Theo has been missing since May.
Theo has been missing since May.

Was missing Belgian backpacker last seen near Coffs?

A WOMAN phoned police to say she saw a man 'looking dead' lying on the side of the road wearing similar clothes to those worn by Theo Hayez.

Leesa Horn, a beauty therapist from Queensland, claims she was waved down by a man, aged in his 30s, as she drove south on the Pacific Highway, 10km south of Coffs Harbour, about 4.30am on June 2.

The hitchhiker was standing next to another man who was sprawled out on the concrete and looked 'dead', she told journalist at The Australian David Murray.

The sighting was four days before the 18-year-old traveller's family learned he had vanished in Byron Bay, 200km away.  

Theo was last seen leaving the Cheeky Monkey's nightclub after he was asked to leave on May 31 at 11pm.

Leesa Horne on the highway south of Coffs Harbour where she believes she saw missing tourist Theo Hayez.
Leesa Horne on the highway south of Coffs Harbour where she believes she saw missing tourist Theo Hayez. Frank Redward

Extensive land, air and sea searches failed to find the teenager and the NSW Police referred Theo's case to the State Coroner in September, officially ending the search. 

On the day of her sighting, Ms Horn posted a video to Facebook detailing what she saw.

The beauty therapist explained she initially thought to reverse and help the men, before changing her mind.

"Something in my stomach said this is not right. I thought 'No Leesa, just go'," Ms Horn said.  

"I started crying when I'm driving off because I thought what if somebody's really hurt and they need my help. I didn't know what to do. So I decided to ring 000."  

Coffs Harbour police are said to have called Ms Horn back and told her they did not find anyone on the highway after patrolling the scene.

Ms Horn said it was 'strange' police were unable to find the men. 

She would later connect the June 2 incident and Theo's disappearance after seeing CCTV footage of him on the news.

Ms Horn believes the man lying on the ground was wearing wearing light-coloured pants and dark shoes, just like Theo was on the night he went missing.

"I told Crime Stoppers that I'm sure the guy I saw in the video was the guy lying on the road,' she told The Australian's podcast The Lighthouse.

Police began searching for Theo on June 6.

The teenager failed to return to his accommodation at the Wake Up! Hostel in Byron Bay.  

Missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez was last seen leaving Cheeky Monkeys Bar on May 31.
Missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez was last seen leaving Cheeky Monkeys Bar on May 31. NSW Police Media

THE TIMELINE

May 31 at 7.45pm: Theo Hayez and an unnamed friend were caught on CCTV camera at a local bottle shop in Byron Bay.

May 31 at 11pm: The last confirmed sighting of Hayez. He was spotted leaving the Cheeky Monkey bar and appeared to be heading in the direction of the WakeUp! Backpacker hostel where he was staying.

June at 1am: The last confirmed WhatsApp message was sent from Theo's phone.

June 1 at 1:42pm: Theo's phone pinged for the last time.

June 6: Theo was reported missing to local police .

June 9: Police conducted a major land, sea and air search in the Byron Bay area with the assistance of rescue officers, the State Emergency Service, a lifesaver helicopter and lifesavers.

June 10: Locals and other backpackers joined in the search for Theo.

June 10-June 16: SES crews, the dog squad, lifeguards, local volunteers and police are continuing to search the Byron Bay headlands, east and north of the town, as well as beaches and swamps.

June 16: Theo's mother Vinciane Delforge, told a French broadcaster in Belgium she is holding out hope her son is safe and well, but said his disappearance is entirely out of character.

June 17: Theo's father Laurent Hayez travels to Byron Bay to help search for his son Theo.
He makes an emotional plea asking Australia to keep looking for his son and vows to stay in the country until he is found. He says he hopes WhatsApp will cooperate with police to decode the messages that Theo last sent - a feat, he says, which could change the course of the search.
Police confess they are still 'baffled' by the case, and are keeping all lines of inquiry open.
Homicide detectives join in on the search for Theo.

July 3:  NSW Police announce the full-scale search for the teenager had been called off, but investigations are ongoing.

July 12: Theo's heartbroken father flies home.

July 17: Top forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro says believes Theo could have been the victim of an unknown serial killer, along with two 20-year-old backpackers who went missing on the NSW north coast months prior.

July 18: Theo's parents reveal they believe he is still alive and are holding out hope he is in a commune.
August: A dedicated group of Byron Bay locals have brought in cadaver dogs to search for missing Belgian tourist Theo Hayez. The dogs and their handlers scoured bushland in the Arakwal National Park including Tallow Beach.

September: Theo's father Laurent Hayez arrives back in Australia to continue his search for his son.

September 16: Police call off the search for Theo and refer his case to the coroner.

October 13: Theo's family confirm a cap found in dense bushland near to where the missing backpacker's phone last 'pinged' belonged to him.

 

 


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