cameron.
Mr Eggins said it was his family’s firm belief she was dead, taken by a crocodile.
The loving grandmother was fiercely independent and was living in a low-care facility for early onset dementia patients.
Her family had moved her from Canberra only a few weeks ago, so she could be closer to them as she battled Alzheimer’s.
Her son said she regularly went for a walk in the afternoons but often got lost.
“Mum even said to me when we were out for walks if I actually turned the wrong direction I am frightened I would lose my way,” he said.
“We are certain she got disorientated … then she became confused as to which way she was suppose to go.
The woman was reported missing from the Ozcare aged care facility at Port Douglas on Tuesday. (ABC News: Mark Rigby)
“It was getting on to dusk and she had cataracts so that would have made it harder for her as well.”
‘She loved her life up here’
Mr Eggins and his family are asking for privacy as they mourn the loss of their mother.
“But we are holding onto the fact that mum would have been glad she was not subjected to the insidious nature of Alzheimer’s,” he said.
“Dying slowly with pieces of her missing every day until she could not remember who she was or who anybody else was.
“She loved her life up here she loved being with us … she loved the facility she was at and that she had the freedom to come and go.
“We hope God took care of her in that way and she was not aware of what was going on at the time. ”
Ms Cameron had spent most of her live in the ACT and was a popular parishioner at the Yarralumla Uniting Church.
Minister Riana Kok said her friends are finding it hard to absorb what has happened.
“We just said goodbye to her a few weeks ago and to now have this news come to us is really sad,” she said.
“The time came when she realised she should be closer to her family … how could we have known it would be for such a short time?
“She set such a beautiful example of being kind and loving and caring towards people.”
Ozcare has released a statement saying the company is deeply saddened by the disappearance of Ms Cameron, a “much-loved resident”.
“Mrs Cameron was not a resident of our special care secure unit … our thoughts and prayers are with Anne’s family during this time.”
Search for croc continues
Douglas Shire deputy mayor Abigail Noli said her condolences went out to the family.
Douglas Shire deputy mayor Abigail Noli says croc numbers have exploded in the far north. (ABC News: Mark Rigby)
She also acknowledged the shire had just introduced a new crocodile management plan, but said it needed time to take effect.
The council also supports the tagging of larger crocodiles in the area.
Environment and Heritage Protection officers continue to trap crocodiles displaying any unusual signs of behaviour, near where Ms Cameron disappeared.
Wildlife Director Michael Joyce said it had to rely on aerial surveillance due to the narrow nature of the mangrove lined sections of the creek.
“Craiglie Creek is difficult to access by boat,” Mr Joyce said.
“Last night highly experienced wildlife officers surveyed 2.5 kilometres of the Mowbray River by boat, which is well within known crocodile country.
“Crocodiles were observed but no abnormal crocodile behaviour was identified by the officers.”