Search for missing backpacker 'captivates' Belgium
THE mysterious disappearance of missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez has captivated the attention of Australian and Belgian audiences, with media agencies flocking to Byron Bay to cover the investigation from every angle.
After Belgian police joined the search for the missing 18-year-old this week, Belgian journalist Marie-Pauline Desset arrived to continue her coverage of the story.
Working for a major Belgian news company, Belga, Ms Desset has been working from Sydney reporting on Theo's disappearance and decided to make the trip up the coast to see for herself what was happening.
"Literally every day since his disappearance there have been pieces of information. Sometimes it was just small, like the dogs are involved or the drones," Ms Desset recalled about the amount of media coverage the investigation is getting in Belgium.
"It's really captivating the public because there is a sort of enigma.
"It's on the radio every hour almost and on the TV every lunch and evening news."
But Ms Desset said she's found from her experience of living in Australia that many Belgians have a warped perspective of what the country is like.
"In my eyes, I realise there is a gap from the Belgian perspective that they see Australia very far away, an exotic place filled with sharks and spiders and they can project a lot of fear, which is I think is a little bit disproportionate," she said.
"There are a lot of people who have come here. I would say that there is a part of the population who can relate to it and I would say there's another part that would just stick to the stereotypes.
"There is a fantasy about Australia, how kind the people are, the weather is good, there is a nice lifestyle and it's very coastal. (Theo's disappearance) doesn't fit in with the idea people have about Australia and I think that's why it's captivating so much attention."
Theo was last seen on May 31 leaving Cheeky Monkeys Bar on Jonson St, Byron Bay.