His mysterious disappearance has shattered a community and left his family desperately searching for answers.
Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez has been missing for three months and was last seen leaving Cheeky Monkey’s bar in Byron Bay at about 11pm on May 31.
Extensive land, air and sea searches struggled to find a trace of the teenager – except for the discovery of a hat similar to Theo’s near the last place his mobile phone pinged.
While NSW Police have called off the search and referred his case to the corner, his loved ones and the devastated tourist town’s search party in the have refused to give up the hunt.
The ongoing mystery has sparked a series of theories about what could have happened to the teenager.
Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez has been missing for more than three months
The 18-year-old was last seen leaving the Cheeky Monkey’s bar in Byron Bay, northern New South Wales, about 11pm on May 31
NSW Police released CCTV footage of Theo Hayez from the night he was last seen
HELD AS A PRISONER
Laurent Hayez and Vinciane Delforge told local media in July their son may be alive and living in a commune on the NSW north coast.
‘As long as there is no body, we will keep hoping,’ they said.
‘There is a history of bad communities in the neighbourhood, there are people who live in communes. Theo could have enrolled in one.
‘He could have been kidnapped, drugged.
‘He may be a prisoner somewhere where there is no electricity. That is our hope. Let him be a prisoner and let him be delivered to us.’
Laurent Hayez and Vinciane Delforge told local media they believe their son may be alive and living in a commune on the NSW north coast
Laurent Hayez and Vinciane Delforge (pictured) told local media they believe their son may be alive and living in a commune on the NSW north coast
FALLEN OFF A CLIFF
A black Puma hat was discovered in bushland about 200 metres from the beach at Cape Byron.
Theo’s friends said the cap was similar to the one he had been wearing when he vanished.
The baseball hat was found near where his phone emitted its final signal near cliffs by Cape Byron lighthouse a few hours later.
Amid the extensive search for the teenager, police divers were seen scouring the waters.
The stretch of coast is notorious for shark sightings, with a series of attacks recorded nearby at Lennox Head and Ballina.
Abseilers descended near the lighthouse where Theo’s phone last pinged but returned empty handed.
Volunteers search the Tyagarah Nature Reserve for missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez during a coordinated search organized by Byron Naturist group, in Tyagarah
Climbers with their police van pictured on the north flank of the Byron Bay lighthouse on July 2
A police sniffer-dog is seen searching for Theo on the far north New South Wales coast in July
Police divers scour the water at Byron Bay in an attempt to find the missing teenager
RUN OFF WITH A GIRL
In the early days of the investigation, Theo’s loved ones hoped there was a simple explanation that led him to fall off the radar.
Speaking to a French broadcaster in Belgium two weeks after Theo was last seen, Ms Delforge was hopeful her son had met a girl.
‘We would love to believe that he met a girl and had a fling… and that’s why there’s no sign of life,’ she said.
‘But that just isn’t him, that’s not his style.’
Ms Delforge said her son was a ‘meticulous planner’ who had thoroughly researched his gap year to Australia in the months prior to leaving his home town.
‘He is a conscientious, organised, responsible and attentive boy,’ she said.
Theo Hayez is pictured with girlfriend Severine Marcotty, who issued a plea through social media to find the missing Belgian backpacker
Laurent Hayez, Theo’s father, appears distressed as he thanks volunteers who are assisting in the search at the Byron Bay Golf Club on June 30
Vinciane Delforge (left), mother of missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez, is consoled by counselling and spiritual healer Lani Sidoti during a special event held at the Byron Bay Golf Club to thank all volunteers who are helping in the search
TAKEN BY A SERIAL KILLER
One of Australia’s leading forensic psychologists believes a serial killer may be involved in the disappearance of Theo Hayez and two other backpackers who went missing on the east coast of the country.
Tim Watson-Munro says police shouldn’t rule out the possibility Theo, French tourist Erwan Ferrieux and his British friend Hugo Palmer, both 20, were the victims of murder.
‘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 told Daily Mail Australia.
‘You’ve got three vulnerable, trusting backpackers and they’ve just disappeared without a trace.
Theo Hayez was last seen leaving the Cheeky Monkey’s bar in Byron Bay at about 11pm on May 31 while 20-year-old friends Erwan Ferrieux and Hugo Palmer were last seen in Port Macquarie on the NSW north coast
One of Australia’s leading forensic psychologists believes a serial killer may be involved in the disappearance of Theo Hayez and French tourist Erwan Ferrieux (right) and his British friend Hugo Palmer who went missing on the east coast of the country
‘I’m not saying its categorically the work of a serial killer, but its one hell of a coincidence.’
Erwan Ferrieux and Hugo Palmer were both reported missing during their Australian holiday of a lifetime.
The pair were last seen in Port Macquarie on the NSW north coast and their belongings were found in the sand on Shelly Beach a short time after they disappeared.
Police feared they drowned in the swell, which reached 1.6 metres on the day they went missing on February 18.
In July, police said human bones washed up on NSW’s mid-north coast likely belonged to Mr Ferrieux.
Theo is pictured with his cousin Lisa Hayez in Sydney for New Year’s Eve
Mr Watson-Munro firmly believes their disappearances and presumed deaths could be linked.
‘We’ve got three backpackers who all looked similar, were around the same age and disappeared in similar circumstances,’ Mr Watson-Munro said.
He said none of the three young men had any known psychological issues that would suggest they wanted to end their lives or disappear, further lending to the belief they fell victim to foul play.
‘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.
Byron Bay’s tight-knit community were rocked by Theo’s disappearance. A number of locals volunteered to search for the backpacker
STUCK ON A CLIFFTOP
An Australian psychic in June claimed Theo was alive and stranded on a Byron Bay clifftop.
Self-proclaimed psychic medium Tea Kay took to Facebook to urge residents to conduct a search in Broken Head, NSW, claiming she can ‘see’ the 18-year-old trapped in a rugged area.
‘I have been using my psychic medium skills to track where Theo Hayez has been, is at etc… Since last night. Broken Head needs to be searched ASAP. The rugged part, ocean side,’ Kay posted on the Byron Bay Community Board.
‘Please, if anyone is near to there, go out there, listen out for him calling out ‘HELP’! Call out to him too. I can ‘see’ him stuck in an area he did not realize was so rugged.
‘He was walking through bush last night towards the ocean because he could hear it. I ‘saw’ the moonlight on his face. He is worn out, but has had drinking water from the land.’
Mr Hayez had been travelling for eight months and was planning to return home after his time in Byron Bay
Mr Hayez’s last known whereabouts was on May 31 when he was captured on CCTV leaving Cheeky Monkey’s nightclub on his third night in Byron Bay.
He was staying at WakeUp! hostel on the night he went missing and was meant to check out on June 3 but never returned.
The last signal from his phone was picked up at the Cape Byron area at 1.42pm on Saturday June 1 from a WhatsApp message.
Mr Hayez had been travelling for eight months and was planning to return home after his time in Byron Bay.
Extensive land, air and sea searches failed to find any leads and police called off the operation in July.
A group of Byron Bay locals brought in cadaver dogs to search for Theo last month, which was also fruitless.
A Facebook group dedicated to sharing information and spreading awareness of the missing tourist hosted a Light the Night vigil on Sunday night.
In the wake of the referral to the NSW Coroner, Theo’s parents shared a statement to Belgian news agency Belga on Tuesday.
‘Our will to shed light on the disappearance of Theo is not weakening,’ Laurent Hayez and Vinciane Delforge said in the statement translated from French to English.
They believe the referral to the coroner ‘represents the hope of obtaining additional investigative duties’ as many questions asked during the first stay in Byron Bay ‘remain in effect without answers’.
Mr Hayez said he spoke with Australian detectives in early September but ‘several grey areas still remain after this interview’.
Theo’s parents will meet with Belgian police in the coming days and Mr Hayez will return to Australia in a few weeks to meet with the NSW Coroner.
THE TIMELINE OF THEO HAYEZ DISAPPEARANCE
May 31st 7.45pm: Theo Hayez and an unnamed friend were caught on CCTV camera at a local bottle shop in Byron Bay.
May 31st 11pm: The last confirmed sighting of Hayez. He was spotted leaving the Cheeky Monkey bar and appeared to be heading in the direction of the WakeUp! Backpacker hostel where he was staying.
June 1st AM: The last confirmed WhatsApp message was sent from Theo’s phone.
June 1st 1:42pm: Theo’s phone pinged for the last time.
June 6th: Theo was reported missing to local police .
June 9th: Police conducted a major land, sea and air search in the Byron Bay area with the assistance of rescue officers, the State Emergency Service, a lifesaver helicopter and lifesavers.
June 10th: Locals and other backpackers joined in the search for Theo.
June 10th-June 16th: SES crews, the dog squad, lifeguards, local volunteers and police are continuing to search the Byron Bay headlands, east and north of the town, as well as beaches and swamps.
June 16th: Theo’s mother Vinciane Delforge, told a French broadcaster in Belgium she is holding out hope her son is safe and well, but said his disappearance is entirely out of character.
June 17th: Theo’s father Laurent Hayez travels to Byron Bay to help search for his son Theo. He makes an emotional plea asking Australia to keep looking for his son and vows to stay in the country until he is found.
He says he hopes WhatsApp will cooperate with police to decode the messages that Theo last sent – a feat, he says, which could change the course of the search.
Police confess they are still ‘baffled’ by the case, and are keeping all lines of inquiry open.
Homicide detectives join in on the search for Theo.
July 3rd: NSW Police announce the full-scale search for the teenager had been called off, but investigations are ongoing.
July 12th: Theo’s heartbroken father flies home.
July 17th: Top forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro says believes Theo could have been the victim of an unknown serial killer, along with two 20-year-old backpackers who went missing on the NSW north coast months prior.
July 18th: Theo’s parents reveal they believe he is still alive and are holding out hope he is in a commune.
August: A dedicated group of Byron Bay locals have brought in cadaver dogs to search for missing Belgian tourist Theo Hayez.
The dogs and their handlers scoured bushland in the Arakwal National Park including Tallow Beach.
September: Theo’s father Laurent Hayez arrives back in Australia to continue his search for his son.
September 16th: Police call off the search for Theo and refer his case to the coroner.