Disappearance of Théo Hayez in Australia: Two weeks of investigation open Monday in Byron Bay

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Public hearings will attempt to shed light on the circumstances of the facts.

The file of the Belgian’s disappearance was transmitted in September 2019 by the Australian police to the coroner of the State of New South Wales, a judicial officer responsible for shedding light on the causes of certain types of death.

Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan will begin her investigation from Monday, November 29 until December 10. It is empowered to ask witnesses to share the information they hold on the circumstances of the facts during these public hearings, broadcast live online. Questions may be addressed to them from the coroner or from the victim’s immediate family. The first day will begin Monday at 10:00 a.m. (Monday 00:00 a.m.BB). Relatives of the young man have already expressed their intention to attend the proceedings in person.

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Australian state-run media ABC says the proceedings will also include viewing of audiovisual material and visits to offending locations. The Belgian traveler who was with Théo Hayez the evening before his disappearance and was staying in the same tourist accommodation, should be a “significant witness” during the hearings, some of which may be held at a distance, in an audiovisual manner, adds the media.

According to the system in force in Australia, an investigation (“inquest”) conducted by a coroner must determine the identity of a victim as well as the date, place, circumstances and medical causes of death. If the coroner comes to the conclusion that an identified person is criminally responsible for the death, the judicial officer must end the investigation and send the file to justice for prosecution. The coroner’s proceedings are inquisitorial and non-accusatory, so it is not his jurisdiction to determine guilt. Recommendations can then be made to authorities to improve public health and safety.

Théo Hayez, a resident of Overijse then aged 18, had been traveling in Australia since the end of 2018. He was last seen on the evening of May 31, 2019 in the seaside resort of Byron Bay when he was due to return to Belgium at the beginning of June. His phone had been detected one last time by a terminal the next day near the lighthouse in the northeast of the town. Despite months of searches by Australian and Belgian police and local volunteers, his body has never been found. The case left the door open to multiple speculations on this disappearance in an Australian tourist hotspot.

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