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New South Wales News

A dark path taken to tragic end for backpacker Theo Hayez

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A dark path taken to tragic end for backpacker Theo Hayez

By MARGARET DEKKER

The inquest into the high-profile disappearance of missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez from Byron Bay three years ago, has found the 19-year-old died shortly after being at Tallows Beach late at night after walking through a darkened Arakwal National Park, but his exact cause of death remains a mystery.

“I have come to the tragic conclusion that Theo is deceased,” Teresa O’Sullivan, NSW State Coroner said on the final day of the year-longs inquest held in Byron Bay.

Sadly, for family, friends and a wide circle of local supporters, Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan found insufficient evidence to determine the exact cause of death of the young solo traveller, who was only days from returning home to Belgium to commence his university engineering degree.

She found two competing theories; either Theo died by terrible accident early on June 1 as he attempted to scale the rocky Cape Byron headland with his body lost at sea; or he died by the hands of an unknown person or persons who disposed of his body in the time after Theo left Cheeky Monkeys nightclub around 11pm on Friday, May 31, 2019.

“Sadly, there is just insufficient evidence before me to substantiate or exclude either theory,” Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan told the hearing.

The NSW state Coroner ruled out suicide or that Theo Hayez had staged his own disappearance.

“It is a tragic loss of a clever, gentle and thoughtful young man who was universally loved .. It is obvious from the evidence he had a bright future ahead of him,” Coroner O’Sullivan found.

“It’s obviously a really tough moment, because it’s the end of the process,” Jean-Philippe Pector, Theo Hayez’s Godfather said outside the Byron Bay Courthouse last Friday.

“We are still hoping for something more but it’s a bit of a rough and tough journey that comes to an end today symbolically, so we need a bit of time to review,” he told waiting media.

Data from Theo’s phone records showed after Theo left Cheeky Monkeys nightclub in town, he searched online for directions to his hostel WakeUp in Belongil but instead went in the opposite direction.  He stopped first at Byron Bay Recreation grounds on Tennyson Street before heading east along an “extremely dark and hard-going” path through Arakwal National Park to reach Tallows Beach and its northernmost cove, Cosy Corner.

According to retrieved phone data, Theo’s last known hour was spent watching comedy clips on YouTube at Cosy Corner where he also messaged his sister and a friend via WhatsApp.

“I think it’s best the case stays open to allow new evidence to come forward and that’s what family hopes by upping the reward.  The Missing Person Registry is actively continuing to investigate new information they (Police) collect,” Jean-Philippe Pector, Theo Hayez’s Godfather said.

A $500,000 police reward established by NSW Police in February remains on offer for any new information that comes forward.

“We knew there wouldn’t be any breakthrough after having gone through the whole inquest process .. there’s no main answer so we’re still hanging in there hoping that at some point sooner or later .. in the future, there can be something ..

“Somebody out there may know something, and we beg anyone who may know something and not wanted to talk to overcome that and come forward, that’s really our only hope,” Jean-Philippe Pector, Theo Hayez’s Godfather said.

Theo Hayez’s family travelled from Belgium to hear Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan’s tragic, empty finding and shared mixed feelings about being back in Byron Bay, the place that gave and took so much.

“It feels like the worst place in the world but it also feels like home .. driving home to my people, it’s very very special.” Lisa Hayez, Theo Hayez’s cousin said.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crimestoppers NSW on 1800 333 000 (24/7)

Theo Hayez, a thoughtful young man, universally loved.  SOURCE: NSW Police

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Three FRNSW Veterans Honoured with Australian Fire Service Medal

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Three FRNSW Veterans Honoured with Australian Fire Service Medal

 

Three distinguished veterans of Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) have been awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) in recognition of their exceptional service and dedication to community safety. The AFSM, established in 1988, honours the distinguished service of firefighters, both permanent and volunteer, and is presented annually on the King’s Birthday by the Governor-General, based on recommendations from Commonwealth and State ministers.

This year’s honourees are:

Assistant Commissioner – Regional Operations, Cheryl Anne Steer

Assistant Commissioner Cheryl Anne Steer began her career 28 years ago and has risen through the ranks to lead Regional Operations for FRNSW. Known for her operational excellence and effective management of major emergencies, she also mentors female firefighters and promotes values-based leadership. As co-chair of the FRNSW Women’s Inclusive Network (WIN) and director of the Relief and Welfare Fund, she supports colleagues in need. Additionally, she contributes to documenting the history of female firefighters at the Museum of Fire.

Chief Superintendent – Capability Management, Paul Johnstone

Chief Superintendent Paul Johnstone has dedicated 38 years to the fire service since joining the New South Wales Fire Brigades in 1985. His career includes roles in inner Sydney, Operational Staffing, and HAZMAT/Counter Terrorism. He has led significant improvements in medical capabilities, firefighter training, and in-water rescue capabilities. His contributions extend to enhancing policies, standards, and procedures, and he played a critical role in the response to the 2021/22 floods.

Captain, Paul James Dorin, Corrimal Fire Station

Captain Paul James Dorin joined FRNSW in 1993 as an On-Call firefighter. He is known for his commitment to community service and has developed numerous safety initiatives, including the Home Care Disability Fire Safety Program and the Smoke Alarm Action Day project. Beyond his duties, Captain Dorin is a talented cartoonist, using his art to raise funds for research into birth defects and childhood diseases such as cancer and epilepsy.

FRNSW Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell praised the award recipients for their exemplary service and dedication. “All three firefighters are widely recognized for their devotion to duty and their professional, thoughtful, and caring approach to their work,” Commissioner Fewtrell stated. “I’m personally very proud of them and they thoroughly deserve the recognition.”

Emergency Services Minister Jihad Dib highlighted the professionalism and commitment of the honourees, stating, “Their professionalism consistently gets the job done. They have earned this recognition through courage and commitment, and I’m very pleased these firefighters are being honoured on the King’s Birthday in this way.”

 

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War Memorials Across NSW to Receive Funding

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War Memorials Across NSW to Receive Funding

 

The NSW Government has announced funding for 19 war memorials across the state through Round 2 of the 2023/24 Community War Memorials Fund. A total of $150,000 has been allocated to support projects that preserve and enhance these significant community landmarks.

Funding Details

This round saw 28 applications from 23 Local Government Areas, with successful applicants coming from 16 Local Government Areas and representing 13 electorates. The funded projects span the state, from Bombala in the far south to Lake Cargelligo in the west, and McKees Hill in the far north.

Key highlights include:

  • Bombala RSL sub-Branch: Awarded $10,000 for a condition assessment of the Bombala War Memorial to identify necessary conservation works.
  • Blackheath War Memorial Arch: Also receiving funds for vital conservation efforts.

The Community War Memorials Fund aims to ensure that local war memorials remain well-maintained and continue to serve as places of reflection and remembrance.

Ministerial Comments

Minister for Veterans, David Harris, expressed pride in the initiative, emphasizing the importance of preserving these historical sites.

“It is wonderful to announce this funding, which will be used for important projects around the state. Our communities are proud of their military history, and local war memorials are a vital part of our culture enabling us to reflect on over 100 years of our veterans’ service and sacrifice.

A total of $150,496.65 was awarded to councils, RSL sub-Branches, and community groups, with grants ranging from $2,000 to $15,000 to fund conservation projects in 13 state electorates in both metropolitan and regional areas. I encourage all communities to review the status of their local war memorials and to apply for funding for any restoration work that is needed.”

Community Responses

Mr. Vern Carmody, Honorary Secretary of the Bombala RSL sub-Branch, expressed gratitude for the grant which will aid in the preservation of the Bombala War Memorial.

“Thank you to the NSW Government for this grant for the heritage assessment of our wonderful war memorial at Bombala. This will assist us to attain an assessment of the repairs and conservation required for this historical cenotaph that was erected for the citizens of Bombala in 1922. The memorial is a centrepiece of the Dawn Service and Veterans’ March every Anzac Day, and also used for Remembrance Day activities. Bombala RSL sub-Branch would also like to thank the staff of the Snowy-Monaro Regional Council who assisted us in the preparation of the grant application.”

Dr. Rosemary Dillon, CEO of Blue Mountains City Council, highlighted the cultural and historical significance of local war memorials.

“Local war memorials are central features of our towns and villages, and they are precious to us all. They pay respect to those who put their country and their fellow servicemen and women before them. They are an ode to those who fought so we can have the freedoms we take for granted today. Erected around 1929, the Blackheath War Memorial contains 76 names of local men who served overseas in the First World War, including six who died on active service. This funding will go towards restoration works at Blackheath War Memorial, which will help with the protection and conservation of the memorial for years to come.”

Next Steps

Round 1 of the 2024/25 Community War Memorials Fund is currently open and will close on 24 July 2024. Communities are encouraged to review their local war memorials and apply for funding to address any conservation needs.

For more information and to apply for funding, visit the NSW Veterans Affairs website.

Conclusion

The NSW Government’s commitment to funding war memorials underscores the importance of preserving these sites as part of Australia’s cultural heritage. By providing financial support for their upkeep, the government ensures that future generations can continue to honour and remember the sacrifices made by veterans.

 

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Annual Trout Fishing Closure Commences After June Long Weekend

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Annual Trout Fishing Closure Commences After June Long Weekend

 

Recreational fishers are reminded that the annual fishing closure in trout streams and rivers across NSW is in place from Tuesday, 11 June 2024.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Senior Fisheries Manager for Fish Stocking and Enhancement, Matthew McLellan, stated that the annual closure allows salmonid species to breed uninterrupted during their spawning run.

“The four-month closure ensures we protect our fishing assets for future seasons,” Mr. McLellan said.

Fishing During the Closure

During this time, recreational fishers can still enjoy fishing at popular trout dams across NSW such as:

  • Lake Jindabyne and Eucumbene Dam in the Snowy Mountains
  • Oberon Dam near Bathurst
  • Talbingo Dam near Tumut
  • Malpas Dam near Armidale

Fishers can also enjoy quality angling in the Macquarie River (excluding tributaries above its junction with, and including, Lewis Ponds Creek) and the Turon River and tributaries (below the Upper Turon Road crossing).

The fishing season for trout and salmon in trout rivers and streams will re-open on Saturday, 5 October 2024, coinciding with the start of the October long weekend.

Trout Fishing Rules

Detailed information on trout fishing rules can be found on the DPI website, NSW DPI FishSMART app, and the NSW Freshwater Fishing Guide, which is available from NSW DPI Fisheries offices and most bait and tackle stores.

Compliance and Regulations

NSW DPI Director Fisheries Compliance, Dr. Andrew Moriarty, emphasised that it is an offence to fish in trout streams during the closed season.

“DPI Fisheries Officers will be patrolling the State’s inland waterways throughout the trout closure period to ensure compliance,” Dr. Moriarty said.

Fishers heading to any trout dams this winter are reminded that they must have a current NSW recreational fishing fee receipt (fishing licence) on them at all times while fishing.

A combined bag limit of five and a size limit of 25 cm applies to trout or salmon in all trout dams, except in artificial fly and lure dams where the bag limit is two.

Reporting Illegal Fishing Activity

Members of the public are encouraged to report any suspected illegal fishing activity to the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or via the NSW DPI website.

 

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