Mark Russell had been dwelling tough on Sydney’s streets round Woolloomooloo and Kings Cross for the higher a part of three many years.
He solely had two mates on Fb and really sporadic entry to the web, however, with no different technique to contact him, Stewart fervently hoped he would see her makes an attempt to succeed in out.
Rising up collectively as wards of the state, the siblings had as soon as meant every little thing to one another.
“My father was abusive, and my mother couldn’t look after us because she had epilepsy – it was just a whole horror story,” Stewart mentioned.
Stewart and Russell had been taken to the St Saviour’s Kids’s Dwelling in Goulburn, within the New South Wales Southern Tablelands, after they had been six and 4 years previous respectively.
The rambling, historic mansion appeared frighteningly big to her and her terrified brother, Stewart remembers.
“It was a pretty awful sort of place, like something out of Flowers in the Attic, it was so big,” she mentioned.
“I just remember sitting there waiting for our mum to come and visit us, but she never came.
“We did not see her once more till I used to be 15.”
Stewart and Russell would go on to spend a few years in the home and then the rest of their childhoods in foster care, but they were always placed together.
“For that to occur if you’re actually younger, you look out for one another, which we all the time did,” Stewart said.
Stewart said her brother was friendly and kind. His love of football earned him the nickname “Sharky Mark” in a nod to his favourite team, the Cronulla Sharks.
But as they grew up, Stewart and Russell would go on to lead increasingly divergent lives.
“I went on to complete 12 months 12 after which I received a job after I left college,” she said.
Stewart ended up working for the Commonwealth Bank. She married and had five children in Port Macquarie, where she still lives.
Meanwhile, when Mark was 17 years old, he had a falling out with his foster family and took off for Sydney, where he soon fell in with the wrong crowd, Stewart said.
Although he returned to his foster family a few times, it was the beginning of Russell sleeping rough.
With their shared traumatic upbringing, Stewart is only too aware of how little it would have taken to nudge her down the same path.
“I simply might have ended up on the streets too, however I ended up discovering a job and getting married and having children,” she said.
Stewart said she was always trying to seek her brother out, but he lived “in his personal world” and they only caught up a few, rare times over the years.
Once, she was able to find him in Kings Cross after physically searching the streets.
Another time, Russell arranged a catch up when he had planned a trip up the coast, meeting Stewart and two of her children.
Russell himself had two children – a son and a daughter – from fleeting relationships, but both of his offspring grew up having little contact with him.
At the beginning of 2018, Stewart met up with Russell’s son, Shayne, and the pair decided they would try their best to track him down.
Stewart said she visited Sydney in January of that year, but didn’t get a chance to check all of her brother’s favourite haunts.
“We hadn’t discovered him but, however we had been so shut,” she said.
It was just weeks later that Stewart received the worst possible news.
A foster cousin sent Stewart a Facebook post from NSW Police, detailing the horrific murder of an unidentified man at a bedsit in Clisdell Street, Surry Hills on February 24, 2018.
“As quickly as I noticed the photograph I knew it was Mark,” Stewart said.
It was a violent murder. Russell had been stabbed seven times in the neck and five times in the chest. He also had 12 defensive wounds on his hands.
Stewart said she was left stunned and heartbroken by her brother’s brutal and untimely end.
“After every little thing the 2 of us have been by means of in our lives, it was simply horrific. You simply could not imagine somebody might have that a lot dangerous luck of their life,” she said.
Police said Russell had only recently moved into the bedsit, after decades of mostly living rough.
Witnesses told police a group of people were inside Stewart’s unit the night before his body was found, and arguing or yelling was heard at about 10pm.
There were also reports that more visitors were inside the unit during the day, but it was not clear if they were the same people who were there later in the evening.
Friendly and social by nature, Russell often left his door open, inviting in a trail of visitors.
Noticing his door was unusually closed the next morning, a concerned friend climbed through his window and discovered Russell’s body.
A coronial inquiry in October 2020 heard evidence from police that their investigation had been hampered by a lack of reliable witnesses. There were also forensic challenges, as Russell’s bedsit had been “used continuously by quite a few individuals”.
Deputy State Coroner Derek Lee ruled Russell had died of wounds inflicted by an unknown person and referred the case to the unsolved homicide unit.
A day before the coronial finding, police announced a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Russell’s murderer.
“I simply burst into tears after they mentioned we will provide a million-dollar reward,” Stewart said.
“I could not imagine it, I used to be so humbled and grateful.
“It showed how they (the police) value everyone. Mark was a homeless person and we were nobodies. I didn’t think we were worthy of that million-dollar reward.”
Stewart’s hopes of discovering solutions had been bolstered by the reward, however then got here disappointment.
“We thought surely something will come of it, it’s a million dollars. But there was nothing,” she mentioned.
Stewart mentioned detectives informed her they acquired lower than a handful of calls after the reward was posted.
Murder Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty, mentioned the reward remained in place and the police investigation was nonetheless open.
“As investigations continue, anyone who may have information which could help provide much-needed answers to Mark’s family is urged to contact police,” Doherty mentioned in a press release.
Because it nears the five-year anniversary of her brother’s homicide, Stewart mentioned Russell’s household and mates remained determined for a breakthrough.
“Someone has got to know something, or have seen something,” Stewart mentioned.
“It’s the not knowing that’s the worst, and thinking about the person who did it and got away with it.”