The family of an elderly man found dead on his 90th birthday have described the loss as “terrible and tragic”.
Kenneth William Handford was found dead at his Springbank home near Ballarat in Victoria on Tuesday afternoon – the day he was supposed to celebrate his 90th birthday.
“Dad was an ex-RAAF member who fought in the Second World War and did not deserve to die under such circumstances,” his family said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We loved him deeply and cannot understand how anyone could do this to him.”
The homicide squad is now investigating the death, which is being treated as suspicious.
Mr Handford, known as ‘Kenny’ to his friends, had moved into the Barkstead Road property a decade ago and continued to live there following his wife’s death in 2012.
The 89-year-old was very active, heading to the local market each Sunday, and continued to work part-time on the farm property prior to his death.
He was one of nine children and his only surviving brother, Ron, told The Ballarat Courier he was “very easy going and worked hard all of his life”.
His niece, Leonie, said the family were devastated by the loss.
“That’s my only fear, that we weren’t there to help him. We don’t know what he went through,” she said.
“To go out like this, it’s wrong, it’s so wrong.”
The veteran aircraftman was “very much loved by his children and all that knew him” and had a good network of friends.
“He was also a wonderful grandfather to five and a great-grandfather to three,” his family said.
‘The secret lies in the community’
Springbank is about 20km out of Ballarat, north-west of Melbourne, and home to nearly 400 people. The size of the community was the key to the investigation, police said.
Mr Handford was last seen about 11am on Sunday when he went to a neighbouring property for coffee.
He stayed for an hour before leaving, but was not seen alive again.
“This is a very tight-knit farming community, speaking to the residents yesterday I think the secret lies in the community,” homicide squad’s Detective Inspector Mick Hughes told reporters on Wednesday.
“People often know who is moving in and out and we are relying on those people to come forward.”
Some reports allege Mr Handford was found tied up with a piece of cord, although police are yet to confirm if he had sustained any injuries.
A post-mortem was carried out on Wednesday, although a police spokesperson told The New Daily the results would form part of the police prosecution and were not expected to be released to the public.
Det Insp Hughes said police were investigating the possibility Mr Handford had died on Sunday.
“He was uncontactable by home phone or mobile phone early evening on Sunday,” he said.
“That timeframe is really important to us, but we don’t want people to report to us just from that timeframe, if someone has been in that area earlier in the day or later in the day that is equally as important to us.”
‘Someone has gone through the property’
Mr Handford was still working and sold farm machinery to earn money, police said, and may have stored cash at the home.
Although police are yet to determine the circumstances surrounding the man’s death, the isolated location of the property has led them to believe it was not random.
“I think it is nine or 10 kilometres off the Western Highway, you would really have to know the area,” Det Insp Hughes said.
“[The house] it hasn’t been ransacked, but it has been searched, drawers were open and clearly someone has gone though the property.”