A Swedish teenager who shut down his bank accounts and mailed home his passport before vanishing without a trace more than 13 years ago, may still be alive and living in a remote community on Australia’s east coast, his father says.
Max Vidar Castor was 19 years old when he set out on a trip to Australia, knowing the drudgery of a nine-to-five job in Stockholm awaited him upon his return.
He had grown up watching countless documentaries and movies highlighting Australia’s vast outdoors – a lifestyle that he immediately became fascinated with, according to his father Rolf.
On October 19, 2004 Max touched down in Sydney with two friends, purchased a used car and like many before him, headed straight to the coastal oasis of Byron Bay.
The trio, eventually ventured further up the coast, before parting ways in Brisbane.
From there, Max boarded a flight to Melbourne where he invested in some hiking gear ready to tackle the Great Ocean Road on foot.
When Max made it to Warrnambool on March 31, 2005, he headed to the local post office and spent $250 packing all of his personal belongings into boxes which he mailed back to Sweden.
Inside was his passport, return plane ticket and a note that would become the last correspondence he ever had with his parents or siblings.
“Something strange has happened to me and I don’t know how to cope with it,” the note read.
“I am tired of myself but there is still so much beauty in the world. Now I am vanishing … no tears.”
While Rolf has accepted he will likely never see his son again, he told Yahoo7 News he doesn’t believe the letter to be a suicide note.
“The goodbye letter did not indicate that he took his own life,” he said.
“As a parent, I gave him a few extra dollars that he could keep in his shoe. I saw [Max returning] it as a slap in the face and a goodbye.
“I believe he has found some type of other community and could be living off the land, maybe even with a wife and kid… I wouldn’t be the least bit astonished.
“Maybe he is a little ashamed.”
Upon receiving the parcel, Rolf made an emergency call to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Swedish immigration staff in Australia, with Victoria Police launching an investigation into his disappearance.
Rolf also put in calls to the Warnambool Post Office, looking for any possible leads.
“At the beginning, they looked at all the locations where people commonly commit suicide, they looked everywhere but found nothing,” he said, describing their search efforts as nothing short of incredible.
“I spent maybe five hours a day looking for him [from Sweden],” he added.
But as the years went by, the discussion of Max’s fate became a painful topic for the Castor family, as his brother and sister started families of their own.
Rolf said some of Max’s five nephews have asked about him and seen photos but they try and avoid speculating about what became of him.
Given Sweden’s stringent laws surrounding inheritance, Rolf has been reluctant to ever consider reporting Max as dead.
He said if Max did return one day after his own death, it would make claiming his share of his inheritance a nightmare.
‘I saw him’: Witness reports spark hope
Since his disappearance, there have been dozens of sightings up and down Australia’s east coast, some were reported to police, others to a Facebook page set up by Rolf.
A Swedish security officer, living in Australia with her partner, sparked hope in 2013 when she saw a man, she swears was Max, steal some basic food items from a local store in Murwillumbah, a town in far north-eastern NSW.
She told Rolf he picked up the necessities like eggs and milk before racing away on an old rusty bicycle. After Rolf supplied her with some pictures of Max, she told him she was “95 per cent sure” it was him.
In October 2015, a woman reported seeing three men, one of whom resembled Max, selling fish on a ferry travelling between Stockton and Newcastle.
Sadly, an investigation from police along with Rolf’s search efforts from Sweden failed to make any in-roads.
Max would now be 33 years old and if he followed in his father’s footsteps, his long blonde locks would be long gone, Rolf said.
A lead investigator into Max’s disappearance told Yahoo7 News that the investigation remains ongoing.
When asked if he would face any criminal charges or deportation, should he be found, the investigator said “consideration would be given to Max’s welfare” if they did ever find him.
At 76 years of age, Rolf knows the chance of discovering his son’s fate are slim, but for anyone who might know, he has a message:
“Tell him to call home.”
If you have information that may assist police to locate Max please call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report online.