Steven Johnson is in court charged with the alleged murder of Christopher Jarvis

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A 16-year-old missing person’s cold case has had a major breakthrough, with two men charged with the alleged murder of Wangoom man Christopher Jarvis.

Jarvis disappeared after his car was found on fire by a passerby in the Victorian coastal town of Warrnambool on 13 June 2006.

His body was never found and police said at the time it was not suspicious.

However, police said a tip to the Missing Persons Unit led to the arrests of 59-year-old Glenn Ernest Fenwick of Warrnambool and 70-year-old Steven Frederick Johnson, a former police officer from Wangoom, on Tuesday.

Both have been charged with murder.

Sir. Fenwick appeared in court yesterday and Mr Johnson appeared in court today.

Burnt car in coastal dunes.
Jarvis’s silver 1991 Ford station wagon was found on fire at Thunder Point in Warrnambool.(Provided: Victoria Police)

Johnson’s defense lawyer, Xavier Farrelly, told the court his client suffered from a number of medical conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and had recently undergone knee reconstruction.

He listed a number of custody issues, including the media reporting that his client was a former police officer.

He said it was Mr Johnson’s first time in custody.

Meanwhile, a police spokeswoman said outside court there was no indication Mr Johnson had any professional links with Warrnambool.

“We can confirm that he was not serving as a member of Victoria Police in that area,” she said.

She did not say why Mr Johnson was discharged from the force in 1985.

‘It has never been good with us’

Man in flannel shirt next to bushes.
Gerry Billings visits the site where Mr Jarvis’ burning car was found. (Kyra Gillespie: ABC South West Victoria)

Jarvis’ nephew, Jade McLaren, claims Mr Johnson was the landlord of the house Mr Jarvis shared with his partner and stepchildren on Warrne Road in Wangoom.

Police said Mr Jarvis was last seen leaving the property at approx.

When he did not arrive for work, staff contacted his partner at around 7.30am.

Jarvis’ silver 1991 Ford station wagon was found on fire half an hour later in dense coastal scrub at Thunder Point, a popular coastal lookout in Warrnambool.

Beach and rocks.
Jarvis’ 1989 Ford station wagon was found burning at Thunder Point.(Flickr: Lesley A Butler)

An extensive search of the area failed to locate Mr Jarvis.

The investigation was initially handled by the local police as a missing person and initially suggested that his disappearance was not suspicious.

However, the cold case was reopened after investigators uncovered new information that suggested foul play and the involvement of other people.

Policewoman posing outside the station.
Police Officer Alicia Reivers investigates the cold case.(Kyra Gillespie: ABC South West Victoria)

The family digs deeper

Sir. McLaren said the sudden and unexpected loss of Mr Jarvis – a father, uncle, brother and son – had a deep and lasting impact on his family.

He said he made his own inquiries as the years went by and the case grew colder.

He lodged a Freedom of Information request for documents from Victoria Police last September.

An open laptop with someone writing on it
A Freedom of Information request was lodged by Mr Jarvis’ nephew.(Unsplash)

“We always thought something wasn’t quite right,” Mr McLaren said.

“All this time my family has really suffered.

He said his family rejected a suggestion by police that Mr Jarvis had taken his own life.

“We said ‘no way, he’s such a family man, he would never have abandoned his children’,” he said.

“It never went down well with us.

“The burnt out car just didn’t match the man we all knew.

“We weren’t going to let it go.

“This is just the beginning, this is going to be massive.”

Case reopened

ABC broke the news on November 13 that the Missing Persons Unit had reopened Mr Jarvis’ case.

A press conference was held by detectives at Warrnambool police station the following day, urging anyone with information to come forward.

Detective Senior Constable Alicia Reivers said at the time there were “several” persons of interest.

Jarvis’ son Cale Jarvis and daughter Bree Jarvis gave an emotional address to the media about the impact of not knowing what happened to their father.

Man stands in front of police sign
Cale Jarvis is appealing for anyone with information about his father Chris to come forward. (Kyra Gillespie: ABC South West Victoria)

Police raided properties in Wangoom and Warrnambool eight days later and two men were arrested.

Sir. Fenwick was charged with murder on Tuesdayy and Mr Johnson were charged with murder hours later.

Fenwick and Johnson have been remanded in custody.

Their cases will next be mentioned in court on April 21 next year.

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