Is there a secret serial killer on the loose in NSW?
Is there a secret serial killer on the loose in NSW?

Serial killer theory in NSW backpacker disappearances


ONE of Australia's leading forensic psychologists, Tim Watson-Munro, has raised the possibility a serial killer is responsible for the disappearance of three young backpackers on the NSW north coast.

"You cannot discount the fact that you have three young men of very similar profiles who have gone missing or are dead from two coastal towns which in the scheme of Australia's geography are quite close,'' he said today.

Police have still found no trace of missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez who went missing from Byron Bay on May 31 after a night out drinking.

 

No trace... . Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez went missing on May 31.
No trace... . Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez went missing on May 31.

 

CCTV footage released by police of Theo Hayez’s (hat, beige pants) last movements.
CCTV footage released by police of Theo Hayez’s (hat, beige pants) last movements.

 

Mr Watson-Munro firmly believes there is a chance Mr Hayez's disappearance could be linked to that of 21-year-old Englishman Hugo Palmer and his French travelling companion Erwan Ferrieux from a beach at Port Macquarie in February.

Police have since established that human bones washed up on a nearby beach are that of Mr Ferrieux but still have no trace of Mr Palmer.

However, senior police remain adamant the cases are not linked and are currently treating them as accidental deaths.

But Mr Watson-Munro maintains: "I know the three disappearances could easily be misadventure, and I am not saying they are definitely the work of a serial killer, but I have learnt that nothing can or should ever be discounted,'' he said.

 

SES volunteers search for missing Theo Hayez around Cape Byron Lighthouse.
SES volunteers search for missing Theo Hayez around Cape Byron Lighthouse.

 

"Statistically the odds of three backpackers missing in the same region in a short space of time is very unlikely and we know that these type of killers prey on vulnerable people or those that are likely not been missed for some time,'' he said.

Mr Watson-Munro said he knows some people will ridicule his theory but he believes it's something worth exploring.

"These are unexplained disappearances or deaths of three men of the same age and very similar profiles. Again I'm not say categorically this is foul play or linked.

"I don't want to to be over dramatic or start fear on the eastern seaboard but there is no doubt there are serial killers in our midst,'' he said.

Hugo Palmer and Erwan Ferrieux both went
Hugo Palmer and Erwan Ferrieux both went

 

Hugo Plamer and Erwan Ferrieux were travelling together and presumed to have drowned after their towels and sunglasses were found on Shelly Beach on February 18. A silver commodore they hired was found in a nearby carpark with their travel documents inside.

Local police are confident the young men went for a swim in the 1m to 1.6m surf and got into trouble and drowned although there are no witnesses to them entering the water.

On June 24 three bones were found at the southern end of nearby Flynn's beach which police have linked by DNA to items found in the car which belong to Frenchman Erwan Ferrieux, 21.

Another human bone was found this Sunday at the northern end which is still to be tested.

missing while swimming at Shelley Beach.
missing while swimming at Shelley Beach.

 

NSW Homicide detectives were called in to help investigate the disappearance of the Belgian backpacker although because there was no evidence of foul play it was decided to treat the case as possibly suspicious.

Theo Hayez, 18, was last seen at a bar in Byron Bay on the evening of May 31 at about 11pm and was intoxicated. His disappearance wasn't reported to police until six days later and an intense search of the area around Byron Bay on both land and seas was commenced by police and local volunteers. A 'ping'' from his phone was recorded the day after he vanished near the area around Cape Byron Lighthouse.

A NSWPF spokesperson today stressed: "The investigations into each of the disappearances have been expertly managed; detectives have not identified any definitive links between the cases, nor any indication of foul play.

"To suggest otherwise is not only factually inaccurate, but also reckless to the perception of safety in the community, and potentially distressing to the loved ones of the men."

 

New theory.... Dr Tim Watson-Munro. Photo: Tim Pascoe
New theory.... Dr Tim Watson-Munro. Photo: Tim Pascoe

Tim Watson-Munro has been a forensic psychologist for nearly forty years and has written numerous books on some of Australia's worst crimes. He is considered an expert on the minds of criminals, including murderers and repeat sex offenders.



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