Robert Barker spent the past nine years searching for his son Shane Barker’s killer but he will never get the chance to face that person.
The 74-year-old Campbell Town man suffered a stroke on June 19. He was paralysed down the right side of his body and was unable to speak.
Robert remained in hospital until he died on July 6.
He was a loving father and grandfather, but his eldest son Paul said his dad died from a broken heart.
August 2 marks nine years since Robert’s son Shane Geoffrey Barker was shot dead in his home in Campbell Town.
Despite a long-term investigation by Tasmania Police and a reward of $250,000 offered to anyone with information that leads to a conviction, Shane’s killer was never identified and charges were never laid.
“It was all Dad thought about, day in and day out, and we can’t help but think it contributed to his stroke,” Paul said.
Well-known in the Campbell Town community, Robert was “just wonderful, everything you’d want in a father” but he struggled to come to terms with Shane’s execution-style murder.
“He didn’t want to talk to mum too much about it because it upset her, so he confided in me quite a bit and we spoke about the impact it had,” Paul said.
Shane was 36 when police discovered his gunned-down body on the hall floor of his East Street home at Campbell Town.
Tasmania Police cold case investigators re-examined Shane’s murder in 2016 and this led to the reward being increased from $50,000 to $250,00, the highest reward in Tasmania.
Paul said his dad was excited when the reward was boosted.
“When the $250,000 came out we thought they [the police] were about to crack it,” Paul said.
While Robert’s hopes for answers would come and go, his only wish was the murder would be solved before he died.
“It was all he wanted, besides having his son back but after that he just wanted to know why,” Paul said.
“To me he died of a broken heart.”
Tasmania Police Assistant Commissioner Glenn Frame said although the investigation into Shane’s murder may be referred to as a cold case that does not mean police think the case will never be solved.
“This matter has been, and continues to be, the subject of a dedicated investigation by Tasmania Police,” he said.
"Families always deserve answers to what happened to their loves ones and we owe it to them to find those answers.”
The thought of Shane and Robert reunited was the “only comfort” for the Barker family.
“They’d be up there together, Dad would be having a shandy and Shane would be having a full strength,” Paul said.
“They loved each other, there’s no doubt about that.”
Assistant Commissioner Frame said the police investigation will remain open until those responsible are brought to justice.
A friend of Shane’s created Facebook group R.i.p shane barker(sic), and Paul said everyone was welcome to join.
“There’s strength in numbers,” Paul said.
“We owe it to Dad and to Shane to not forget them.”
The group already has more than 2500 members.
Paul and Robert spoke frequently and although conversations would often begin with sporting banter, they would always end up talking on Shane.
“All he wanted to know was why and why it wasn’t solved,” Paul said.
A motor mechanic by trade, Robert loved sports with football, bowls and golf among his favourites.
The father-of-three often took Paul and Shane fishing and rabbit shooting, and they went to the occasional football match.
“We were a very close-knit family,” Paul said.
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Robert is survived by his wife Barbara, son Paul, daughter Nicole and four grandchildren.
“Dad was very close to his grandkids, he loved them dearly,” Paul said.
Robert’s funeral will be held at 11am on Thursday at St Luke's Anglican Church, Campbell Town.
Community members are welcome to attend the service.
The family will head to the Midlands Bowls Club at Campbell Town on Thursday afternoon.
Robert was a life member of the bowls club.
“He won something like 12 singles championships,” Paul said. “He was known around town.”
Anyone with information about Shane’s murder should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.