Bloody clue found in missing backpacker mystery
A Byron Bay resident found a massive "bludgeon stick", with blood-coloured stains and strange writing, in the dunes at Byron Bay after backpacker Theo Hayez disappeared.
The huge wooden club is 1.5m long, with one end bound in duct tape, the words "The Judge" written on it in black letters and dark brown-red stains on its heavier end.
Found in the Clarkes Beach dunes just three weeks after 18-year-old Belgian tourist Hayez vanished from the area, it was handed in to Byron Bay police.
Officers at the station told the resident "we will take that" but did not take down details of the location where the club was found.
The resident who found it was working as a "green and clean" volunteer of the area around the Clarkes' camp site, where homeless people live for free on the beach.
The finder's wife posted a photo of the massive club on Facebook this week, saying she didn't know if police were following up the possible clue.
The post read: "Found in Clarke's Beach dunes camp site … 3 weeks after Theo disappeared.
"Handed into police at the time.
"Stains on bludgeon stick (looks like blood)
"The writing on bludgeon stick says: THE JUDGE
"Never heard back?"
The dunes where the dark red-stained staff was found lie across the neck of Cape Byron from another beach, where Mr Hayez's mobile phone was tracked on the night he vanished.
Theo's route after he was asked to leave a local bar, Cheeky Monkey's, about 11pm on Friday, May 31, has been tracked on Google.
The location of the bludgeon stick is less than a 10-minute walk from a spot known as The Pass, where Mr Hayez's mobile phone "pinged" off a communications tower about 1.40am on June 1.
On July 7, more than five weeks after Mr Hayez disappeared, a grey Puma cap was found in bushland off Tallow Beach.
The Hayez family said on their Looking for Théo Hayez Facebook page last month they were certain it was Theo's hat as they awaited DNA testing results.
"The hat found was the exact same model and colour … shows the same wear and tear on the brim, and the position precisely matches one of his last known GPS locations," the post said.
Now more than five months since Mr Hayez vanished, the Hayez family is still desperately searching for clues as to his whereabouts.
They feel as if they lost valuable time in the early stages of the search by not having the Google map tracking data and were thus searching in the wrong place.
As reported on The Lighthouse, after being told to leave Cheeky Monkey's, Mr Hayez, or at least his mobile phone, more than once consulted Google maps for directions to his hostel, Wake Up!
But rather than walking towards the establishment, at Byron's Belongil Beach, he walked in the opposite direction.
Around midnight, he reached Tallow Beach and went to a spot called Cosy Corner, where his phone sent messages to a friend and then his stepsister in Belgium.
According to The Australian, as Mr Hayez headed towards the beach, he was running.
Part of his trail goes through thick bushland known as Arakwal National Park, which hems the bottom side of Cape Byron before descending on Tallow Beach, popular for whale and bird watching by day.
By night it is pitch black, with no lights, and on the evening Mr Hayez vanished it was stormy and cold, with a waning moon.
Byron resident Nicoletta Revis, who has cared for Mr Hayez's relatives as they arrived to search, finds it hard to believe Mr Hayez would have gone through the thick bush on his own.
She had never walked it, even in daylight, and when she did to aid in the hunt for traces of Mr Hayez, she cannot believe he chose to take it.
"At night? I mean there's a track, but then there's off track - and I am talking ducking and weaving (between tree branches)," she said.
"It's pretty much thick bush."
Ms Revis said Mr Hayez would not have known the path through the scrub existed nor could he have found his way, once the track petered out, to Tallow Beach.
"He'd … only been here two days," she said.
"I just don't see why he would go that way."
Mr Hayez arrived in Australia late last year on a working holiday visa and was due to fly home to Belgium just a week after his disappearance.
He had left Belgium after the end of a long-term relationship with a young woman and had spent some of his time travelling with his cousin, Lisa Hayez, who now lives in Australia.
Ms Revis said Mr Hayez wasn't into drugs or excessive drinking, and that his ejection from Cheeky Monkey's had been because he was considered "approaching intoxication" after only a few drinks.
"Whatever happened, the perfect storm rolled in," she said.
"On the CCTV, they escort him out, he's standing with his hands out and head to the side.
"Didn't really understand and just walked off."
At every turn when Google maps would have told Mr Hayez to turn one way "he went in the opposite direction".
"I personally think … he's run into someone," Ms Revis said.
Mr Hayez is described as 180cm tall and was last seen wearing a black hoodie, tan pants, black sneakers, black watch and grey Puma cap.
News.com.au asked NSW Police if the "bludgeon stick" was being considered in evidence in their investigation into the Theo Hayez case.
A NSW Police spokesperson said the matter had been referred to the NSW Coroner, and it would be "inappropriate" therefore to comment.
Anyone with information about Mr Hayez can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.