Suspect Arrested in Wonnangatta Valley Murder Case
In a remote southern Australian area famed for its forbidding landscape and unsolved mysteries, the couple had set out for a weeklong trip and were never seen again.,
Suspect Is Charged With Murder in Case of Two Vanished Campers
In a remote southern Australian area famed for its forbidding landscape and unsolved mysteries, the couple had set out for a weeklong trip and were never seen again.
A view in July of the Wonnangatta Valley, in a remote part of southern Australia. The police announced Thursday that a man had been charged with the murders of two people who vanished while on a camping trip there last March.Credit…Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The New York Times
MELBOURNE, Australia — Twenty months ago, Russell Hill and Carol Clay disappeared during a camping trip in Wonnangatta Valley, in the remote high country of Australia’s Victoria State. Their campsite was found burned to the ground, while deer carcasses were scattered around the valley.
“We are hoping this arrest brings us a step closer to providing the answers the families have been desperately seeking and richly deserve,” Bob Hill, the Victoria Police assistant commissioner, told a news conference on Thursday evening.
The announcement came three days after the police arrested Greg Lynn, 55, who has been identified by the local media as a pilot for the Australian airline Jetstar Airways.
Jetstar said in an email statement that it had been advised by the police that an employee was under investigation for a “serious crime” and that, “as a matter of course, the employee has been removed from duty as a result of their arrest.”
He was arrested Monday evening while camping in Arbuckle Junction in the Victorian high country, the police said — about 15 miles south of where Mr. Hill and Ms. Clay were last known to have been.
Police began interviewing Mr. Lynn, who lives in a Melbourne suburb, on Tuesday morning and on Thursday charged him with the murders. He will appear at a local court on Friday morning, Assistant Commissioner Hill said.
Police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the case.
The announcement follows a nearly two-year police investigation that drew national attention.
Mr. Hill and Ms. Clay, both in their 70s, set out in March 2020 for what was supposed to be a weeklong camping trip in the Wonnangatta Valley. A five-hour drive from Melbourne, it’s one of the most remote regions in the state, accessible only by four-wheel drive or on horseback.
The evening they arrived in the valley, Mr. Hill, an amateur radio enthusiast, dialed in to let fellow hobbyists know where he was.
That was the last time they were heard from. The next day, hikers stumbled upon their burned-out camp. Mr. Hill and Ms. Clay were nowhere to be seen.
Over the following months, police returned to the site repeatedly and scoured the area, though its ruggedness made search efforts difficult.
Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper talking about the missing hikers at a Melbourne news conference a few weeks ago.Credit…Joel Carrett/EPA, via Shutterstock
Rumours and media speculation swirled around the case: about illegal deer hunters in the area; about the possibility that the pair, who were not married, had run off together; and about a local recluse known as the Button Man — although there is no evidence he was ever a suspect in the case.
In April this year, police found and took into evidence two shovels, after new information led them to search an area 20 miles northeast of where Mr. Hill and Ms. Clay were last seen. It’s unclear what significance the discovery had.
Last month, the police, alongside members of Mr. Hill and Ms. Clay’s families, renewed calls for information about the case.
“He just disappeared and you’re just stuck,” Mr. Hill’s daughter Debbie said at the time. “We can’t grieve for someone if you don’t know if they’re really missing or dead. It’s just left a really big hole, a deep hole.”
Despite the arrest, many questions remain.
Nearly three weeks ago, police released images of a dark blue Nissan Patrol car with a trailer that they said was “yet to be eliminated from the investigation.”
When police arrested Mr. Lynn, they seized his car — a beige Nissan Patrol. Local media reported that the police intend to say Mr. Lynn had his car painted a different color to avoid detection.
The police are still looking for the trailer, Assistant Commissioner Hill said on Thursday, and were eager to speak to anyone who had bought one between March and July 2020. The police believe that the trailer was sold on Gumtree, a online classified ad site.
He said police had not located the bodies of Mr. Hill and Ms. Clay, but they had zeroed in on an area in Victoria’s high country where they would begin searching in the coming days.
“Police are hopeful we’ll be able to locate the deceased and provide ultimate closure to the families,” he said.