Police have borrowed earthmoving equipment in their search for the bodies of missing campers Carol Clay and Russell Hill in Victoria’s high country.
Investigators are narrowing in on a dense area of the state’s alpine region 30km from the remote campsite in the Wonnangatta Valley where the pair were last seen after Jetstar pilot Gregory Lynn was charged over their alleged murders last week.
Officers from the missing persons squad are believed to be establishing a crime scene in the Dargo area, where there is thick vegetation.
Police on Monday morning borrowed earthmoving equipment from locals in the town of Dargo, 15km away, and have told campers who unknowingly set up in the search zone to leave the area.
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Bob Hill told reporters the investigation that led to Mr Lynn’s arrest had been “exhaustive and complex”.
“Forensic specialists will commence searching at that location in the coming days. Police are hopeful that we will be able to locate the deceased and provide ultimate closure to the families,” he said on Friday.
“We are hopeful that we will locate the remains of Mr Hill and Ms Clay … and provide closure to their families.”
The couple were last heard from on March 20 last year after they travelled to the remote Victorian region, with police scouring through the area for clues as to what happened to the pair.
Mr Hill’s drone, believed to be the key to solving the case, still remains missing after Mr Lynn was charged and his home was raided last week.
Mr Lynn – a 55-year-old pilot – was charged with two counts of murder on Friday following three days of questioning.
He briefly faced Sale Magistrates Court on Friday via video link from his prison cell at Sale police station, with the hearing lasting just eight minutes.
The Caroline Springs man was silent as he remained seated inside his cell, wearing a face mask and listening to the court proceedings.
He was remanded to appear at a committal hearing at Sale Magistrates Court on May 31 next year. A brief of evidence against Mr Lynn will be ready by April 19.
After details of the pilot’s past and family were leaked in the media, Mr Lynn’s family released a statement via their lawyer asking for privacy and acknowledging the Clay and Hill families were suffering.
“We accept the media have an interest in proceedings; however, we do request that our privacy be preserved,” the family said.
“It has been distressing for our family and the families of the deceased and we are completely traumatised as well by these tragic events.
“We need to deal with the legal proceedings as they arise and try to restore some balance in our lives.”
Mr Hill left his Drouin home on March 19 before collecting Ms Clay from her home in Pakenham in his white Toyota LandCruiser.
The pair then travelled via Licola, spending one night at Howitt High Plains before heading into Wonnangatta Valley on March 20.
Mr Hill – who did not tell his wife he was with Ms Clay – was last heard from the next day via HF radio, stating he was at Wonnangatta Valley in the Victorian Alps.
The next day, campers found Mr Hill’s vehicle with signs of minor fire damage at their campsite, which was completely burnt out, near the Dry River Creek Track in the Wonnangatta Valley.
Since that time, police have conducted extensive searches of the area, including missing persons squad detectives, local police, the search and rescue squad, air wing, dog squad and even the Australian Federal Police.
Mr Lynn was stood down from his job as a Jetstar pilot following his arrest when heavily armed officers swarmed a remote campsite in Arbuckle Junction, 1.5 hours south of Wonnangatta in the state’s east.
The investigation ramped up more than a fortnight ago when police unveiled photos of a blue four-wheel-drive towing a trailer they believed could be linked to the case.
Following Mr Lynn’s arrest, police towed away Mr Lynn’s 4WD to be taken for forensic examination in Melbourne.
Mr Lynn did not make an application for bail.