Major breakthrough in search for campers missing for a year

Josh Dutton
·News Reporter
·3-min read

A discovery in regional Victoria may lead police to find out what happened to two missing campers who have not been seen for more than 12 months.

Russell Hill, 74, and Carol Clay, 73, went missing at Wonnangatta Valley in the Victorian Alps on March 20 last year. No one has seen or heard from them since.

In a major development in the case, Victoria Police moved its investigation to the Mount Hotham area next to Great Alpine Road, more than 70 kilometres northeast of Wonnangatta Valley, on Wednesday.

Russell Hill and Carol Clay are pictured.
Russell Hill and Carol Clay have both been missing for more than 12 months. Source: AAP

“Detectives are acting on information uncovered during the course of the investigation that has led them to this area and is believed to be of interest to the investigation,” police said.

Police have recovered two shovels from the area and taken them for analysis.

Detective Acting Inspector Tom Combridge, from Victoria Police’s Missing Persons Squad, said the “importance” of the shovels to the investigation was still being determined.

“They’ve been collected and we will bring them back and assess them forensically,” Det Act Insp Combridge said.

Mr Hill left his Drouin home on March 19 last year and collected Ms Clay from her home in Pakenham in his white Toyota LandCruiser.

Ms Clay was divorced, but Mr Hill was still married.

They then travelled through Licola, spending one night at Howitt High Plains before heading into Wonnangatta Valley on March 20.

Mr Hill was last heard from on that day over HF radio, while Ms Clay had told friends she was heading away and was expecting to return by March 29.

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Police move investigation to Mount Hotham

Det Act Insp Combridge said “multiple sources” were behind police’s decision to move the investigation to Mount Hotham. 

He said it was a “fairly significant” piece of information which led the search to the area.

“I’m hopeful we will find some answers for the family,” he said.

Det Act Insp Combridge said the conditions in the area had proved “challenging” and some areas of the bush “have probably never been walked on by humans”.

Police search Great Alpine Road, Mount Hotham for missing Russell Hill, 74, and Carol Clay, 73.
The search has now moved to a dense area of bush in Mount Hotham. Source: Nine News

“It is that remote,” he said.

Police believe “other parties” were involved in the disappearance of Mr Hill and Ms Clay.

Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper told 7News last month he believed the couple had died and met foul play.

“My honest but sad belief is that unfortunately, they are deceased,” he told 7News.

That is still a position police hold. NSW Police has provided its Victorian counterparts with cadaver dogs.

with AAP

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a report online.

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