By Shelby Brooks
Police say multiple tips from the public led them to begin searching along the Great Alpine Road at Mount Hotham for information surrounding missing campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay.
In a press conference on Wednesday 14 April, Missing Persons Squad Detective Acting Inspector Tony Combridge said Missing Person Squad detectives and Search and Rescue officers had begun searching that morning in a “fairly narrow radius adjacent to the Great Alpine Road,” for clues into the couple’s disappearance.
Det. Insp. Combridge said there was no silver bullet which caused the search area to shift 80km north east of Wonnangatta Valley, where Hill and Clay disappeared in March last year.
“Suffice to say, it wasn’t one piece of information necessarily,” Det. Insp. Combridge said.
“This is why we ask the public to keep contacting us and telling us things that they may have seen in the area, because the accrual of that information, when put together in part of a bigger picture, has helped us make the decision that this might be an area of high value for us.
“The timing of the information has not had any bearing on our decision to search. The information has accrued over a period of time.”
Det. Insp. Combridge also confirmed search teams at Mount Hotham had already located items that will be forensically assessed, including two shovels.
“At this stage I am aware of the discovery. As to the relevance of the investigation, or its importance to the investigation that is still being assessed,” he said.
“I’m not really expecting to find anything but I am hopeful that we find some answers for the family.”
Det. Insp. Combridge described the circumstances around the new search area as “particularly challenging”.
“It is an incredibly remote area. There are probably parts of that bush that have never been walked on by humans it is that remote,” he said.
“So I think that it is really important to bear in mind that we are not dealing with looking in a paddock with grass.
“Some of the bush is so thick that we might not find what we are looking for but as I say, it won’t be for lack of trying.”
Earlier this month, the second search was undertaken in the Wonnangatta Valley using NSW cadaver dogs, which Det. Insp. Combridge said “failed to yield any results at this stage.”
“I want to thank the public for the amount of information that has come to us we want to renew that appeal for any more information in that area around the Great Alpine Road in the Mount Hotham area in the mid-March time frame from last year,” he said.
“If you were travelling through that area, or if you saw anything that you think we need to know about, I would ask you to contact crime stoppers 1800 333 000 or via the website.”