'New leads' in search for missing Byron Bay backpacker Theo Hayez
Three years on from the disappearance of Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez, an investigator claims "new leads" have recently come to light.
The 18-year-old was last seen at the Cheeky Monkeys bar in Byron Bay on May 31, 2019 and was reported missing on June 6 after he failed to arrive in Melbourne.
A large-scale search of the area ensued with scores of local volunteers and family from Belgium looking for any signs of the teen.
Only a hat believed to belong to Theo was located at the time as detectives continued in their attempt to piece together his final moments.
Twist in search for teen: 'Credible leads'
In February this year, police announced a $500,000 reward for anyone with information that can “fill the gap” in Theo’s disappearance.
Since then, investigations have ramped up and "some investigations are still ongoing," private investigator Ken Gamble said in a statement on Monday.
"The recent $500,000 reward offered by the NSW government has brought forward new leads that are also being thoroughly investigated. I am still very hopeful that the case will be solved.
"I am continuing to investigate credible leads into Theo's disappearance on behalf of the family, and I am very thankful to everyone who has provided information."
Leading theory into teen's disappearance
As part of an inquest into the disappearance, a fellow Belgian backpacker previously revealed he and Theo had bought cheap wine earlier in the day he disappeared.
After Theo was ejected from the Cheeky Monkeys bar at 11pm, he Googled the directions back to the hostel but instead walked in the opposite direction, the inquest heard.
Police believe the teen may have headed up towards Cape Byron Lighthouse where he dropped his phone and then fell from the cliffs into the ocean below — a theory his family have previously rejected.
His family believe he may have been with someone the night he mysteriously vanished, a theory they still stand by today.
Family 'still hopeful' on the third anniversary
"A key question we are seeking to address is whether he was with someone on the night of May 31, 2019 — which we strongly believe to be the case considering the circumstances," they said in a statement on Monday.
"Walking into the bushland and climbing up the grassy side of the Cape Byron cliff alone at night is something we believe Theo would never have done unless he was with someone at the time.
Addressing the third anniversary on Tuesday, the family said they are "devastated another year has passed," without answers.
"Every day Théo is missing is as difficult as the last, as we navigate our endless and ambiguous grief and continue to seek answers to what happened to our boy," they said.
"As with all families of missing people, we are unable to properly grieve and heal, as we don’t have a conclusion."
But they say they "have not given up" and they "remain hopeful", particularly in light of new leads.
"Ken Gamble continues to work with us and investigates all new leads. Since the reward was announced, we have continued to see people come forward offering information to support the search," they aid.
"We hope that the inquest will allow our investigative team to have better access to data to investigate these leads more thoroughly."
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