On a cold winter’s night two years ago, a young Belgian backpacker named Theo Hayez was kicked out of a bar in Byron Bay. He wandered into the night and has never been seen since.
The disappearance of the 18-year-old is one of the most mystifying missing persons cases in recent history.
Other than his baseball cap, not a single trace of him has ever been found.
But on Under Investigation, for the first time, new evidence of Theo’s final movements is revealed.
Data from his mobile phone has been cracked by our investigators, helping us follow Theo’s digital ghost trail to its inescapable conclusion.
According to his family and friends, Theo Hayez was a level-headed young man, enjoying a six-month backpacking holiday in Australia.
He travelled across the country and finally arrived at Australia’s celebrity haven, Byron Bay, where he met a fellow Belgian backpacker Antoine Van Laethem.
On May 31, 2019, the two went out to a popular bar with a bad reputation amongst locals called Cheeky Monkey’s.
ust before 11pm, Theo was asked to leave by a bouncer who claimed he was drunk. Being thrown out of the bar would become his sliding doors moment.
Finally one password worked, and a treasure trove of digital evidence was revealed.
At 11.08pm, the last known images of Theo on CCTV show him walking alone with his head hunched over, engrossed in his phone. He then walks out of frame and disappears forever.
After nearly a week of silence on his normally active Facebook page and no messages to any family member, Theo’s mother Lisa in Brussels raises the alarm .
The family fly in from Belgium to join police and the community in an extensive search for the missing backpacker.
Days of searching for any trace of Theo turned into months, but nothing was found.
Meanwhile, back in Belgium, Theo’s mother was trying old passwords in an attempt to access her son’s online accounts, including Google.
Finally one worked, and a treasure trove of digital evidence was revealed.
A deep analysis of his mobile phone data that automatically logged his every movement through GPS showed Theo taking an erratic route, not back to his hostel, but toward Byron Bay’s Tallow Beach.
Then, he suddenly turned onto an almost impenetrable bush track. For someone who had never been there before, it made no sense.
Despite the bizarre route mapped by his phone, Theo was pretty relaxed at this stage.
At 12.23am, he even took time to watch a short YouTube clip of his favourite Belgian comedy show.
The tourist then unexpectedly moved away from the beach into bushland directly above Cosy Corner.
His final Google Maps search had earlier directed him to climb a very steep slope to get back to his hostel in Byron Bay.
He then turned off his location services, but our experts were still able to track him using data from nearby mobile phone towers which suggested Theo wasn’t alone – a major breakthough in the case.
Perhaps the most concerning part of the mystery of Theo’s final movements came at 12.57 in the morning.
His phone data, analysed by cyber expert Nigel Phair, revealed Theo’s phone made a wi-fi handshake with another mobile device.
Despite the bizarre route mapped by his phone, Theo was pretty relaxed at this stage … even watching a short YouTube clip of his favourite Belgian comedy show.
Then at 1.01am, after using his phone all night, Theo suddenly stopped.
No further activity was recorded on the phone for the next 12 hours, but the device remained on.
According to Theo’s family, it’s there where police believe he had fallen into the water and drowned.
Even though Theo’s GPS location services are turned off, Google can still track him using a complex, and until a few years ago, secret software system that is only installed on Android phones like Theo’s.
But despite being able to follow his digital trail his phone has never been found.
The digital data analysed by our experts strongly suggested that 18-year-old Theo Hayez was met with foul play at the hands of one or more people in the early hours of June 1, 2019.
But added to their investigation was an extraordinary lead that came from the Hayez family’s website, set up to receive information from the public.
An anonymous tip suggested that Theo had fallen victim to local drug dealers whose motive may have been theft or worse.
Misadventure or foul play? It would seem from our investigation, the odds are in favour of Theo being in the company of someone else the night he vanished without trace.
Only the police have the power to further follow the digital leads and our investigators said they should be checking mobile carriers to see who else was in the area at the same time as Theo.
It’s information that could find Theo.
It has now been two years since the teenager vanished without a trace and the inquest into his disappearance is scheduled to begin in Byron Bay in November.
The evidence gathered by Ken Gamble and in our investigation will be submitted to the coroner.
If someone has information or as a result of this program believes they know something related to Theo’s disappearance, please call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.