Specialist police resume search for missing campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay

Detectives have returned to search remote tracks, rivers and cliffs in the area where missing campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay were believed to have stayed before they went missing.

Police on Monday said they returned to the Wonnangatta area in Victoria’s high country as a result of information obtained from previous searches. They are focusing their efforts on the Dargo High Plains Road, Cynthia Range Track and Herne Spur Track.

A shovel is found at a search site in Mt Hotham in mid-April.Credit:Nine News

Mr Hill, 74, and Ms Clay, 73, have not been seen since they embarked on a camping trip to Wonnangatta Valley, about 250 kilometres north-east of Melbourne, on March 19 last year.

During a search in Mount Hotham on April 14, two shovels were among a number of items found by searchers and taken for forensic testing.

The items are still being examined to determine if they are relevant to the investigation.

The search on Monday included detectives from the missing persons squad, the air wing, drone unit, search and rescue and staff from Parks Victoria who will scour roads, tracks, campgrounds, rivers and cliffs.

Russell Hill and Carol Clay have been missing for more than a year.

There have been many searches of the area in the past year, but Ms Clay and Mr Hill – as well as Mr Hill’s drone – have never been found.

Police said sources led them to the new search zone in Mount Hotham in mid-April. They searched a small area of bushland and the search last only one day.

Detective Acting Inspector Tony Combridge said in mid-April that police believe a third party was involved in the disappearance.

There are no suspects at this stage, but there are still several persons of interest. Police have yet to determine whether any of those people were linked to the Mount Hotham area.

Acting Inspector Combridge said one line of inquiry was that items may have been thrown from a car travelling along that stretch of the Great Alpine Road. He described it as an incredibly remote area.

Police are still keen to speak to anyone who was in the area of Howitt Plains and Zeka Spur Track on March 19 or 20 last year, and the Wonnangatta Valley and Wonnangatta Station between March 20 and 24 last year, so they can continue to eliminate people and vehicles from the investigation.

Mr Hill was seen by neighbours loading Ms Clay’s bags into his car as he picked her up from her home in Pakenham on March 19, 2020.

He was last heard via high-frequency radio on March 20, when he told a friend he was at Wonnangatta Station in the Victorian alps setting up camp before dark.

Mr Hill promised to call back the next day but never did. His call sign was VK3 VZP and anyone who heard this signal is being urged to contact police.

Their tent and some belongings were found burnt to the ground next to Mr Hill’s slightly scorched Toyota LandCruiser on March 21 at their campsite near the Dry River Creek track.

Anyone who sights Russell or Carol is urged to contact triple zero (000) immediately.

Anyone with any other information regarding their disappearance or who has any CCTV or dashcam footage is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or log onto www.crimestoppersvic.com.au

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