Carol CLAY and Russell HILL
Carol Clay, Russell Hill theories emerge a year after couple went missing in the
Police believe they’re “close” to figuring out how a Victorian couple
disappeared from their tent more than a year ago, with one friend suggesting a
sinister link in the case.
It’s been 12 months since Russell Hill and Carol Clay left their homes in
Victoria for a camping trip in the tranquil but remote Wonnangatta Valley.
The couple, who had been having an affair for decades, were last seen on
March 20 last year.
After a year of investigations, with police leaving no stone unturned,
detectives believe they could be close to a potential breakthrough in the
Speaking to A
Current Affair, Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said police had a
number of people in their crosshairs, including the driver of a white ute.
“It might seem like only a very small possibility that those in the white
ute will have information about Russell and Carol’s disappearance but we
can’t afford to leave any stone unturned,” he told the program.
The vehicle was seen at a public toilet in the valley the day before the
pair last made contact with friends.
Police are also investigating if the couple were ambushed early considering
the toilet at their campsite had been unused, suggesting the pair had only
spent a short amount of time in the area before their deaths.
Mr Hill called his friends using his high frequency radio on March 20, with
police believing the couple might’ve been killed shortly after.
In what’s become one of the most baffling missing person case in Australian
history, Mr Stamper said he had doubled his investigation time.
The latest theory police are following is if the couple were shot by deer
Police have speculated if the couple witnessed something they weren’t supposed
to, perhaps illegal hunting, and tragically paid for it with their lives.
Mr Hill’s $2000 drone, which he regularly used while out camping, is still
missing, with police questioning if the hi-tech gadget inadvertently filmed
“There’s a number of scenarios we are looking at,” he said, referring to the
couple having a run-in with hunters.
“Certainly that’s one we can’t eliminate. I’m not wedded to any specific
Police hoped they might’ve stumbled on a breakthrough in the case last week when
a drone similar to Mr Hill’s was found in the valley and handed to officers in
East Gippsland, but the drone was not a match.
Mr Hill, 74, and Ms Clay, 73, had been in a relationship for years when they set
out on their camping trip to the picturesque valley.
But in a horrifying twist, the couple’s campsite was found burnt to the ground
with their tent destroyed and their sleeping bags missing.
One of Mr Hill’s close friends, who went camping with the 74-year-old over the
years, offered a sinister theory as to what might’ve happened to the pair.
Speaking on Nine’s Under
Investigation, friend Rob Ashlin said he didn’t have much hope the couple
would be found.
“The fact that it's been reported that those sleeping bags were missing, makes
me feel that those sleeping bags were carted out of there and... used as body
bags,” Mr Ashlin said.
“There are a lot of places – the country is very rugged – where they can be got
rid of, never to be found again.”
Mr Ashlin also knew his friend wouldn’t set up the campsite in the way it was
found, with items scattered around everywhere.
“I knew straight away in my own mind that something really unforgiving had
happened,” he said, after he had seen photos of the destroyed campsite.
Mr Ashlin’s theory was supported by Lachlan Culican, who assisted police during
their difficult search of the terrain.
Mr Culican works as a high country musterer and is an expert in navigating that
part of Australia. He also believes the couple might’ve stumbled upon something
illegal or had a run-in with a deer hunter.
During his search with police, Mr Culican was stumbling upon a dead deer every
200 or 300 metres.
Mr Hill left his Drouin home in Victoria's Gippsland region on March 19 last
He travelled to pick up Ms Clay from her Pakenham home, in the southeast of
Melbourne, before the pair travelled in Mr Hill’s Toyota Land Cruiser towards
The pair spent a night in Howitt High Plains before driving into the valley’s
Mr Hill called friends on March 20 at 6.30pm over his radio and told them he was
camping in the valley. Ms Clay told friends she was going camping and would be
back on March 29.
The next day, at 2pm, other campers found the couple’s campsite burnt down, with
Mr Hill’s car sitting nearby.
Detectives have long been confident the couple were not involved in a murder
suicide and have found no evidence the couple attempted to fake their own deaths
or even leave the campsite.
Police believe the campsite was burnt down in an attempt to destroy any
potential forensic evidence.
Fresh twist in search for missing campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay
Police attempting to solve what happened to Russell Hill and Carol Clay in the
High Country have taken a new step in their search for answers.
Their unattended camp site was found the next morning.
Their tent had been incinerated, a table burnt and the side of Mr Hill’s
four-wheel-drive scorched by fire.
The area has been the subject of thousands of hours of searching by police and
others since then.
Investigators from the missing persons squad believe they have met with foul
Mr Hill’s drone was later found to be missing.
A drone found in the area last month was found not to be his.
The squad’s acting head, Detective acting Insp. Anthony Combridge, said police
were determined to resolve the case.
“It has been over 12 months since Russell Hill and Carol Clay disappeared and we
are committed to finding the answers on what happened to them,” Insp. Combridge
“We will continue to search the area and encourage anyone with information to
come forward, no matter how small they think that information might be.”
Investigators remain eager to talk to anyone who was in the Wonnangatta area
around that time of the disappearance, regardless of whether they did or did not
They want to locate people who were in the vicinity of Howitt Plains and Zeka
Spur Track on March 19 and 20 and the Wonnangatta Valley and Wonnangatta Station
between March 20 and 24.
Detectives know Mr Hill camped alone with his Land Cruiser around the King Billy
and Bluff Track between March 11 and 13 and want to speak with anyone who was
there at the time.
There was a later sighting of an older couple Black Snake Creek, Eaglevale River
crossing and the Ollies Jump area on March 22 and 23 but police have been unable
to confirm their identity.
They want anyone who may be those people to come forward.
Anyone with information or who has CCTV or
dashcam footage of the pair can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit
the website www.crimestoppersvic.com.au