A fresh twist has emerged in the disappearance of two campers in the Victorian Alps after human remains were reportedly found in the remote mountainous region.
Russel Hill, 74, and his friend and devoted grandmother Carol Clay, 73 were last heard from on March 20 after going on a secret camping trip.
Mr Hill – who did not tell his wife he was going away with his long-term friend Ms Clay – was last heard from that day on high-frequency radio when he was at the remote Wonnangatta Station.
Human remains have now been found 200km away from the station at Moondarra in Victoria’s high country, 9News reported.
The State Emergency Service were called on Saturday evening to investigate the discovery, but police have remained tight-lipped whether it is related to the elderly pair’s disappearance.
Carol Clay, 73, (pictured left) and Russel Hill went missing while on a camping trip in the Victorian Alps on March 20
Forensics teams pictured at Moondarra – 200km away from where the elderly pair went missing.
Police have remained tight-lipped as to whether the investigation at the small regional town is linked to the campers’ disappearance
Victoria Police said the missing person squad were in Moondarra as part of an ‘active’ investigation, but would not comment further.
‘Further information will be available when it is operationally appropriate to do so,’ a police spokeswoman said.
Footage showed forensic investigators combing an area of bushland off a dirt road in Moondarra.
It comes as bizzare new details emerged of an ‘oddball loner’ living in the Victorian Alps who has been questioned over a number of mysterious disappearances.
Known as ‘Buttons’ or ominously, ‘the Button Man’, the expert bushman became a person of interest after concerns about his odd behaviour were raised by locals.
Mr Hill, who didn’t tell his wife he was going away with long-time friend Ms Clay, went missing with the devoted grandmother in the isolated region.
Their disappearance has baffled local authorities who found their campsite burned out two days later.
The campsite of Russel Hill, 74, and Carol Clay, 73, was discovered by police on March 21 burned out (pictured) but there was no sign of the pair
The Alpine National Park (pictured) has seen a number of strange disappearances, but a local bushman known as ‘The Button Man’ could hold the key to the mysteries
The pair went missing in the Wonnangatta Valley, more than 200km north east of Melbourne
But sources believe the Button Man could be useful to the investigation, as he often speaks to local campers and knows the area well.
He is understood to have earned his nickname due to his hobby of using deer antlers to make buttons – which he then uses as large ear piercings.
Using well crafted traditional spears, the man is known to camp for weeks on end in remote bushlands and hunt for deer, the Age reported.
Despite being described as ‘spooky’ and ‘bloody scary’, police have no evidence to suggest he was involved in any disappearances and there have been no reports of violence.
Police suspect a number of items may have been taken from the campsite (pictured) including a drone which is now missing
WHAT DO WE KNOWN ABOUT THE ‘BUTTON MAN’?
– In his 70s, the expert bushman is known to disappear for weeks on end
– Often ‘spooking’ campers, he often asks them questions – but never answers any
– He fills up his tank in Mansfield and buys supplies before heading out
– He is an impressive walker, and remarkably fit for his age
– The ‘loner’ often builds bizarre stone pyramids on the roadside to track cars
– He drives a 4WD and uses a traditional spear to hunt
The man, described as being around 70 and very fit, has been known to speak to local campers.
One bushman said the Button Man had a ‘thousand-metre stare that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up’.
In one particularly terrifying story, a wildlife photographer explained that he had stayed in the area around the Button Man’s camp to take pictures.
When he got home to download pictures from his camera, he found an unexplained picture of himself asleep – with no idea who took it or when.
The Button Man is also known to build pyramids out of rocks on the roadside, piling pebbles to signify when a car has driven passed.
A burnt out campsite was found in remote bushland in Victoria’s Wonnangatta Valley (pictured) after the friends went missing on March 19
He is known to spend long periods in a remote bush camp, and was recently visited in Mansfield by missing persons investigators, the Herald Sun reported.
Mansfield sits 180km north-east of Melbourne, in the foothills of the Victorian Alps.
Police are reported to have had a long chat with the man, but discovered no new information about numerous local missing persons cases.
Described as an ‘oddball character’ by locals, the mystery man has been said to have scared hunters and hikers in the area.
The man is reported to have adopted an ‘alternative lifestyle’, but does not have a criminal record.
He is described as ‘eccentric but intelligent’, and often drives his 4WD to pick up supplies in Mansfield.
Friends of devoted grandmother Carol Clay (pictured, right) were surprised to learn she had gone camping with one close friend describing her as a glamour queen
The mystery man is said to roam the High Country for weeks at a time, using a remote base camp near a weather station called ‘The Crossroads’.
But there is no evidence that he is linked to Ms Clay and Mr Hill’s disappearance, nor of other missing persons in the region.
Ms Clay and Mr Hill are just two of many people who have gone missing in the area over the past decade, four of them within just nine months.
His wife of 50 years, Robyn, previously admitted she had no idea her husband had gone camping with another woman.
She said her husband had been friendly with Ms Clay, who was once the President of the Country Women’s Association of Victoria, for decades but was unaware they were travelling together.
It’s suspected the blaze at their camp may have been started by a mobile phone charger that overheated inside a tent.
Mr Hill’s Toyota four-wheel-drive was also found at the scene with possessions belonging to the couple still inside.
Investigators feared the pair may have become lost in the remote bushland, but haven’t ruled out foul play – or that they vanished intentionally.
Two major search operations involving drones, helicopters, mounted police, search dogs and ground crews have come up with nothing.
But friends of Mr Hill who have been out camping with the avid outdoorsman say he knows the area well and would not have strayed far.
Mr Hill’s wife Robyn, 71, said her husband (pictured, right) had been friendly with Carol Clay (left) for decades but had no idea they were travelling together when he went missing
Acting Sergeant Scott Wilkinson who was part of the team looking for the pair, said the search was substantial, but ultimately fruitless.
Bushwalker Niels Becker went missing at nearby Mt Stirling last October, while Conrad Whitlock went missing near Mt Buller last winter.
Mr Whitlock, a wealthy businessman, went missing in July – last being seen at his White Water Court home, before his BMW was found 20km away from Mansfield.
The Tomahawk Hut area was searched in 2011 after the peculiar disappearance of former prisons boss David Prideaux.
Mr Prideaux was declared dead in 2014 after going missing on Mt Stirling in July 2011.
He is believed to have been deer hunting with his brother-in-law, but vanished without a trace.
Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper of the Missing Persons Squad said police want to speak with anyone who may have seen the couple near the time they disappeared.
‘This is a real and traumatic mystery and we need all the help we can get via Crime Stoppers,’ Insp Stamper said.