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Federal agents travel to Australia in search of missing teen
Three members of the federal police arrived in Byron Bay on the east coast of Australia at the weekend to help in the ongoing search for Théo Hayez. The 18-year-old resident of Overijse, Flemish Brabant, disappeared from the coastal town one month ago.
Hayez was backpacking across Australia, when he abruptly stopped checking in with friends and family in Belgium. His parents alerted authorities in Australia, and a search was begun for the young man, who had been travelling around the country for the last six months. Byron Bay was his last stop before heading home to Flanders.
Hayez’s parents and cousin are also in the coastal town, where they have joined hundreds of volunteers who are combing the cliffs, inlets and hills of the spot, long popular with backpackers and surfers. Byron Bay is a major tourist destination, and local residents and police have responded en masse to Hayez’s disappearance.
His parents have met with the Belgian police, who arrived in the town at the weekend. One of the three officers is from Belgium’s missing persons unit.
“Our intention is to exchange all the information that we have gathered in Belgium with colleagues in Australia who are leading the investigation,” a spokesperson for the federal police told Radio 1. “We are doing everything in our power to get a lead in this case.”
Hayez is known to have visited a nightclub on the night he disappeared. He left the club, and signals from his mobile phone suggest that he went in a few different directions before the final signal, pinpointed to the area of the town’s lighthouse.
While local police have said that it is possible Hayez fell from a cliff or drowned in the sea, they are treating the case as a murder investigation.
VTM’s Telefacts news programme travelled to Byron Bay last week and spoke to local residents, many of whom said that the coastal town had changed over the years from a laid-back centre of counter-culture to a somewhat tacky party town. During the day, its beautiful beaches and trendy shopping are still popular with travellers, but at night, the bars, clubs and drug dealers take over. Some residents said they no longer felt safe after dark in the centre of the town.
Photo courtesy Federal Police/BELGA