The dog squad was involved in an extensive search of bushland in Arakwal National Park in Byron Bay on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Thea Liddle.
The dog squad was involved in an extensive search of bushland in Arakwal National Park in Byron Bay on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Thea Liddle.

‘Unexplained death’: Mystery surrounds bushland remains

UPDATE: 2.20pm

POLICE believe it is unlikely the skeletal remains found in Byron Bay yesterday could belong to missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez.

Speculation has been rife since police located the remains in bushland off Tallow Beach Rd in Arakwal National Park about 1.20pm on Wednesday.

That area is close to the last known location of Mr Hayez, aged 18 at the time of his disappearance.

Police had been searching the bushland in search of clues into the disappearance of “nomadic” Northern Rivers woman Thea Liddle, 42 when a cadaver dog discovered bones.

Tweed Byron Police District crime manager Detective Chief Inspector Brendon Cullen speaks to media on Thursday, July 16, after skeletal remains were found in bushland in Byron Bay on Wednesday. Picture: Liana Turner
Tweed Byron Police District crime manager Detective Chief Inspector Brendon Cullen speaks to media on Thursday, July 16, after skeletal remains were found in bushland in Byron Bay on Wednesday. Picture: Liana Turner

Tweed Byron Police District crime manager Detective Chief Inspector Brendon Cullen said forensic work on the crime scene was ongoing today and would “more than likely” continue tomorrow.

He said it could take weeks for police to be able to ascertain the identity of the remains.

“We believe they are human skeletal remains in situ at that crime scene,” he said.

“It’s very early stages in the forensic examination of our crime scene.

“We do not know at this point in time whether those remains are male or female.

“We have no idea of the identity of that deceased person.

“We may not know the identity of that deceased person for a number of weeks.”

Det Cullen said the site where the remains were found appears to have been a camp site at some stage.

Tallow Beach Rd remains closed after skeletal remains were found in the Arakwal National Park in Byron Bay on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Picture: Liana Turner
Tallow Beach Rd remains closed after skeletal remains were found in the Arakwal National Park in Byron Bay on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Picture: Liana Turner

“The full extent of what we have at that scene is unknown at this point in time.”

He said a number of items found there would be subject to forensic examination.

Police had not found anything of significance in previous searches since Ms Liddle disappeared, including an initial search in Arakwal National Park on Tuesday and earlier efforts in Nimbin and Mooball, where she was last known to reside.

Ms Liddle has not been seen since October and has not touched her social media or bank accounts since that time.

“For a number of months now Tweed Byron detectives have been investigating the disappearance of Thea Liddle,” Det Cullen said.

“As a result of those inquiries, we have searched a number of areas where we believe Thea may have been camping, including bush areas around Byron Bay.

“That is why we’re searching in that area.

“What we have here is an unexplained death.

“We don’t know who that person is, how they came to be there or the cause of death.

“That is something that we are taking our time to thoroughly examine that scene and work out the circumstances of that death.”

Det Cullen said police were “keeping an open mind” but believe it’s “highly unlikely” the remains belong to Theo Hayez.

He said police had given a brief of evidence on his disappearance to the coroner and an inquest is pending.

“The circumstances surrounding the location of this deceased person, we do not believe that it is Theo Hayez,” he said.

“That area was the subject of searching when we were searching for Theo Hayez and this site was not located there.

“This is, at this point, an unexplained death.

“We do not know the identity of that person and we would be very hesitant to speculate on that.”

He said it would take “hours, if not days”, to thoroughly examine the crime scene.

“What we do find there will then be subject to further forensic examination with anthropologists and pathologists,” he said.

He said police were in “constant contact” with Ms Liddle’s family and they were aware of the current situation.

“As you could imagine they are very distraught, not knowing what has happened to their daughter,” he said.

“We are still investigating the disappearance of Thea Liddle.

“We are looking for any information that anyone may have about her, about her whereabouts, any communications they may have had is very important to us.

“So we would appeal to anyone who’s had anything to do with her to please come forward.”

EARLIER:

POLICE are expected to address the media this afternoon after skeletal remains were found in bushland in Byron Bay yesterday afternoon.

Police were conducting an extensive search of an area within Arakwal National Park when they made a significant find about 1.20pm yesterday.

Police have been searching an area of bushland along Tallow Beach Rd in Arakwal National Park as part of the investigation into the 2019 disappearance of Thea Liddle. Picture: Liana Turner
Police have been searching an area of bushland along Tallow Beach Rd in Arakwal National Park as part of the investigation into the 2019 disappearance of Thea Liddle. Picture: Liana Turner

That discovery was later confirmed to be skeletal remains of a person whose identity is so far unknown.

Tweed Byron Police District officers, the Public Order and Riot Squad and dog squad were involved in the search.

They spent time yesterday morning looking along the southern side of Tallow Beach Rd and moved to the northern side of that road in the afternoon, before making the grisly find.

<< Forensic examination of skeletal remains could take ‘weeks’ >>

<< ‘I hope Thea is alive’: Fears for missing woman’s safety >>

<< Police search northern NSW property for missing woman’s body >>

Police also had a metal detector in use at the scene.

Officers had been searching bushland in that area since Tuesday in an attempt to find any clue regarding the disappearance of Northern Rivers woman Thea Liddle, 42.

Ms Liddle has not been heard from since October 31 last year and has not touched her social media or bank accounts since then.

Missing woman Thea Liddle.
Missing woman Thea Liddle.

Police have explained Ms Liddle had been living a nomadic lifestyle, but she was reported missing in January after she failed to contact loved ones for an extended period of time.

A NSW Police spokeswoman said it was too early to determine whether the remains were male or female.

The scene is being processed by forensic officers and this is expected to take “a significant amount of time”, she said.

Police closed Tallow Beach Rd at the intersection with Lighthouse Rd after a crime scene was established.

Police have been searching an area of bushland along Tallow Beach Rd in Arakwal National Park as part of the investigation into the 2019 disappearance of Thea Liddle.
Police have been searching an area of bushland along Tallow Beach Rd in Arakwal National Park as part of the investigation into the 2019 disappearance of Thea Liddle.

In the search for Ms Liddle, police have previously searched areas in Mooball – where she was last known to reside – and Nimbin.

The remains were found in same general vicinity where Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez vanished on May 31, 2019.

Bushland in and around Byron Bay was extensively searched after his disappearance.

<< Theo’s mum issued heartfelt thanks for community’s efforts >>

<< Lighthouse lit up in honour of Theo >>

Missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez.
Missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez.


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