Detectives believe Mr Pantic was planning to head for Melbourne, where his two older daughters live, but he never arrived and has had no contact with his family since.
Police said Mr Pantic’s drug connections may have played a role in his death, with the Lake Entrance man known to be a “fairly significant player” in the sourcing and distribution of a wide variety of illicit drugs throughout the East Gippsland and Latrobe Valley areas.
His phone was later found in the hands of drug associates at Wurruk on the outskirts of Sale.
His car was later seen on CCTV leaving a property at Sale about 10.58pm on April 12, 2019, two days after he vanished, but police said Mr Pantic was not the driver of the vehicle. The identity of that person remains a mystery.
Following a renewed plea for information about the missing 38-year-old and his car, police said they found a 2005 silver Ford Falcon in the Bunyip State Forest on Friday after a tip-off from the public.
No new arrests have been made.
While Mr Pantic had some “unsavoury aspects” to his life, Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper reminded the public Mr Pantic was also a fully functioning family man.
The senior detective last week said police believed Mr Pantic was murdered on or around April 10, 2019, and that more than one person may have been involved.
“We’ve made no secret of the fact Dale was pretty well involved in the drug scene. That’s the most compelling theory that we’ve got at the moment,” he said.
“I’m sure there has been an awful lot of talk about what’s happened to Dale.”
There were a number of sightings of Mr Pantic’s silver sedan across parts of Melbourne in the days following his disappearance.
The first was at a service station inbound on the Princes Freeway at Officer at 12.28am on April 12 last year.
It was seen again outbound on Eastlink at the Springvale Road and Ringwood Bypass at 11.59am and at the High Street Road and Ferntree Gully Road exit at 12.07pm.
Mr Pantic is described as being 178 centimetres tall with a solid build, brown hair and brown eyes.
Anyone who saw the father of five around the time of his disappearance, anyone who may have seen his Ford sedan or people with information on the case are urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit crimestoppers.com.au.
Erin covers crime for The Age. Most recently she was a police reporter at the Geelong Advertiser.