The wife of missing camper Russell Hill had no idea police were treating his disappearance as a murder – until her daughter saw it on TV.
Mr Hill, 74, went camping with Carol Clay, 73, in the remote Wonnangatta Valley in Victoria’s Gippsland region on March 19, and the pair have not been heard from since.
Robyn Hill told Daily Mail Australia she learnt about the shock revelations from her daughter, who had seen a promotion for Monday night’s edition of Channel 9’s A Current Affair program.
Carol Clay, 73, (pictured, left) was once the President of the Country Women’s Association of Victoria, and went missing with experienced bushman Russell Hill (right)
The pair went missing in the Wonnangatta Valley, more than 200km north east of Melbourne
Mr Hill’s white Toyota Landcruiser was found with minor fire damage at their burnt campsite near Dry River Creek Track in the valley on March 21
‘The police haven’t spoken to me about it,’ she said. ‘I just know that it’s going to be on tonight.’
It is understood the program intends to air revelations investigators are looking into the possibility a ‘third-party’ was involved.
Mrs Hill said she was unaware police were now effectively running her husband’s disappearance as a homicide investigation.
‘I’ve got no idea. You know as much as I do,’ she said.
Mrs Hill said while news of the developments screened on television last night, she was unaware until a family member alerted her.
‘I did find out from my daughter, but I’ve got nothing more to say about anything,’ she said.
It is understood police are now probing what happened in the 18 hours between Mr Hill making a chilling last radio call and their campsite being discovered abandoned the next day.
Mr Hill had left his Drouin home on March 19 for a camping trip along the Dargo River in Victoria’s northeast and planned to leave the region on March 26.
Ms Clay, meanwhile, had told friends she was going away for a few days and expected to be home by March 28 or 29.
Mr Hill’s white Toyota LandCruiser was found with minor fire damage at their burnt campsite near Dry River Creek Track in the valley on March 21.
At the time, the blaze was deemed to be non-suspicious.
But months after the pair vanished without a trace, doubt has been cast over the police theory that a phone charger set the camp alight.
Mr Hill’s Toyota four-wheel-drive had been found by local police next to his burnt-out tent, but the pair were gone without a trace.
The vehicle itself had also sustained damage in the fire, but was still able to be driven away from the scene.
Police had found it at the burnt out camp site with possessions belonging to the pair still inside the vehicle.
At the time, Inspector Craig Gaffee from Sale was leading the search for the pair through treacherous bush conditions.
A drone owned by Mr Hill was also missing.
Two major search operations involving drones, helicopters, mounted police, search dogs and ground crews came up with nothing.
Experienced search and rescue officers do not believe the couple would have ventured beyond the eventual search area.
Mr Hill, a seasoned camper and avid outdoors-man, wasn’t known to wander too far from where he set up his campsite.
Ms Clay’s belongings were found in the locked Toyota, which was partially burnt, and her car was later found at her Pakenham home.
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
Their disappearance has baffled local authorities who found their campsite burned out two days later. Mr Hill’s drone was missing
The pair went missing after going on a secret camping trip on March 19 in the Wonnangatta Valley (pictured) in Victoria’s East Gippsland region
Detectives believe the possibility that the pair staged their disappearance was slim, as they would have needed a third car.
It is understood police have thoroughly combed through the likely area the pair went missing and have not found a trace of them, leading some to suspect they may have been removed from the site by their potential murderer.
Investigators still want to speak with up to 200 people who had been in the area but were yet to contact Crime Stoppers following a recent appeal.
Mr Hill’s wife of 50 years has previously said she had no idea her husband had gone camping with another woman.
She said her husband had been friendly with Ms Clay for decades but was unaware they were travelling together.
Investigators haven’t ruled out a theory that the pair vanished intentionally, with three possible sightings two hours’ drive away at Black Snake Creek and Eaglevale River since their disappearance three months ago.
Detectives have not been able to verify the sightings, but locals sighted seeing a couple of similar age.
The apparent sightings came two days after Mr Hill last made radio contact with a friend on March 20 from a remote station in the Victorian Alps.
During the call, he said he was having radio transmission issues.
Police believe something happened to the friends overnight or the morning after the call, narrowing down the time frame they vanished from the campsite to 18 hours.
Two days later, a woman was seen at Black Snake Creek waiting to use a long-drop toilet, police said.
An older couple were also seen driving from Black Snake Creek hut, with the woman described as wearing lipstick and ‘looked out out of place’.
Last month a lone camper ominously known as ‘the Button Man’ became a person of interest, after concerns about his odd behaviour were raised by worried locals.
He is known to spend long periods in a remote bush camp, and was recently visited in Mansfield by missing persons investigators.
Carol Clay, 73, who was once the President of the Country Women’s Association of Victoria, has been friends with Russell Hill for many years in the lead up to their disappearance
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.
One bushman said the Button Man, described as being around 70 and very fit, 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 past.
There is no evidence that he is linked to Ms Clay and Mr Hill’s disappearance, nor of other missing persons in the region.