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Detective quizzed on Belgian backpacker

Missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez’s path towards Byron Bay’s Tallow Beach has been scrutinised again by the family’s counsel at his inquest.

One working theory is that Theo tried to climb cliffs at Cosy Corner beach, fell and was swept out to sea.

He was last seen being ejected from the Cheeky Monkey’s bar at 11pm on May 31, 2019.

Whether he was heading to the famous Cape Byron Lighthouse, was disorientated due to intoxication, or heading to a beach party in Cosy’s Corner, are other hypotheses that have been carefully examined throughout the near two-week inquest.

His family still hold the strong belief such risky, reckless behaviour was out of character for the sensible traveller, and that he must have been with another person.

Google data shows he looked up the route back to his Wake Up! hostel but walked in the opposite direction. Why he loitered at some cricket nets along the way for seven minutes, is not clear.

“There was nothing to explain there was a party in that area at that time,” officer in charge of the investigation Detective Senior Constable Philip Parker told the NSW Coroners Court in Byron Bay.

Following a full day of evidence, Det Parker was again grilled by Theo’s family lawyer David Evenden on Thursday about online searches for beach party clues.

“Has there been any searches by police of Instagram accounts or other social media accounts to see if anyone had posted anything about a party that night?” Mr Evenden said.

“How could I do that?” Det Parker asked.

“Look I’m asking you, if there was a suggested account or whose account I could search, what people’s accounts? I’m open to a suggestion on that as well.”

On Wednesday morning the inquest was told “new information had come in overnight” in the form of a purple OPPO smartphone similar to Theo’s.

It belonged to a woman who had attended a beach party in August 2019, three months after Theo’s disappearance.

Det Parker spoke to the woman on Wednesday, and he was quizzed by Mr Evenden again about the nature of his inquiries.

Det Parker repeated that he had already explained their conversation.

“Think I just answered that,” he said.

He was repeatedly asked about software used to find out whether Theo’s phone’s unique numerical identifier had been used in another mobile device, and if it was done during initial investigations.

“Those inquiries were done earlier by Louise Hawkes,” he said.

Sergeant Hawkes from the homicide intelligence unit travelled to the area on June 14 to assist with the search.

“Was that shortly after Theo disappeared?” Mr Evenden said.

“Well, it wasn’t before, that’s for sure,” Det Parker responded.

“Because if you hadn’t, you wouldn’t have known from the time that (Ms) Hawkes did her search whether or not Theo’s handset had been used up until November of this year,” Mr Evenden said.

“That could be correct,” Det Parker said.

He’s certain multiple searches were done and nothing was gleaned from them.

Fellow backpackers who were with Theo at a hostel barbecue that afternoon and also attended Cheeky Monkey’s earlier told the court their new friend did not appear drunk.

The inquest continues.

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