The family of missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez reportedly received messages asking for lump sum payments of Bitcoin in exchange for the safe return of the 18-year-old.
Anonymous messages claimed Mr Hayez was being kept outside of Byron Bay, in northeast NSW, and requested the payment of more than $300,000 in Bitcoin for his release, The Australian reported.
The demands were investigated by NSW Police but a lack of evidence saw them not pursued further, according to the publication.
Messages were revealed in the newest episode of podcast series The Lighthouse, which aired on Friday.
Mr Hayez’s godfather Jean-Philippe Pector said he received a request via Messenger on June 24, about three weeks after the teen vanished from Byron Bay, after being kicked out of the Cheeky Monkey nightclub.
Mr Pector, also known as JP, said the message author was someone claiming to be Mike Larry.
“I am aware how scary this message is going to be. We have Theo,” he claimed part of the message said.
“Please inform his father that he is OK. He is not in Byron. We had to move him and lay low due to all the looking around. He is OK for now if his father follows what we want to the letter.
“This is not a hoax your son is kidnapped.”
The message reportedly made reference to a former long-term girlfriend of Mr Hayez and allowed 24 hours for the Bitcoin to be transferred by JP into a nominated address.
An anonymous message was also reportedly sent to Me Hayez’s cousin Lisa Hayez.
She said she was told Mr Hayez had been taken to the Gold Coast to avoid searches being carried out in NSW.
“So we call the police straightaway and we sent the message. And they checked and the message was coming from South Africa. This guy was coming from nowhere. His Facebook page was completely empty. There was nothing. We have to check it, of course. But I don’t believe it,” she said.
JP still held concern about the anonymous messages, and could only hope police knew what they were doing when they traced the VPN (virtual private network) to South Africa.
“At some point they even told me that Theo hurt his leg trying to escape. Each time it’s a bit worrying and you say, ‘What if, what if, what if’,” he told the podcast.
“I contact the police, I say, ‘Look, that’s a crime … even if it’s not true, if they don’t have Theo, I want them to be prosecuted for that crime’.”
This came as it was revealed a large “bludgeon stick” with blood-like stains on was found in sand dunes at Byron Bay just weeks after the backpacker disappeared.
The stick, which was roughly 1.5-metres long, had the words “The JUDGE” emblazoned in black letters along its side with one end wrapped in duct tape, and was found in the Clarkes Beach dunes three weeks after the 18-year-old Belgian vanished on May 31.
The wife of the man who found it took to Facebook this week to share the discovery as Mr Hayez’s final phone activity emerged after he was removed from Cheeky Monkey’s bar.
Mr Hayez’s cousin Michael Dorkhom said in a previous episode of The Lighthouse that data revealed he’d used Google Maps to try and navigate his way back to his hostel.
Tracking data showed him heading in the opposite direction of his hostel through dense bushland and at times running.
His final message on Whatsapp was to his stepsister in French at 12.55am, where he said “merci” with a kiss emoji.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the online reporting page.
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