Search for Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez suspended by NSW Police

Volunteers gather on June 30 to search for missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez along the Tyagarah Nature Reserve.

Volunteers gather on June 30 to search for missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez along the Tyagarah Nature Reserve. Photo: AAP

The search for missing backpacker Theo Hayez, who disappeared without a trace at Byron Bay, has been suspended by police on Wednesday.

The 18-year-old traveller was last seen on CCTV walking through the popular seaside NSW town after leaving the Cheeky Monkey’s bar about 11pm on May 31.

He’s not been seen or heard from since.

After almost a month of searching, NSW Police announced it had suspended its extensive land, air and sea operation.

However, the investigation into what happened to Theo is ongoing, police say.

“We met with Theo’s family today and we send our thoughts to them all, both here in Australia and abroad,” Tweed/Byron police commander Superintendent Dave Roptell said in a statement.

Theo’s parents Laurent Hayez and Vinciane Delforge had travelled to Australia to help in the search for their son.

The family has requested privacy with the news.

In a post to the Byron Bay community, Detective Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe announced news the search had come to an end “with much sadness”.

“This was not an easy decision but has been done in communication with experts and, importantly, Theo’s family,” he wrote.

“It has been a very emotional day for Theo’s family members and those involved in this operation and it will no doubt take an emotional toll in our community.”

Theo Hayez

Missing backpacker Theo Hayez.

Police have been searching for Theo since they were alerted to his disappearance by staff at the Wake Up! Hostel in Byron Bay on June 6.

Staff at the hostel raised the alarm six days after Theo failed to return. His belongings, including his passport, were left there untouched.

Officers from the local police district as well as the homicide squad, SES volunteers, NSW Surf Lifesaving and the Byron Bay community have scoured the area for any trace of him.

Dog, foot and aerial searches have failed to locate his clothing or phone, which volunteers feel could be key to learning his fate.

On the weekend, searchers were joined by officers from the Belgian Federal Police, who are supporting the investigation in an observer capacity.

The last “ping” from Theo’s phone was recorded on June 1 in the area around the Cape Byron Lighthouse.

The final days of the search focused on this area, with abseiling crews descending down the cliffs surrounding the lighthouse in the search for clues.

Supt Roptell thanked all of those who helped in the search for Theo.

“It’s times like this which shows the strength of our community,” he said.

“Throughout the entire investigation, we have been liasing with the Belgian Federal Police, keeping them informed of our progress and working collaboratively with them.”


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