The family of a missing backpacker are confident a recovered baseball hat found in dense bush belongs to him, although DNA results are yet to be made public.
Théo Hayez was last seen leaving the Cheeky Money’s bar in Byron Bay on Friday, May 31. The disappearance was “out of character” for him and Théo was set to return home to Belgium after his stint in Byron Bay.
In July this year, an independent search party found a hat which was similar to the one Théo owned and was found in the same location where his mobile phone last registered with a communications tower.
On Saturday, a Facebook page with ties to Théo’s family shared a photo of the hat, providing some information about the item, which they hope could help shed some much needed light on his disappearance.
“Over the past months many of you have been wondering about the results of the DNA testing of the hat found in bushland off Tallows Beach on July 7th,” the post says.
The Facebook page ‘Looking for Theo Hayez’ is dedicated to sharing information about the missing backpacker, and spreading awareness.
The group remains active and has shared updates via Facebook consistently since his disappearance. The page appears to have ties with the Hayez family, with a relative serving as an admin for the Facebook group.
“Although no DNA results have been released publicly and may not be for some time, the family is certain that it is Théo’s hat,” the post said.
“The hat found was the exact same model and colour (grey, not black), shows the same wear and tear on the brim, and the position precisely matches one of his last known GPS locations.”
The Facebook post thanked supporters for their “patience in awaiting the formal results”.
In July this year, NSW Police confirmed to Yahoo News Australia the hat was being forensically examined to “determine if it’s of relevance”.
“Police were contacted by members of the community conducting independent searches who found the baseball cap in bushland,” a NSW Police spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia in July.
Around the time the hat was discovered, Mr Hayez’s parents, Laurent Hayez and Vinciane Delforg, told a Belgium news station they believed their son may have been abducted.
“Maybe Theo could have been kidnapped, drugged... he may be a prisoner somewhere where there is no electricity,” Mr Hayez said.
Mr Hayez returned to Australia in September, hoping to “find answers”, according to the Looking for Théo Hayez Facebook page.
The page is still appealing to the public. On September 5, a video of Théo taken during his travels, with the voice of his cousin Lisa heard in the background, was uploaded to the page.
“Théo is not just an image on a MISSING poster, he is a son, a brother, a cousin and friend... he is beautiful YOUNG MAN in the prime of his life who has disappeared without a trace,” the post said.
“We believe SOMEONE KNOWS SOMETHING, and we are asking for anyone with ANY INFORMATION to PLEASE come forward.”
Later in September, the group hosted “Light the night for Théo Hayez”, an event which called upon the local community to “surround Théo's family with the love and support Byron Bay is renowned for”.
To mark Théo’s 19th birthday on September 29 the volunteers from the Facebook group planted 19 trees in the Arakwal National Park off Tallow Beach.
On September 16, the case was officially referred to the NSW coroner.
“It’s important to understand that this is a standard process in NSW and signifies progress,” the Looking for Théo Hayez Facebook page said.
“It presents us with the opportunity for much-needed expertise, insight and a fresh perspective and we sincerely welcome the participation of the Coroner.”
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or anonymously via Crime Stoppers website.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.