Detective inspector Matt Kehoe addresses media in the search for missing backpacker Theo Hayez.
Detective inspector Matt Kehoe addresses media in the search for missing backpacker Theo Hayez. Marc Stapelberg

Senior cop's heartfelt message as search is called off

UPDATE, 6.45am: A SENIOR police officer has told the Byron Bay community it was with "much sadness" that they had decided to end the search for missing backpacker Theo Hayez.

Detective Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe posted the following message on the Dear Byron Bay Community Board:

"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.

"As per the Region Commander's and Commander's comments I would like to wholeheartedly thank everyone who has assisted and supported in our efforts to find Theo."


UPDATE, 4.30pm: POLICE will no longer be physically searching for missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez in Byron Bay.

In a statement from NSW Police, the Tweed Byron Police District officers met with the 18-year-old's family today to tell them the search had officially been suspended.

While police have suspended the full-scale physical search, the investigations are ongoing.

Tweed Byron Police Commander Superintendent Dave Roptell would like to thank the Byron Bay community and the local volunteers who assisted with the search on behalf of the NSW Police Force, Belgian authorities and Theo's family.

"It's times like this which shows the strength of our community. We want to thank each and every person who assisted and who provided support.

"Throughout the entire investigation we have been liaising with the Belgian Federal Police, keeping them informed of our progress and work collaboratively with them. Belgian authorities have been appreciative of the work being undertaken.

"We met with Theo's family today and we send our thoughts to them all, both here in Australia and abroad," Superintendent Roptell said.

Northern Region Commander Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell said the Byron Bay community should be proud of their efforts throughout the search.

"This search has brought the Byron Bay community together in more ways than one, and they have supported not only our officers but Theo's family during this difficult time.

"I would like to personally acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our Tweed/Byron Police District officers and the Belgian authorities; their collaboration and support has been second to none," Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said.

The 18-year-old was last seen about 11pm on Friday 31 May 2019 at a hotel on Jonson Street.

Police were alerted on Thursday 6 June when he failed to return to his hostel and could not be contacted or located.

Officers from Tweed Byron Police District with assistance from several NSW Police Force units including the SCC Homicide Squad, local SES volunteers, NSW Surf Lifesaving and the Byron Bay community have conducted extensive land, air and sea searches since this date.

Further searches were conducted this week utilising the assistance of the NSW Police Rescue Squad near the Byron Bay lighthouse area.

Three officers from the Belgian Federal Police arrived at the weekend to support the ongoing investigation in an observer capacity.

Theo's family have requested privacy at this time.


Original story: BELGIAN police have been spotted on the ground in Byron Bay this week assisting the search for missing backpacker Theo Hayez.

The 18-year-old Belgian was last seen leaving Cheeky Monkeys Bar on Jonson St, Byron Bay, about 11pm on May 31.

Since his disappearance, NSW police officers have been scouring bushland, the ocean and surrounding swamp land in the Byron Bay area for any clues.

Despite receiving assistance of the SES, NSW Life Saving and the community, little to no evidence of Theo or his belongings has been discovered.

Abseiling teams were seen on Tuesday and Wednesday inspecting the cliff face at Cape Byron lighthouse.

SES crews also inspected Belongil Creek yesterday for any signs.

The community have also continued to coordinate their own search, which focussed on the Tallow Beach area yesterday.

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