A jawbone washed up on a northern New South Wales beach in 2011 belongs to a man who went missing at sea more than 30 years earlier, investigators and forensic DNA experts have discovered.

NSW Police said an extensive investigation was launched after the bone was found on Kingscliff Beach a decade ago, but for nine years the case went unsolved.

In August 2020, police and NSW Health Pathology were alerted to a possible biological link after a "familial DNA" search.

The search uses complex technology to identify potential relatives in an existing DNA database.

It led investigators to a 34-year-old man whose DNA had been added to a record for convicted offenders in NSW after he was imprisoned in Goulburn Jail last year.

The inmate was the nephew of mariner Bill Moran, who was aged 24 when his motor cruiser sank in rough seas off Evans Head on September 24, 1979. His wife, 21-year-old Philippa, also died in the tragedy.

Mr Moran's jawbone had been discovered on the beach exactly 32 years later.

"The return of the jawbone to Mr Moran's family has brought closure after decades of searching for answers," NSW Police said on Sunday.

Originally published as Jawbone clue solves 30-year mystery

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