Elderly man wants answers over missing son

In September 1982, backpacker Tony Jones called home to Perth from a phone box in the north Queensland city of Townsville.

The 20-year-old told his mother Beres he was about to travel inland to Mount Isa to meet his brother, Tim.

But Tony never arrived. In fact, he was never seen or heard from again.

More than 30 years after that call, his father Kevin struggles every day with all the things he doesn't know about what happened to his boy.

Now 88, he's still waiting for the Queensland coroner's office to reopen the inquest into his son's death.

"My wife died in 1990, eight years after it happened. All this worry about it ... certainly hastened her death," he tells AAP.

"For that reason, amongst other reasons, we've fought to the finish to try to get some response."

The disappearance of Anthony "Tony" Jones is one of the most baffling cases in Queensland's history.

The high profile case sparked National Missing Persons Week, which marks its 25th year this month.

A coronial inquest in 2002 could only conclude Tony's death was "at the hand of a person or persons unknown" and police investigations should continue.

It did however, reveal several bungles in the police investigation, including lost paperwork and physical evidence.

The inconclusive finding wasn't enough to quell the Jones family's dogged determination for justice.

In September 2010, Tony's brother Brian mailed then-Attorney-General Cameron Dick a pair of his own shoes so he could "walk in the shoes of a victim of crime".

A day later, Mr Dick asked State Coroner Michael Barnes to reopen the inquest so leads that had not been fully investigated could be exhausted.

The coroner's office had hinted at several dates for the inquest, but more than three years on, it hasn't been reopened.

The family says the office has advised that because Tony disappeared so long ago, there is no urgency for the inquest to go ahead.

But Kevin, who fears he won't live long enough to find out what happened to his son, or at least know everything possible had been done to find out, begs to differ.

"I wouldn't say I expect anything, but I'm still hoping," Kevin tells AAP.

"The chances are getting slimmer and slimmer over the years, but it's so important. You can never let up on these things."

In another blow for the family, Mr Barnes retired this month, leaving it up to his successor Terry Ryan to determine when the inquest will be held.

"The matter continues to be under active investigation," the coroner's office told AAP. "The timing of the inquest will be determined by the new state coroner in due course."

The two-line response is nothing new for the Jones family.

Kevin says the family had been fighting a lacklustre attitude from authorities since Tony first went missing.

"Everything pointed towards foul play, but (the police) had the hide to tell my wife he'd still be home for Christmas," Kevin says.

"We've had to plead with them to get any action."

Kevin says he put money in Tony's account to give to Tim when they were reunited in Townsville and knew something was wrong when he never arrived.

"You know your own kids," he said.

"We knew he wouldn't let his brother down."

Tony's brothers Mark and Brian have been in frequent contact with the coroner's office to have the inquest reopened, as promised.

Mark says there is still a lot of evidence yet to be tested in a courtroom.

Among that is a claim from an elderly grazier that he uncovered an abandoned campsite that included a letter addressed to Tony from his mother, and statements from key witnesses that had never been presented.

Mark says his family can feel the clock ticking.

Not only is his dad getting on in years, but crucial witnesses are dying, or have already died.

"It seems cruel in the extreme for dad to know in the latest years in his life that there's an inquest pending," he said.

"The fact they know the facts of this case but are choosing to be so lacking in communication, compassion and urgency, is appalling."

The family only became aware Mr Barnes had retired after being informed by AAP, despite having contact with the coroner's office just last week.

"As angry as we are at being kept in the dark, we can only hope that the incoming coroner brings a sense of purpose to this inquest," Mark says.

The Office of the State Coroner's last annual report shows 328 cases that were more than two years old were still waiting to be heard at the end of 2011/12.

The Jones family wants answers about just one case - before it is too late.