A single car remains untraced by detectives investigating the disappearance of campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay.
A single car remains untraced by detectives investigating the disappearance of campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay.

Car alert in missing campers case

One vehicle remains untraced by detectives investigating the disappearance of High Country campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay.

Investigators from the missing persons squad are looking for a white dual-cab ute of unknown make and model which was in the vicinity at the time

"After almost 12 months of meticulous checks, as of this afternoon, police have been able to identify all vehicles seen in the area near Russell and Carol's campsite on Thursday, 20 March, 2020, with the exception of a single car," a Victoria Police statement said.

Pakenham woman Carol Clay.
Pakenham woman Carol Clay.

It is a year this month since Mr Hill and Ms Clay vanished in the Wonnangatta Valley area.

Police said, at this time, there is no indication the ute or its occupants are linked to whatever happened to the friends.

"However police have not given up hope that those travelling in the ute may have some information that is new to investigators," the police statement said.

Detective Insp. Andrew Stamper of the missing persons squad said

police were renewing their appeal for information as Victorians prepared to head for long weekend trips to the High Country."

"It might seem like only a very small possibility that those in the white ute will have information about Russell and Carol's disappearance but we can't afford to leave any stone unturned," Insp. Stamper said.

 

Russell Hill.
Russell Hill.

 

Mr Hill with his drone.
Mr Hill with his drone.

 

"We cannot leave any 'what ifs' when it comes to an investigation like this.

"I appreciate this is not an especially uncommon vehicle, however if you or someone you know with a white dual cab ute was in the Wonnangatta area around 20 March last year then we need to hear from you.

Insp. Stamper said people from a number of states had come forward to provide their details and state they were in the area around that time.

"I've been clear the whole time that it's not about catching out people who shouldn't have been there for any reason - we just need to account for you," he said.

"Again, I would stress that there is nothing linking that vehicle to Russell and Carol's disappearance so please do not be concerned about coming forward to assist.

Insp. Stamper said the families of Mr Hill and Ms Clay were still suffering enormously.

"The grief that these families have had to deal with over the past year, coupled with immense public speculation, is immensely difficult to comprehend.

"We will not give up on the possibility that we can give those families the answers they need - but we cannot do this without the public's help."

 

The damaged campsite belonging to Mr Hill and Ms Clay. Picture: ABC
The damaged campsite belonging to Mr Hill and Ms Clay. Picture: ABC

 

Mr Hill, 74, and Carol Clay, 73, vanished without a trace after setting off on March 19, 2020 for a camping trip, starting at Howitt High Plains.

Ms Clay - president of Pakenham's Country Women's Association - had told friends she would be returning on March 28 or 29.

Mr Hill was in high spirits during his last contact from the bush.

He radioed his mate soon after arriving at Wonnangatta saying he was doing well but he and Ms Clay disappeared hours later.

Mr Hill's Toyota four-wheel-drive was found at the campground and had been scorched by fire.

However his DJI Mavic drone has never been recovered.

Mr Hill was a competent bushman who knew the area well.

Several major bushland searches have failed to uncover any traces of the pair.

An enduring theory is that they were murdered at Dry River Creek and taken from the scene.

Investigators have considered the possibility their tent and Mr Hill's 4WD were burnt to destroy evidence of the crime.

But they have kept an open mind and are keen to hear from anyone with information about the High Country mystery.

 

Originally published as Car alert in missing campers case


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