A friend of the two European tourists missing from a NSW beach has shared a harrowing message to social media as hopes fade of finding the pair.
Police scaled back their search for the pair on Wednesday afternoon, two days after their personal items were found on Shelly beach near Port Macquarie.
Englishman Hugo Palmer, 20, and Frenchman Erwan Ferrieux, 21, haven’t been seen since passers-by discovered their belongings on Monday morning.
Their rental car was found in a nearby car park with a number of other belongings – including travel documents – still inside.
One local claims to have seen towels and gear belonging to Mr Palmer and Mr Ferrieux on the sand late on Sunday afternoon, raising questions about when the pair arrived at the beach.
Friends arrives at Shelly Beach begging to have boys back
Two female friends of the missing tourists had planned to travel from Sydney to meet them, but instead arrived in Port Macquarie on Wednesday to watch as police search for the European nationals.
One of the girls, Caraa Blackburn, shared a picture of the ocean to Instagram story on Wednesday night, begging for the sea to return her friends.
“Give us back our boys you monster,” she wrote with the picture.
A ground and water search involving police divers, Marine Rescue, SES and others resumed on Wednesday morning but was scaled back in the afternoon.
“Based on advice from experts, police have scaled back the air and sea search, but sweeps of the coastline and foreshore will continue over the coming days,” NSW police said in a statement.
A smaller search with local water police resumed on Thursday.
Family realistic about chances of survival
Police Inspector Peter Neville said a family member of one of the men had arrived in Australia and was being “realistic” about the chances of finding the pair alive.
“She’s had a fair bit to absorb,” Insp Neville told reporters at the scene.
“It’s a very difficult conversation to have sometimes, but we have been very honest with the friends and the family here and have told them what has occurred.”
“They travelled here today not only to support the operation but also their friends,” Insp Neville said.
Insp Neville said police did hold out some hope the men were alive.
“We have not completely discounted the chance that these men may have survived or something else has happened to them,” he said.
Surf Life Saving NSW dispatched jet skis and inflatable rescue boats to search the rocky coastline and beaches closer to shore.
Mr Palmer and Mr Ferrieux have been close friends for years, according to their Facebook pages. They both appear to have attended Sackville School, south of London.
NSW Police have been communicating with both the British and French consulates.
Police are still appealing to anyone who might have seen the men, or their car, near the Shelly Beach car park or in the surrounding streets to contact them.
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