A MINOR dispute between young lovers has sparked a nightmare for a tight-knit group of German backpackers.
After an evening at the Gollan Hotel in Lismore on Friday, German backpacker Simone Strobel exchanged words with her boyfriend before walking off.
It was about 11.30pm and the 24-year-old had no shoes on, no money, telephone or identification. She speaks only broken English and has no idea of the area.
Her German boyfriend, his sister and her boyfriend contacted police about 10am on Saturday, and land and river searches took place throughout the weekend.
The boyfriend, 'too distraught' to speak with The Northern Star yesterday, had the unenviable task of contacting Simone's parents in Germany via Interpol.
Meanwhile, police taskforce Howea has been established to investigate the disappearance.
All Richmond Local Area Command detectives are on the case, tracing the movements of the young backpackers prior to Simone's disappearance from the Lismore Tourist Caravan Park.
The foursome had spent the evening at the Gollan after arriving in Lismore that day. They had spent time in Nimbin and were leaving on Saturday.
Their 12-month working holiday turned into a nightmare, however, after what police describe as 'a minor dispute'.
It's understood Ms Strobel's boyfriend, his sister and her boyfriend were receiving medical treatment in Lismore yesterday.
Richmond LAC Acting Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Anne Langford, yesterday said the disappearance was being 'treated very seriously'.
"We're hoping beyond hope that she will simply turn up lost," Det Insp Langford said.
Detectives yesterday were attempting to piece together the recent movements of the young backpackers in an effort to determine whether Ms Strobel could be simply staying with friends.
"The people they were staying with at Nimbin have been spoken to and have been of assistance to police," Det Insp Langford said.
"A person (a Japanese backpacker) who was with them on Friday night, who then went to Byron Bay on Saturday, is also being interviewed today."
Anyone with information should contact Lismore Police on 66231599 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333000.