Murder charges have been laid in the case of missing campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay as police prepare to search a potential crime scene in Victoria’s alpine area for the bodies of the missing pair.
Airline pilot Greg Lynn, 55, of Caroline Springs, was charged with two counts of murder late on Thursday, more than 20 months after Mr Hill, 74, and Ms Clay, 73, vanished while camping in the remote Wonnangatta Valley in March last year.
The charges followed three days of questioning after special operations group police were flown in via helicopter to arrest Mr Lynn at a remote Gippsland campsite about 5.30pm on Monday.
He’s expected to face Sale Magistrates Court on Friday.
Police Assistant Commissioner Bob Hill said he hoped the charges would help provide some closure to the families of the missing campers.
The senior officer also praised the efforts of police involved in the missing persons investigation, labelling their efforts extraordinary.
“My heartfelt thoughts are with the Hill and Clay families ... I know their grief remains as raw as ever,” he said.
On Friday, officers from the major crime scene, missing persons, search and rescue and forensic squads will begin to search a remote and rugged part of the alpine area after identifying a potential crime scene on Thursday.
While the location will not be made public, Assistant Commissioner Hill said significant resources would be used in the search in challenging terrain similar to that of the Wonnangatta Valley, where the missing pair were last seen.
“Police are hopeful they will locate the deceased and provide closure to the family,” he said.
Mr Hill and Ms Clay vanished in the state’s high country shortly before their burnt campsite was discovered.
The last contact the pair had with the outside world was through Mr Hill’s high-frequency radio as they set up camp in the Wonnangatta Valley, a secluded pocket of the Victorian Alpine National Park without mobile phone reception.
On Monday, police executed a search warrant at Mr Lynn’s family home soon after he left for a camping trip at Arbuckle Junction, about 170 kilometres east of Melbourne.
Assistant Commissioner Hill said the missing persons investigation had been an exhaustive and complex one with “unique investigation techniques” which eventually led detectives to Mr Lynn.
The senior officer said detectives had interviewed hundreds of people, inspected hundreds of vehicles and received about a thousand information reports from the public since the pair’s burnt-out campsite was discovered.
While remaining tight-lipped about details of the investigation, he said by mid-2020 officers had come to the conclusion that the pair were deceased.
Police are now looking for a trailer that they believe was towed by Mr Lynn at the time of Mr Hill and Ms Clay’s alleged murder, which remains missing. Officers believe Mr Lynn may have sold the trailer on online marketplace Gumtree in the months that followed.
Police said the metal trailer was a silver-blue colour, about two metres by 1.5 metres in size and fitted with outback wheels. They also believe the trailer was rusty.
Earlier on Thursday, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said the case was one of the most complex and challenging he had ever seen.
“You have to chase every rabbit down every rabbit hole. You can’t leave one lead. The professionalism that’s been displayed by [investigators] has been amazing,” Mr Patton said. “This has been one of the most complex investigations that I’ve ever been briefed on.”
Assistant Commissioner Hill has confirmed Victoria Police aren’t looking for any other suspects.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the missing trailer is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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