The Disappearance of Theo Hayez
Byron Bay is one of the supreme tourist destinations in Australia, with nearly 2 million tourists descending upon this tiny town every year. Halfway up the east coast in the Australian state of New South Wales, Byron beckons visitors from all parts of the world. A nine-hour drive from Sydney and two hours from Brisbane, the town is accessible while still feeling oddly distant. With dozens of gorgeous beaches, great surf, and spiritual activities, it is simple to get sucked into Byron’s laid-back vibe and lose touch with the outside world. With more backpackers than actual inhabitants residing in Byron for much of the year, Byron Bay’s culture is very unusual.
Paradoxically, it is both diverse and inclusive whilst also being harsh and intolerant to those who do not fit a specific mold. Several Australians would describe the town as being ‘pretentious’.
Theo Hayez, a Belgian national, had expended nearly a year touring around Australia. He had reportedly been anxious about the trip initially, wondering whether it was worth halting his engineering studies for. Nonetheless, he eventually decided he wanted to go visit numerous friends and family around Australia and by all accounts, thoroughly enjoyed his journey.
He expended a big portion of his time with his cousin, Lisa Hayez. Lisa later gave good insight into what Theo’s version of backpacking looked like. While various young visitors get caught up in drugs and partying, Theo was reliable. He wanted to form and proceed with genuine relations with people, especially those near to him, and enjoy experiences without drugs and heavy drinking. He liked the organization and everything he did was according to plan. He talked with his mum every couple of days.
Theo reached Byron Bay on Wednesday, May 29th of 2019. He scheduled to spend a few days in the town, before taking a Greyhound bus on Monday, June 3rd back to Sydney/Melbourne and then heading home to Belgium. This was the final leg of his Australian tour and he was very much looking forward to beginning his next chapter of life: university then assembling a career.
Theo checked into the Wake-Up! Hostel in Belongil. Wake Up is one of the better hostels in town, located slightly out of the major center. Byron Bay is very small, with the whole town being accessible on foot if you are fit. Just a twenty-minute walk from the main street, Wake Up also lets backpackers use their bikes and get free rides on their regular shuttle buses. Theo stayed in a single-person room and shortly made friends with some of the other backpackers there.
May 31st was a cold night in the middle of Australian winter. It was the coldest night on record for May and June in Byron. Theo and a new friend caught a shuttle bus into town in the early evening. They got on to the Northern Hotel’s bottle shop, where CCTV indicates them buying rose wine at 7:45 PM and behaving flawlessly normal. They caught the shuttle bus back to the backpackers and shared the wine with some other backpackers in the common region outside.
Later on in the evening, Theo and some other backpackers caught another shuttle bus into town. A short walk from the shuttle parking lot brought them to Cheeky Monkey’s – a well-known backpacker’s bar.
Cheeky monkeys have a bad reputation around town. In the early 2000s, it was rated as one of the most severe bars in Australia and every Byron regional you meet appears to have a strong impression about Cheeky Monkeys. More recently, it was bought by a reliable company that runs multiples bars and pubs across Australia and it is gradually losing its stature of being ‘that bar where my friend’s drink got spiked’ or ‘that bar where my mate got attacked by the security guards. It is on one of the two major roads, although it is slightly out from the major town center. Walking around there at night has an odd feel to it due to miserable lighting and the absence of foot traffic. While Byron is bustling during the summer and school vacations, Friday, May 31st was a pretty peaceful night in town. Cheeky Monkeys reported being about quarter capacity.
After buying two drinks at the bar, Theo was escorted out by security staff at 11 PM. He was polite, but shaky on his feet, they said. There is a dispute about how drunken Theo was, with numerous observers claiming he wasn’t drunk. By all accounts, he hadn’t had that much to drink, and he wasn’t hostile or causing any problems. CCTV footage captures his departure from the bar and documents the final known time Theo Hayez was glimpsed alive.
Up to this point, there was nothing especially notable about Theo Hayez or his two days in Byron. What occurred next would be astonishing if we didn’t have information that it did occur.
Until recently, it was determined that Theo attempted to walk back to the backpacker’s hostel and something occurred en route. There was some blurry CCTV video of a close petrol station that appeared to support this, and it just… made sense. You can glimpse from the map in the attached link, that the hostel was a simple walk from town. Byron isn’t big, and if you follow the bright lights and indications, Wake Up is very easy to get to.
Nonetheless, after attaining Theo’s Google records, it was assumed that Theo didn’t go back to the hostel that night.
Theo left the bar at 11 PM. CCTV footage reveals him walking off into the darkness of Kingsley Street, one of the roads perpendicular to Jonson. From there, we realize that he messaged numerous of his friends. It is nearly obvious that it was him sending the messages, given that they were written in French and were particular to his style. We know that he watched part of a Youtube video. We know that he sent a Whatsapp message to his stepsister about 1 AM. He utilized Google Maps numerous times to search for the route back to his backpacker hostel.
We also understand that he walked in the opposite direction from the hostel: from Kingsley to Tennyson Street, to the Youth Activity Centre. We also understand that he then stepped VERY quickly to the Milne Track.
It is a lot simpler to understand this by looking at the simple map presented in the attached link. Cheeky Monkeys bar is in the middle of the map. It’s just by seeing this that one can sense just how unusual this route is. The hostel is at the top left corner of the map (a 20-minute walk). Byron Bay lighthouse is at the top right corner of the map (about an hour’s walk on a good day). Theo walked a couple of minutes to the right, then a few minutes up to a big outdoor activity center (think: a big open field), then hurried towards the bottom right before stepping through the Milne Track to Tallow Beach. The whole walking time from the bar to the Milne track would be less than 20 minutes at a regular pace.
The streets he walked down were dark. Extremely dark. They are in town, but there is nothing out there. Even on busy summer nights, they are far eliminated from the hustle and bustle of Byron proper, despite being just minutes away.
And the Milne Track? Visitors don’t go to the Milne Track. It’s not one of those ‘hidden gems that get tossed around. It goes from Milne Street through bushland out to Tallows Beach. And Theo didn’t follow the Milne Track properly… rather of following it as it curves south, he took a turn off into bushland and curved north. The wilderness is heavy out there, one would have to battle through a LOT of branches. He made a straight shot through, too, which would be almost impossible without understanding the region.
We also know that Theo made it out of the bushland and onto the beach. Google data indicates he never halted walking quickly, as he exited the bushland and made his way toward Cozy Corner – he was now walking toward the top right of the map.
This was all happening while he was still messaging people. The message to his stepsister was sent a bit before 1 AM with him being online on Whatsapp at 1 AM, then going offline.
His phone connected to the Cape Byron cell tower (close to Cozy Corner) at 1:42 PM the next day. It didn’t connect after that.
Theo didn’t come back to the hostel. He didn’t board the Greyhound bus. He didn’t catch his flight back to Belgium.
Theo’s mum began to concern when she didn’t hear from him for a couple of days. While it was out of character, she was realizing that sometimes he wasn’t able to get mobile coverage. Three days later, the alarm was sounded and Theo was reported missing. The investigation started rapidly after that, but unfortunately, the trail was already growing cold.
Wake Up! The hostel didn’t report Theo disappearing until 3 days after he was meant to check out. His room was left unbothered. There have been many critiques of their handling of this, but it grows to be quite diverting from the case. People go missing all the time in Byron for a few days… they end up at a party, on an adventure, or the wrong substance. They always turn back up, though.
The Byron Bay community teamed together and governed search actions. They were active in sharing flyers and data about the missing backpacker. When Theo’s family came to town, they governed free accommodation and food for them. Everyone in Byron has kept close tabs on this story.
Most of the investigation effort centered around the mistaken regions, as far as anyone can tell – Belongil and the Lighthouse. By the time it was understood where his way brought him, the trail was very cold.
Theo’s grey PUMA cap was reportedly discovered in the bushland near Tallows Beach. The family is convinced it is his, although DNA outcomes have yet to be released.
Online sleuths are combing through Instagram and Facebook data, wishing to discover any indications about beach gatherings that night. It is highly probable that if Theo did meet new friends that night, they’d be long gone from Byron with no notion that he vanished. This story reaching the scrutiny of former Byron visitors might be the key to unraveling this mystery.