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Gap-year romance to tragedy: Sad details revealed as missing mum feared murdered

Missing mum Tanja Ebert arrived in Australia as an optimisitc teenager, ready for her next adventure during a gap year she took after completing studies in her home country of Germany.

Tragedy struck this past week after Tanja disappeared and her husband shot himself in front of police, leaving their two children orphaned.

Friends of the couple say they were made for each other.

“She was the loveliest person you will ever meet and he was a great bloke — it really was a match made in heaven,” one friend told The Adelaide Advertiser.

Young mother-of-two Tanja Ebert has not been seen since August 8. Source: Supplied
Young mother-of-two Tanja Ebert has not been seen since August 8. Source: Supplied

She was just 19 when she was travelling around Australia, meeting her soon-to-be husband in the South Australian mid-north pastoral district at a local pub she was working.

Michael Peter Burdon was 18 years her senior, but they fell in love.

Active on social media, Tanja has shared several photos of her on the land the couple worked on - a 400sq km sheep station, totally isolated and about 100km west of the South Australia-New South Wales border.

A German national, Tanja arrived in Australia in 2012. Source: Supplied
A German national, Tanja arrived in Australia in 2012. Source: Supplied

Photos show her riding motorbikes and building her family life on the historic remote property.

After tying the knot in February this year, the young marriage was beginning to fracture and before disappearing without a trace, Tanja had “expressed unhappiness in her married life” and “was considering leaving”, South Australian Police said.

Police were questioning Michael over her disappearance and likely murder before he shot and killed himself.

Tanja married Michael Burdon earlier this year. Source: Supplied
Tanja married Michael Burdon earlier this year. Source: Supplied

The 23-year-old German national was last seen on August 8, leaving the South Australian museum with her husband Michael and their two infant sons after spending a day in Adelaide.

On the way home something went horribly wrong.

Michael had previously told police his wife got agitated as the family headed home to their farm at Mannahill.

Angry and unwilling to return to the Burdon’s family Oulnina sheep station, Tanja got out.

A wide-ranging search of the Roseworthy area was launched after Tanja's relatives in Germany expressed concern about her absence. Source: 7 News
A wide-ranging search of the Roseworthy area was launched after Tanja's relatives in Germany expressed concern about her absence. Source: 7 News

“She'd expressed unhappiness in her married life, and en route back to Mannahill obviously that had manifested,” detective superintendent Des Bray said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Tanja was never seen again, but it was relatives in Germany who contacted police after they could not reach her.

After checking into her bank accounts and social media history, police raised the alarm and a full-scale murder inquiry was launched.

They searched an area near Roseworthy where Michael told police he had argued with his wife before she got out of the car.

“We do believe there were issues in the marriage that perhaps made her unhappy, and that she had indicated that she was considering leaving,” Det Supt Bray said.

Police said Tanja had expressed her desire to leave her marriage. Source: 7 News
Police said Tanja had expressed her desire to leave her marriage. Source: 7 News

When police issued a missing persons alert for Tanja, many of her friends expressed concern, some telling us she would never have left her children at least by choice.

It was when detectives were searching the couple's property for any trace of Tanja that Michael shot and killed himself.

The last known appearance of Ms Ebert. Source: SA Police
The last known appearance of Ms Ebert. Source: SA Police

The couple's two little boys were home at the time but left the property unharmed to be placed in the care of relatives as their father’s suicide became the subject of a commissioner's inquiry.

"A 41-year-old man has died at a property in South Australia's mid-north this afternoon while police were present," a police statement read.

"Following a press conference in Adelaide into the disappearance of Tanja Ebert, the man suffered a fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound at a property near Mannahill.

Ms Ebert is missing and her 41-year-old husband, Michael Burdon, has killed himself. Source: Facebook
Ms Ebert is missing and her 41-year-old husband, Michael Burdon, has killed himself. Source: Facebook

Det Supt Bray said police were aware of issues in the couple’s marriage but were initially “keeping an open mind with regard to suspects”.

“We have grave fears that she has been murdered, although we’re holding out some slim hope that we’re wrong,” he said.

“Over the coming days we were unable to find anything consistent with her being alive, for example no contact with friends, no Facebook posts.”

Ms Ebert was reported missing on August 11. Source: SA Police
Ms Ebert was reported missing on August 11. Source: SA Police

Anyone with information that might assist police is asked to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the online reporting page online reporting page.

If you are concerned about the mental health of yourself or a loved one, seek support and information by calling Lifeline 13 11 14, Mensline 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline 1800 551 800