Police have revealed a new clue in the hunt for a married man who mysteriously vanished while camping with his ‘beauty queen’ friend seven weeks ago.
Russell Hill, 74, and Carol Clay, 73, went camping in Victoria’s Gippsland Valley near the Wonnangatta River in March and haven’t been heard from since.
Their disappearance has baffled local authorities who found their campsite burned out two days later.
Victoria Police said they are continuing to investigate the missing campers in a media release on Monday.
They revealed Mr Hill bought a drone before going camping and the device has not yet been found.
Police have revealed a new clue in the hunt for a married man Russell Hill (left with drone) who mysteriously vanished while camping with friend Carol Clay (right) seven weeks ago
A picture of the 74-year-old, released by authorities, showed him holding the drone.
‘Despite a number of searches over the past seven weeks, the pair have not been located and have not contacted family or friends,’ the police statement said.
‘These searches are expected to resume in the coming weeks depending on the weather.’
Mr Hill left his home in Drouin on March 19 for a camping trip at various campsites along the Dargo River, with the intention of leaving the region on March 26.
He was last heard from on March 20 via HF radio at Wonnangatta Station in the Victorian Alps.
Ms Clay told her friends she was going away and would be home on either March 28 or March 29.
Victoria Police revealed Mr Hill bought a drone before going camping and it has not yet been found
The campsite of Russel Hill, 74, and Carol Clay, 73, was discovered by police on March 21 burned out but there was no sign of the pair
Police suspect a number of items may have been taken from the campsite (pictured) including a drone which is now missing
It’s believed the pair travelled in Mr Hill’s vehicle, a white Toyota Landcruiser, up through Heyfield and Licola and then into the valley.
Campers found Mr Hill’s Toyota four-wheel-drive with minor fire damage and some possessions belonging to the couple still inside near the Dry River Creek Track on March 21.
Arson chemists were called to the scene but their examination was inconclusive.
Investigators feared the pair may have become lost in the remote bushland, but haven’t ruled out foul play – or that they vanished intentionally.
‘It is still yet to be determined whether their disappearance is suspicious,’ the police statement said.
Two major search operations involving drones, helicopters, mounted police, search dogs and ground crews have come up with nothing.
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
Friends of Mr Hill (pictured) who have been out camping with the avid outdoorsman say he knows the area well and would not have strayed far
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.
They say is a very experienced and ‘well-equipped bushman,’ the Herald Sun reported.
Making the case even more peculiar is that Mr Hill’s wife Robyn, 71, revealed she had no idea her husband was with another woman when he went missing.
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.
Following the conclusion of the second search, specialist detectives from the Victoria Police missing persons squad were brought in to assist local investigators.
Acting Sergeant Scott Wilkinson who was part of the team looking for the pair, said the search was substantial, but ultimately fruitless.
The pair went missing in the Wonnangatta Valley, more than 200km north east of Melbourne
Mr Hill’s (pictured) friends say he is a very experienced and ‘well-equipped bushman’ who new the area well
‘We were searching every bit of bush and terrain in the immediate area,’ he told Nine News.
‘The subsequent search has got nothing in the way of evidence, no signs at all of the missing people.
‘We are disappointed, we would like to get some result, particularly for the families of the missing people.’
Detective Insp 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.
Police said they continue to hold concerns for the pair due to the length of time they’ve been missing and because Mr Hill suffers from a number of medical conditions.
A burnt out campsite was found in remote bushland in Victoria’s Wonnangatta Valley
Mr Hill’s wife Robyn, 71, said her husband had been friendly with Carol Clay (pictured) for decades but had no idea they were travelling together when he went missing