ON Friday, May 19, Canning Vale grandfather Ian Collett was reported missing after he left his home for a walk and did not return.
For the next month, Senior Sergeant Darryl Brandis’ life was consumed by the search for him.
The Mundijong Police officer-in-charge spearheaded the biggest operation of his 30-year career in the force to find Mr Collett, who was living with dementia.
State Emergency Services, police and an extraordinary army of volunteers joined forces to launch a large-scale search throughout the rural suburbs on Perth’s fringes.
While the grandfather’s body was sadly found after the official search had ended, no one appreciated Sgt Brandis’ efforts more than the Collett family themselves, who nominated him for a Channel Nine WA Police Excellence Award.
“There is nothing about the whole search from day one to this moment I can’t remember about Ian Collett,” Sgt Brandis said.
“On the Sunday evening, I got a call from the Superintendent,” he said.
“I got involved about 6am next morning and then that’s what I did for the next month.”
Sgt Brandis even came into the office on his days off to brief Mr Collett’s family.
“I only had two days off, but those days ended up being the days we bussed the family in here to see the operation was running,” he said.
“I came in and showed the family through the station, the operations room and what we were doing.
“I always think that no matter what I was going through, the family was going through a lot more than me.”
He formed a close bond with the family throughout the ordeal and said he could not have wished for a better family to work with.
“I was really blessed because they were really easy to speak to, very understanding and as long as they were kept in the loop about what I was doing and what my team was doing, they were very comforted,” he said.
“More than them being blessed by me, I was blessed by having them as a family who were so open with what we were doing.”
Even after the wide-reaching search was called off, Snr Sgt Brandis remained steadfast in his belief he would find Mr Collett.
“On Monday morning, I gave the file to Missing Persons to follow. On Thursday, three days later, I got the call, saying they found someone in our search area,” he said.
“I ended up being the first police officer there and that was actually a really good thing because I felt like I knew Ian really, really well.
“I identified Ian straight away myself so I could do the identification and I could treat him with the respect he needed and I was able to tell the family straight away.”
While he is one of three finalists at the Police Excellence Awards, which are announced on Thursday, Sgt Brandis insists he is already a winner.
“I saw at one stage I was in the final 10, that was honestly enough for me because I feel blessed I met the Colletts and was able to return Ian home to them,” he said.