Dark truth behind perfect wedding photo
WHEN Tanya Ebert left her native Germany for a year-long Australian adventure, settling down was probably the furthest thing from the teenager's mind.
Ms Ebert, then just 19, found herself in South Australian's mid-north pastoral district, where she picked up casual work at a local pub to fund her travels.
One day she crossed paths with Michael Burdon, a handsome farmer almost two decades her senior, and her life changed forever.
Friends say the attraction was instant - and mutual.
"Mike was smitten from the start," one mate told The Advertiser. "He loved her."
"She was the loveliest person you will ever meet and he was a great bloke - it really was a match made in heaven."
Five years after they met and just six months after their dream wedding, both Ms Ebert, 23, and Mr Burdon, 41, appear to have died in tragic and unnatural circumstances, leaving their two young sons orphans.
Police investigating Ms Ebert's mysterious August 8 disappearance say Mr Burdon fatally shot himself at the family's remote sheep station yesterday after officers revealed they suspected his wife had been murdered.
Detective Superintendant Des Bray has since revealed that the couple may have been hiding a painful secret behind their smiles - the disintingration of their once perfect relationship.
In 2012, Mr Burdon lived a relatively lonely life on his family's historic Oulina Park sheep station, a 400 sq km property located more than 100km from the South Australia-NSW border.
Undeterred by the relentless heat, dust and isolation, Ms Ebert threw herself into life on the farm and building a future with Mr Burdon.
In 2014, the couple celebrated the birth of their first child, a boy. However, tragedy struck just weeks later when Mr Burdon's father Peter passed away on the property, aged 68.
Mr Burdon Snr's obituary indicates he formed a special relationship with his daughter-in-law (it states he was "cherished by Tanya") and refers to a second son Mark - Michael's brother - as deceased.
It is not clear when or how Mark Burdon died but their father's death resulted in Michael Burdon inheriting and becoming the sole owner of Oulina Park and all the pressures and responsibilities that went with it.
While Mr Burdon ran the farm, Ms Ebert concentrated on creating as many opportunities as possible for their sons.
She joined a non-profit group called Remote and Isolated Children's Exercise (RICE), which provides health, childcare and education services to families living on remote and rural properties in the South Australian outback.
Whenever possible, the couple took their boys for trips to Adelaide, where they would attend museums, art galleries or the seaside.
Ms Ebert was also a member of the local amateur theatre group and took part in a handful of productions.
"For all intents and purposes, she seemed to have a normal, happy life," Det Supt Bray said.
Four years and two children later, the couple - still apparently deliriously in love - decided to take their relationship to the next level and get married.
Those who attended the union, which took place at the homestead in February this year, described it as a "magical" event.
The photographs of the newlyweds, dressed beautifully against such a uniquely Australian backdrop, are stunning.
In one, Ms Ebert, dressed in a sleeveless silk-tulle dress, gazes into the eyes of her husband, who looks equally elegant in a grey checked suit with brown RM Williams boots and an open-necked white shirt.
"It really was a magical day - they were so in love," a friend who attended the wedding told The Advertiser.
But Ms Ebert's smiley exterior masked an unhappy secret and, after a family visit to Adelaide last week, she told her husband she didn't want to return home, the paper reported.
Det Supt Bray said the Mr Burdon told police he and his wife had an argument near Roseworthy, next to grain silos about 1.5km north of a service station they stopped at on Main North Rd, on August 8.
He claims Ms Ebert became agitated and stormed off with a large quantity of cash the couple was carrying to pay for bills and "the running of the business". He never saw her again, he said.
Police believe Ms Ebert had expressed a desire to leave her marriage in the lead up to her disappearance.
"There were issues within the relationship and we're speaking to different people, and we need to actually prove what those issues were, but it leads us to believe she was intending to leave the family home," Det Supt Bray told reporters this morning.
Mr Burdon shot himself at the family property yesterday, just hours after police held a press conference revealing their suspicions that Ms Ebert had been murdered.
A massive search for Ms Ebert's body is being carried out at the Burdon's sprawling sheep station and is expected to last for several days.
A search of the Roseworthy area where Mr Burdon said his wife stormed off found no trace of the young mother.