Missing backpacker’s family thanks Byron Bay people
THE family of missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez has thanked the Byron Bay community for its support over the past month after the young man's father Laurent Hayez and mother Vinciane Delforge met about 200 volunteers on Sunday.
Theo's father Laurent Hayez and mother Vinciane Delforge met with around 200 volunteers on Sunday afternoon at the local Golf Club to give thanks in person.
Theo, 18, was last seen leaving the Cheeky Monkey's bar just after 11pm on May 31. His phone last pinged off the received close to the Cape Byron Lighthouse.
He was due to return to Belgium the following week but was reported missing on June 6 when he failed to check out of the Wakeup backpacker hostel and personal belongings and passport were left untouched.
Police, SES and locals launched an extensive sea and land search for three weeks. Police suspended the physical search a week ago, but many locals have continued to search further afield at Broken Head and today, near Tyagarah. Belgian police have also arrived to assist local police.
"The support and the warmth of the community is like a balm on our bleeding hearts. Theo is on everyone's mind and it is amazing to see this," Mr Hayez said.
"Byron Bay considers Theo as their own son," he said.
Through the living nightmare of a much loved son missing, the family have been provided with free accommodation, a car, and meals cooked on a roster by locals like Deb Milgate, who see their own sons in Theo.
"For me it is relatable, I have a son around the same age. And growing up in Byron, it's such a carefree town and it has surprised me that someone has just disappeared," she said.
Nicoletta Revis, who has organised a roster for locals to cook lunch and evening meals, said the family were being nourished by the kindness of strangers.
"People are cooking and pouring love into the food and not expecting anything in return. When I present them with the meal I always explain who has cooked for them, and pass on any love or well wishes. If someone has written a little note, or card to go with the meal, this goes on the table so everyone can have a read," she said.
Lisa Hayez, Theo's cousin, who he came to travel with said the family was encouraged to keep going by the kindness of Australians.
"It's the only thing that helps us survive through this, otherwise we would be crying all the time, we know we have the community behind us," Ms Hayez said.
The arrival of Belgium police also invigorated the family now 30 days post Theo's last sighting.
"It is going to help us, the most people on the case the better it is, if the Australian and Belgium police work together it will be faster," Ms Hayez said.
Theo's mother Ms Delforge was too heartbroken to speak but strangers offered hugs, and shared tears for the boy that could be their own.