Rachel Funari, a public servant and freelance writer, has not been seen since March 3, when she packed her backpack and left the home of Hobart musician Dane Hunnerup.
Ms Funari, 36, found Mr Hunnerup through the internet-based Couch Surfing network, which helps backpackers find a cheap place to stay and a way of meeting locals.
Mr Hunnerup said yesterday Ms Funari seemed a very intelligent and effervescent person during the two nights she stayed at his Sandy Bay home.
He said that on Friday, March 4, he woke to find a note from Ms Funari saying she was travelling to Bruny Island with a man she had met in a Hobart internet cafe.
However, Tasmania Police say they have been unable to determine if Ms Funari made it to Bruny Island.
Mr Hunnerup has set up internet searches on Facebook and Couch Surfing and has also contacted media outlets in a bid to find Ms Funari.
"She was lovely, really bright and a well-seasoned traveller," he said.
"She had planned to camp on Bruny Island in a tent but was pretty happy when she met people who were heading there and offered her a place to stay."
A close friend of Ms Funari, fellow Victorian Cara Bradley, said she had considered every scenario from Ms Funari being lost in the wilderness to falling off the ferry.
"I don't want to think it's an abduction because that just doesn't happen in Tasmania and I can't let myself have such a negative thought," she said.
The sole policeman on Bruny Island has posted pictures of Ms Funari at the ferry's Kettering and Robert's Point terminals, at island businesses and at the island's only hotel.
He also spoke to dozens of locals at the pub's Friday night meat-tray raffle, but to no avail.
Kingston Police sergeant Ian Hobbs said though Bruny Island was the focal point of the search, police were also following up the sighting of a person matching Ms Funari's description at Swansea on the East Coast.
"We can't even be certain that she did go to Bruny Island," he said.
"Just because she said she was going there doesn't mean she went there but we are checking."
Sgt Hobbs said police had sent an email to the major banks to see if there had been any transactions from her accounts recently, as well as checking phone records and travel movements.
"We are checking everything including the Spirit of Tasmania and also the airlines but that's been without success so far," he said.
Sgt Hobbs said police were checking into reports Ms Funari was travelling with a man she met at a cafe, but they were not alarmed.
"It is concerning that she is missing, more than who she might be with," he said. "But we are interested in any sign of her or anyone she may have been seen with."
Victoria Police is also involved in the search efforts and the US consulate is keeping in contact with Ms Funari's parents, Phyllis and David, who live in New York.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Tasmania Police on 13 1444.
Friends fear for woman
FRIENDS of a Melbourne woman presumed missing in Tasmania have called on the public to help find her.
It is understood Rachel Funari, 36, of Balaclava in Melbourne, was headed to Bruny Island with a man she met at a Sandy Bay cafe during the week.
Ms Funari was expected to fly back to Melbourne after a week-long trip on Tuesday but she failed to arrive home.
Ms Funari's friend Cara Bradley said her friend was a vivacious, intelligent woman with a sense of adventure.
But Ms Bradley stressed it was highly out of character for Ms Funari not to return to Melbourne where she was working with the Victorian Government.
Ms Bradley said Ms Funari's parents and sister had been in touch from their home in New York where their daughter was born.
Ms Bradley said her friend was well travelled, street-smart and trusting.
She said many of Ms Funari's friends had contacted police but they had no information about her whereabouts.
She said she had been in contact last night with Victoria Police who were also looking into the whereabouts of Ms Funari.
Tasmania Police could not tell the Mercury last night if they had been in contact with the friends or family of Ms Funari.
Police step up search for missing tourist
Tasmania police are focussing their search for a missing Melbourne woman on the Adventure Bay area of Bruny Island, in the state's south-east.
Rachel Funari, 36, of Balaclava was last seen 10 days ago at Adventure Bay.
Police say she was given a lift to the island by a man and his daughter.
Concerned friends contacted police when Ms Funari missed her flight home on Tuesday.
Police will conduct air, sea and land searches around Bruny Island today and friends of the missing woman are planning to fly to Tasmania to help the search effort.
Hobart resident Dane Hunnerup said Ms Funari stayed at his place before she left to go to Bruny Island.
"It's looking like there's about seven people who are going to come down and actually start physically searching," he said.
"A bunch of them will be staying with me and someone's also offered their beach house on Bruny as a bit of a base for searching from there as well, so we do have some options."
Rising fears for tourist
AMBITIOUS freelance writer and editor Rachel Funari hoped to be interviewed for the job of her dreams at a leading women's liberation magazine last week.
Instead, the 36-year-old masters graduate failed to make a return flight home to Victoria last Thursday after a short break backpacking in Tasmania.
The seasoned traveller, described as obsessed with technology and communications, has not contacted friends or family since writing a text message to her best friend Cara Bradley on March 2.
"She sent me a message saying: 'Hobart is so cute'," Ms Bradley said.
"I gave her a call on the seventh but I didn't hear back and didn't think anything of it because she was coming home the next day, that was, until she didn't turn up."
Friends and family have tried desperately to contact Ms Funari but her phone is either switched off or out of range and her MySpace, email, twitter and blog pages have not been touched for days.
"It is so out of character. No matter where she is, she always finds a way to keep in touch," Ms Bradley said.
She said it was particularly concerning that Ms Funari had not returned home because she was expecting to be interviewed for a job at a Melbourne University magazine.
That is why Ms Bradley is co-ordinating a group of Ms Funari's best friends to fly to Tasmania and help police search for her.
"She's well-travelled and smart. She has her wits about her. While she's trusting with people, she is also a good judge of character," Ms Bradley said.
"I just can't believe that something bad has happened to her. But I admit that is probably a very hopeful outlook."
Ms Bradley said Ms Funari's parents Phyllis and David and sister Nicole were "beside themselves" at their New York home where Ms Funari was raised.
She said they were considering flying to Tasmania to help search.
Body dog to join search
A dog trained in finding bodies is expected to arrive in southern Tasmania today to join the search for a Victorian backpacker.
A major search over several days has failed to find Melbourne-based, Rachel Funari.
The American citizen was last seen at an Adventure Bay holiday home on Bruny Island, where she left her backpack and tent.
Detective Inspector Doug Rossiter says the dog is coming from New South Wales.
"This particular dog is a specialist in cadaver detection and so yeah we'll get that on the ground and it'll allow us to ascertain either confirm or refute any suggestion there's human remains in that area," he said.
Tracker dog in Bruny search
The dog is being flown in from New South Wales and will join more than 60 searchers looking for the 36-year-old US citizen.
The third full day of searching yesterday saw crews scour 9.5 square kilometres of dense bushland and the top and base of rugged cliffs in the Fluted Cape State Reserve, at the southern end of Adventure Bay.
The police helicopter flew along the coast, abseilers dropped down the cliff face and parties landed by boat and worked their way up to the base of the cliffs.
Police remain firm in their belief Ms Funari either became lost or fell from a cliff along the scenic walking track but say they remain open to any fresh leads.
"We are investigating every possibility, we have an investigative team who are following up all avenues of inquiry but at this stage we are still confident that we're in the right area," search leader Inspector Doug Rossiter said.
"We're going to continue in this area until we're confident we've covered all avenues of inquiry."
Insp Rossiter released an updated description of clothing worn by Ms Funari at the time of her disappearance: a green polar fleece jacket over an orange-brown V-necked top, black or dark coloured lightweight pants and brown walking boots. She was also carrying a mobile telephone and disposable camera and some other personal effects in a small black shoulder bag.
Forensic police completed their examination of the Adventure Bay shack at which Ms Funari stayed and concluded she had stayed there one night at most.
Police Search and Rescue, the State Emergency Service, the Hobart Bushwalking Club and Hobart climbing and caving club members will continue the search today.
"We've had search teams methodically searching each sector in an effort to make sure we've covered every inch of that territory," Insp Rossiter said.
"Due to the terrain and the bushland we feel we still need to go through the area, so we expect to be doing the same thing tomorrow.
"It is very difficult terrain and we just want to make sure we've covered the whole area."
Ms Funari's sister is expected to arrive in Melbourne from the US tomorrow.
Anyone with information on Ms Funari's whereabouts is asked to call police on 131 444.
Search for missing person Rachel Funari
Tasmania Police advise of the following update information regarding the missing person Rachel FUNARI. Ms FUNARI was last seen at a shack at Adventure Bay about 4pm Thursday 3rd March 2011.
Police and SES together with volunteers today continued to scour bush surrounding the Fluted Cape walking track. The land searchers were assisted by a helicopter and Tasmania Police Marine officers.
No sign has been found of the missing person.
Police today obtained further description of clothing possibly worn by Ms FUNARI. She is believed to have been wearing a green polar fleece top, black trousers, and brown walking boots. She may have been carrying a small shoulder bag with mobile phone, and identification. A disposable camera, which she purchased on the day of her disappearance, may also be in her possession.
Inspector Doug ROSSITER, on behalf of Tasmania Police extends thanks to the SES, Hobart Walking Club, Essendon Walking Club, and the Tasmanian Climbing and Caving Club. All have had a major role in this land search.
Tasmania Police, by arrangement with NSW Police have sought deployment of a specialist tracker/detection dog unit. It is anticipated the unit will arrive tomorrow afternoon or Wednesday morning.
Search efforts will continue early tomorrow morning. Search teams will continue to focus on the Fluted Cape area of which approximately 50 percent has been searched.
Tracker dog joins search for backpacker
A police dog trained to find human remains has joined the search for a missing backpacker on Tasmania's Bruny Island.
A search and rescue team set off from Adventure Bay shortly before 10:00am.
They are looking for some sign of Melbourne-based backpacker Rachel Funari, who has not been seen for 13 days.
Police believe the 36-year-old American citizen may have gone missing while hiking.
Inspector Doug Rossiter says the search today has changed tactics.
A specialist dog unit from NSW will scour bushland near the popular Fluted Cape walking track.
Inspector Rossiter says conditions are ideal, with a slight south-westerly breeze expected to aid the german shepherd to pick up any scent of human remains.
Meanwhile, a team of about 10 search and rescue police are climbing the steep cliff face close to the track.
Divers search for missing Melbourne writer
Megan Levy - The AgeMarch 17, 2011
Police divers are scouring waters around Bruny Island in Tasmania for a Melbourne woman who vanished while on a holiday two weeks ago.
Rachel Funari, a US citizen who had been living in Victoria for several years, was last seen at a holiday home on the rugged island, south of Hobart, where she left her backpack and tent.
The 35-year-old's younger sister Nicole and three of Ms Funari's friends were due to arrive on the island today to be briefed on extensive search efforts in the past two weeks involving up to 60 rescuers and a police helicopter.
Yesterday, a police cadaver dog failed to find any trace of Ms Funari on hiking tracks around the island and the base of large cliffs in Fluted Cape, near Adventure Bay.
Inspector Doug Rossiter said an excavator was brought in when the dog detected a buried item, however the remains were those of a wallaby.
He said the land search had been scaled back today and focus would shift to the water, where four divers would work in two teams at the base of the cliffs.
"We are confident we have thoroughly searched an extensive area where inquiries indicate it is most likely Ms Funari was headed,” he said.
Ms Funari's friends raised the alarm when she missing a flight home two weeks ago.
Police said the Monash University graduate had been couch-surfing with a man in Hobart when she met a father and daughter with a house on Bruny Island, and travelled there with them.
The father and daughter returned to the mainland the following day and left Ms Funari on the island.
Police say no foul play is suspected in her disappearance.
The US citizen has lived in Melbourne for several years, where she worked as a freelance writer.
She is described as being 165 centimetres tall with brown curly hair and a fair complexion.
Inspector Rossiter said police had received several possible sightings of Ms Funari, which were being investigated.
Divers fail to find trace of missing tourist
Police divers have failed to find any trace of missing American backpacker Rachel Funari in the waters off Tasmania's Bruny Island.
Four divers concentrated their search around Penguin Island and the Fluted Cape area where police believe the 36-year-old could have fallen while bushwalking.
The Melbourne-based woman was last seen a fortnight ago at a shack on the island's Adventure Bay.
Today Ms Funari's sister and a few friends travelled to island with police and were given a briefing.
Friend Cara Bradley says the visit has brought her some closure.
Ms Bradley says after seeing the area's rugged terrain she believes her friend may have fallen over a cliff or got lost in the bush.
The search will now be wound back but police will continue their investigations into the disappearance.
Search for bushwalker scaled back
Tasmanian police are scaling down the search for an American backpacker missing in Tasmania.
Melbourne-based Rachel Funari was last seen bushwalking on Bruny Island south of Hobart two weeks ago.
An extensive search of the island and its coastline using police divers and a dog has failed to find any sign of the 35-year-old.
Inspector Doug Rossiter says police are now focusing on taking detailed statements from Ms Funari's sister and friends.
"There are a number of possibilities of how Ms Funari might have been injured or have perished in that area," he said.
"We still continue to investigate those possibilities.
"We're also just really making sure we know as much as we can about her last movements up until she was last seen."
Police move focus of bushwalker search
Tasmanian police are expanding their investigation into the disappearance of an American backpacker outside the state.
Police ended the search for Melbourne-based Rachel Funari in the area around the Fluted Cape track on Bruny Island, south of Hobart last week.
Investigators are now trying to contact anyone who was on Bruny Island at the same time as Ms Funari.
Inspector Doug Rossiter says it is likely there are several people with useful information.
"Because of the period of time between Ms Funari's disappearance, or last sighting, and the time the matter was reported to police that there was likely there was a number of people on Bruny Island visiting who then returned back to their homes in Tasmania, interstate or internationally," he said.
Search For Missing Woman Update - Rachel Funari
Tasmania Police advise that inquiries are continuing into the disappearance of dual US/Australian citizen Rachel Funari, who was last seen approximately 3:30pm on Thursday 3 March 2011 at a shack directly adjacent to the start of the Fluted Cape Walking Track on Bruny Island. Friends alerted police to Ms Funari’s disappearance on 11 March 2011, which initiated a major police search. Land search operations were discontinued on 18 March 2011.
With no confirmed sightings since 3 March, and no evidence or indication of any crime having been committed, police believe it is likely Ms Funari has perished while walking the shore or cliffs along the Fluted Cape Track. Despite there being strong evidence to support this theory, police remain open to other possibilities, and are keen to find further evidence and provide Ms Funari's family with greater certainty about what has happened.
Over 3 days last week (Tuesday 5 – Thursday 7 April 2011), the Tasmania Police Search and Rescue unit scheduled its rope training activities on Bruny Island, re-checking the cliffs around Fluted Cape. The team focussed on climbing areas of the cliff face where a walker might be naturally enticed to the edge for a view of the coastline. Unfortunately this follow up search operation failed to find any trace of Ms Funari.
Kingston Police also recently mailed out approximately 1500 copies of a special circular to all property owners and residents of Bruny Island. The circular included photographs of property believed to be in Ms Funari’s possession at the time of her disappearance.
Police received a good response from this mail out, with many calls being received from members of the public who were on the island around the time she was last seen.
“We would like to thank those people who have assisted police thus far; however we are still keen to hear from anyone with information to offer, no matter how insignificant that piece of information may seem,” said Inspector Doug Rossiter.
Appeal for Information - Search for missing woman Rachel Funari
- Rachel Funari (Aged 35 years)
- 165cm tall, medium build, olive skin
- Strong American accent
- Last seen on Bruny Island on 3 March 2011
Police are asking for help in finding the following items of clothing and property, which were believed to be in Ms Funari’s possession when she went missing:
What Rachel was wearing:
- Bottle Green full zip polar fleece jacket (see photo)
- Black baggy lightweight pants (see photo)
- Brown walking boots (see photo)
- Prescription glasses
What Rachel was carrying:
- Kodak disposable camera (see photo)
- Paperback novel
- Small black clutch-style bag with thin shoulder strap cont. cards, papers and a single house key
- Older-style mobile phone in a multi-coloured sock cover
Please contact Tasmania Police on 131 444 if you:
- find, or have seen any of the above items at any location
- were in Adventure Bay, Bruny Island on 3rd – 4th March 2011
- saw or spoke to Ms Funari while she was in Tasmania, or have any information whatsoever.