New leads in homicide investigation

Dalibor "Dale" Pantic

Dalibor "Dale" Pantic

POLICE have shared new leads on a homicide investigation into the suspicious disappearance of a man last seen in Perry Bridge over a year ago, in the hopes someone locally will come forth with information.

Missing Person Squad detectives will lead a search of the Labertouche area today to try and find the dumped vehicle or remains of murdered Lakes Entrance man, Dalibor "Dale" Pantic.

The 38-year-old was last seen by his friend at a Perry Bridge farm on the night of Wednesday, April 20, 2019.

Officer in charge of the Missing Persons Squad, Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said the police have information that the father of five was murdered, on or around April 10.

Investigators have been unable to establish his whereabouts or any proof of life after that time.

Police will search an area of bushland off Forest Rd in Labertouche in the hope of finding Dale's vehicle or his remains.

A range of police units will be involved in the search, including the Remote Piloted Aircraft and Systems Unit (drones) along with local police.

Investigators are also releasing new CCTV which depicts Dale's vehicle leaving a Sale storage unit, at 10.58pm on Friday, April 12, two days after he was last seen in Perry Bridge.

Police confirmed people associated with the storage unit are persons of interest.

The car was headed in the Labertouche direction.

Police have now established that Dale was not the driver of the vehicle and detectives are still seeking information regarding its whereabouts.

The vehicle, a 2005 silver Ford Falcon sedan with registration 1NK 8BP, is still yet to be recovered more than a year after Dale went missing.

There were a number of sightings of the car across Melbourne in the days following his disappearance.

The first sighting was at a service station inbound on the Princes Freeway at Officer at 12.28am on April 12.

It was seen again outbound on Eastlink at the Springvale Rd/Ringwood Bypass at 11.59am and at the High St Rd/Ferntree Gully Rd exit at 12.07pm.

Police are again releasing images of Dale's vehicle, which has distinctive non-standard rims.

He was reported missing on April 13 last year and has not made contact with his family, including his children, since.

There has not been any activity on any of Dale's social media accounts and his bank accounts have not been touched.

Since that time, police have made a number of public appeals for information in relation to Dale's disappearance.

Detective Inspector Stamper believes there are several people involved, in terms of the totality of the incident.

Police confirmed they have undertaken a number of searches on properties around Sale, but have so far come up empty-handed.

Detective Inspector Stamper described Dale as a "fairly significant player" in the Lakes Entrance, Bairnsdale and Sale drug scene, in terms of sourcing and distribution of drugs, and believes his murder to be related.

"Sadly, most of us know it [the drug scene] is a very unforgiving environment," he said.

"Associations and transactions can lead to extreme violence very quickly.

Investigators are releasing new CCTV which depicts Dale's vehicle leaving a Sale address at 10.58pm on Friday, April 12, two days after he was last seen in Perry Bridge.

Investigators are releasing new CCTV which depicts Dale's vehicle leaving a Sale address at 10.58pm on Friday, April 12, two days after he was last seen in Perry Bridge.

"I do hasten to add, not withstanding Dale's background and activities, that he's got five kids, who range from very young kids to teenagers, and he was a great dad as well.

"They are all suffering without him being around, and looking for answers."

Detective Inspector Stamper said police had always been of the firm belief that someone out there knew what happened to Dale and who was responsible.

"... the opportunity is still open for someone to come forward and speak to police and give us any information they have about why he disappeared and who is involved," he said.

"The amount of information we've had so far has been disappointing, particularly coming from a small area, because I'm sure there's been an awful lot of talk about what happened to Dale.

"I'm firmly of the belief that there are people in the community in Lakes Entrance, in Sale, even in Labertouche, that know what happened to Dale, that know what happened to the car.

"People talk in small towns.

"...who I'm directing this appeal to at the moment is those who have heard information to come forward and tell us about it, because hopefully this is a sign to these people that we won't give in."

Dale is described as about 178cm tall, solid build, with brown hair and brown eyes.

Anyone who saw Dale around the time of his disappearance or who may have seen his Ford sedan or anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report online at www.crimestoppers.com.au.

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