Outback riddle: Distraught family members wait for missing Port Augusta man to be found

HAPPIER TIMES: Mason Szanto was smiling at his 18th birthday party as he hugged his parents James and Bree Szanto. Mason has been missing for more than a week.
HAPPIER TIMES: Mason Szanto was smiling at his 18th birthday party as he hugged his parents James and Bree Szanto. Mason has been missing for more than a week.

The sister of missing Port Augusta man Mason Szanto told of their family's heartbreak after he disappeared in the outback more than a week ago.

Kathleen Szanto said she lived in hope that her "little brother" would walk through the door of his home.

Searchers have been hampered by the lack of any mobile phone signal while trying to find Mason, 18, who was last seen near a sport oval in Leigh Creek on October 3. He did not carry a mobile phone, according to Kathleen.

"There was an argument and he has not been seen since. A woman at the service station later said he had told her he was going to hitch-hike, but she she never saw him again," she said.

"We hope he comes home safe and can see his nephews and nieces and be with his family. He is a loving, kind boy and this is so unusual for him.

"All Mum wants is for her little boy to come home."

She said Mason loved his job as a painter in Port Augusta and was due to return to work the day after he vanished.

Kathleen, who lives in Port Lincoln, said his family was ":going through hell".

"We think someone knows something. These are small towns and communities. Our family is absolutely broken. We will not give up until Mason is home," she said.

During the search, a helicopter and a drone checked the area around Leigh Creek and Copley as police and State Emergency Service crews scoured the ground. Far North officer-in-charge Superintendent Paul Roberts said the search had been called off, but police were still investigating. "I am concerned for his whereabouts, but there is no suggestion of foul play," he said.

Police officers from Port Augusta and Roxby Downs helped with the search.

Mason is 170cm tall, of slim build, with blonde hair, blue eyes and thin beard and was wearing a black shirt, grey-black pants and had a Champion bag.

He had links with the Aboriginal community and a Port Augusta indigenous woman said: "I hope the family gets some good news before Christmas because it is damn sad, this.

"For a family not to know where their loved one is ... it is just way beyond thinking about."

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