There’s been a big development in the desperate search for missing Victorian campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay.
Police have released new images of a mystery vehicle they believe could help determine what happened to missing Victorian campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay.
Twenty months into the search, authorities on Monday unveiled photos of the blue four-wheel-drive towing a trailer.
Detectives had been unable to eliminate the mid to late 1990s model Nissan Patrol and its trailer from their inquiries and were keen to speak to the driver of the vehicle or any witnesses who may have seen it in the area on March 20 last year.
Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said witness statements put the vehicle at the campsite where Mr Hill and Ms Clay were last known to be before they vanished.
“Detectives have also been given information that a vehicle attempted to leave the valley late at night on the evening of Friday 20 March, but the Myrtleford gate was closed because of the bushfires, meaning that the driver had to make a complicated turn back in the direction from which they had come,” he said.
“That same vehicle is also spotted on two cameras at the top of Mount Hotham, consistent with where a vehicle would exit the valley given the closure of the Myrtleford gate.
“But if you are the driver of this blue Nissan Patrol, or you know who is, we would urge you to come forward – if nothing else, so we can eliminate you from our inquiries and move forward.”
Mr Hill, 74, and Ms Clay, 73, were last seen on March 20 last year.
Mr Hill had left his Drouin home on March 19 before collecting Ms Clay from her home in Pakenham in his white Toyota LandCruiser.
The pair then travelled via Licola, spending one night at Howitt High Plains before heading into Wonnangatta Valley on March 20.
Mr Hill – who did not tell his wife he was with Ms Clay – was last heard from the next day via HF radio, stating he was at Wonnangatta Valley in the Victorian Alps.
Campers found Mr Hill’s vehicle with signs of minor fire damage at their campsite, which was completely burnt out, near the Dry River Creek Track in the Wonnangatta Valley on March 21.
Since that time, police have conducted extensive searches of the area including missing persons squad detectives, local police, the search and rescue squad, air wing, dog squad and even the Australian Federal Police.
Inspector Stamper believed the bodies of Mr Hill and Ms Clay remain within the 1.6 million square hectares of the Wonnangatta Valley.
“My belief is they are still in that broad area,” he said.
He said the valley had “quite a history”, with a number of mystery disappearances and murders that have left police scratching their heads over the years.
“The place has quite a mysterious history,” Inspector Stamper said.
“There were some murders back there well over a hundred years ago and there have been some other disappearances in the broader area of the high country – we haven’t identified any connections between any of those.”
In April, police moved the search 80km northwest to the Mount Hotham, marking the first time the search had strayed from Wonnangatta.
The search then came to an abrupt halt the day after detectives found two shovels in thick bush off the Great Alpine Road on April 14.
But police could not link the shovels to the pair’s disappearance.
Police still want to speak to anyone who was in the Wonnangatta area around March 20, including campers, 4×4 day trippers, hunters, fishermen or trail bike riders, regardless of whether they saw or heard anything.
This is so police can continue to eliminate people and vehicles from their extensive investigation.
Detectives also wish to speak to anyone who was in the area of Howitt Plains and Zeka Spur Track on March 19 and 20, and the Wonnangatta Valley and Wonnangatta Station between March 20 and 24.
Police have also established that Russell was camping alone with his Landcruiser in the area of the King Billy and Bluff Track between March 11 and 13.
Information was later received about a sighting of an older person or pair in the Black Snake Creek, Eaglevale River crossing and the Ollies Jump area on March 22 or 23, but investigators were never been able to establish if this was the missing campers.
Detectives call for anyone in this area, any older couple who may be these persons, to also come forward.