Australia suspends search for Belgian backpacker

Sydney (AFP) –


Australian police on Wednesday said they have called off a month-long search for an 18-year-old Belgian backpacker who disappeared from a picturesque surf town in May.

Theo Hayez was last seen on May 31 in Byron Bay, hundreds of miles north of Sydney.

Despite extensive land, air and sea searches -- and heart-rending appeals from his family -- New South Wales police said they had "suspended the full-scale physical search".

"We met with Theo's family today and we send our thoughts to them all, both here in Australia and abroad," Superintendent Dave Roptell said.

Police were alerted to his disappearance on June 6 when Hayez failed to return to the hostel where he was staying, prompting an investigation that included Australian homicide detectives, local volunteers and three officers from the Belgian Federal Police.

Although the investigations are ongoing, hope has faded of finding Hayez.

"It's times like this which shows the strength of our community. We want to thank each and every person who assisted and who provided support," said Roptell.

Hayez's father travelled to Australia to help find his son, urging the messaging platform WhatsApp to open his encrypted texts in the hope they may provide a clue to his disappearance.