Investigators believe the key to how Belgian teenager Theo Hayez vanished lies with what happened at 1.02am at a beach on June 1, 2019.
After midnight, Theo used his phone to swap messages with his stepsister Emma, watch clips from a French quiz show, and joke with a friend on Facebook about an upcoming U2 concert.
But just after 1am, his phone stopped receiving data.
An inquest into the 18-year-old backpacker’s disappearance in Byron Bay heard police believe he clambered up the beachside cliffs, dropped his phone, then fell and was swept out to sea.
Belgian teen Theo Hayez (pictured) was near the end of a backpacking trip around Australia when he vanished in Byron Bay, NSW, two years ago
His family, who travelled to Byron Bay from Europe for his two-week inquest in the NSW Coroner’s Court, don’t accept their cautious boy would do something so dangerous in the dark.
They said the only way he would climb the cliffs is if someone was with him, reassuring him it was safe.
The inquest previously heard Kristin Edwards, the counsel assisting the inquest found no evidence Theo was reckless, engaged in dangerous physical activity, or was particularly interested in drugs.
There was also no evidence, the inquest heard, to suggest the young traveller – who was to start an engineering degree when he returned home – would have taken his own life.
Whether Theo encountered anybody else that night is one of the major mysteries the inquest will explore.
Another is how he came to be on the Cosy Corner beach in the dark.
An inquest into the disappearance of missing backpacker Theo Hayez (pictured) in Byron Bay, the holiday hotspot where he was seen is expected to last two weeks
Theo Hayez’s parents Laurent Hayez (left) and Vinciane Delforge (right) at Byron Bay Coroners Court on Monday as an inquest into his disappearance began
Theo’s night began at his hostel, where he shared some goon (cask wine) with fellow backpackers before heading into town about 9pm.
At the Cheeky Monkey’s bar, the group discussed European politics as they drank a few beers.
Never-seen before CCTV footage played at the inquest shows Theo dancing in the bar and chatting with friends hours before he disappeared.
He can be seen occasionally stumbling inside the venue before a security guard who thought he was swaying ejected him about 11pm.
However, the evidence he was actually intoxicated was ‘ambiguous’, Ms Edwards said on Monday.
The decision to kick him out on his own without any chance to tell his friends has caused Theo’s family ‘great distress’, Ms Edwards told the inquest.
Theo then looked up directions to his hostel on Google Maps.
His subsequent decisions would be hard to believe if investigators didn’t have Google data obtained by his family, Ms Edwards said.
Theo walked in the opposite direction to the route outlined on Google Maps. For seven minutes, he stopped at some cricket nets.
Next he took a dark track through bushland towards the ocean, at points appearing to walk quickly or run.
Police believe Theo may have slipped and fell into the ocean while climbing a cliff at night. Pictured: New South Wales police are seen in the Cape Byron State Conservation Area during a search for Theo on June 2019
The inquest heard Theo’s phone stopped receiving data at 1.02am the morning he vanished. It mysteriously re-entered reception at 6.17am for a few hours. It has never been found.
At the urging of locals and police, coroner Teresa O’Sullivan walked the Milne Track one night last year.
Police noted it would be strange for a foreigner to walk the frightening and ‘spooky’ track alone at night – giving rise to theories Theo was with someone else.
He turned off the track into steep, dense bushland and ended up on the beach.
He was at Cosy Corner when he appears to have turned off his location services just after midnight to save battery.
His lighthearted messages sent in the next hour suggested he felt safe, Ms Edwards said.
Theo was last seen leaving Cheeky Monkey’s bar (pictured) after he was kicked out by security guards
The Belgian teen (right) was captured on CCTV at a local liquor store hours before he disappeared
At 12.55am, he sent a message to his sister. Then ‘something happened at 1.02am’, Ms Edwards said.
‘If we knew what that was, we think we probably would know what happened to Theo.’
That’s when his phone stopped receiving data.
At 6.17am, it re-entered reception range and continued to receive data until lunchtime that day – indicating it did not fall into the water.
The phone has never been found.
Ms Edwards said the legal team had struggled to get data from Google, Facebook and Telstra to paint a fuller picture of that evening – in particular, whether anyone else was with Theo.
The inquest continues.
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Shock new theory about Theo Hayez’s disappearance is revealed by police at inquest – and there’s ‘NO evidence’ he committed suicide or that he was interested in drugs or alcohol
By Hannah Ryan for Australian Associated Press
Police investigating the disappearance of Belgian teenager Theo Hayez have revealed their main theory for his disappearance was that he tried to climb the cliffs at a beach, fell and was swept out to sea.
Kellie Edwards, the counsel assisting the inquest into the missing 18-year-old told the NSW Coroners Court in Byron Bay the coronial investigation has found no evidence he was reckless, engaged in dangerous physical activity, or was particularly interested in alcohol or drugs.
During its opening statements on Monday, the inquest heard Hayez was ejected from a bar in the holiday town without a chance to tell his friends on the night he vanished two years ago.
Theo was near the end of a backpacking trip around Australia when he went missing on the night of May 31, 2019.
The inquest heard Theo Hayez (pictured left with his girlfriend) was ejected from a bar in the holiday town without a chance to tell his friends on the night he vanished
His remains have never been found, nor have his phone or clothes. A hat he was wearing was found in bushland on the route he walked after being kicked out of the Cheeky Monkey’s bar.
Ms Edwards told the NSW Coroners Court that police’s working theory is he tried to climb cliffs at Cosy Corner beach before he fell and presumably drowned.
Although his phone hasn’t been recovered, it continued to send a weak signal until the next afternoon.
He was close with his family, had good, close relationships with friends and was looking forward to starting the next phase of his life when he returned home, an engineering degree.
There is ‘no evidence at all’ to suggest he would kill himself, Ms Edwards said.
Theo had consumed some cheap ‘goon’ wine at his hostel with fellow backpackers before heading out to Cheeky Monkey’s about 9pm.
While there, he had two schooners of beer. CCTV footage shown to the court showed the occasional stumble, but the evidence he was actually intoxicated was ‘ambiguous’, Ms Edwards said.
The remains of Theo Hayez (pictured) have never been found, nor have his phone or clothes
The backpackers he was at the bar with only learned he’d been ejected by security around 11pm during the police investigation. They were confused when they learned about it, Ms Edwards said.
‘Theo didn’t seem drunk and others in the bar seemed much more drunk,’ they told investigators, Ms Edwards said.
He only had contact details for one of the people he was with.
Theo’s ejection on his own, without any chance to tell his friends, had caused his family great distress, she said.
His family, some of whom have flown in from Belgium, are sitting in the courtroom observing the proceedings.
Google account data shows Theo searched for directions back to his hostel after his ejection. However, he walked in the opposite direction to Tallow Beach.
The last data point put him at Cosy Corner. He appears to have turned off his location services just after midnight to save battery.
The last messages sent to his friends and family were lighthearted and in French, suggesting he had his phone on him and that he felt safe, Ms Edwards said.
The last message was sent to his stepsister Emma at 12.55am.
The inquest into his disappearance is expected to run for two weeks.
Tragic deaths and disappearances in and around Byron Bay
Theo, an 18-year-old Belgian backpacker, disappeared after a night out at the Cheeky Monkeys nightclub in May 2019.
He was not reported missing for five days.
In June last year, Hayez’s cousin Lisa revealed that Google data had tracked Theo walking through thick bushland on the night of his disappearance, and suggested he could not have done so alone.
The strongest theory for Hayez’s disappearance remains that the backpacker fell from cliffs and was washed out to sea.
A coronial inquest into Hayez’s disappearance will begin in Byron Bay in November.
Théo Hayez went missing from Byron Bay on May 31, 2019 and had not been seen since
Ms Liddle, 42, was last seen in the Mooball area, between Byron Bay and Tweed Heads, in October 2019, but was not reported missing until January.
The former microbiologist had found herself homeless in Byron Bay and led a transient lifestyle before her death.
Police stumbled upon her remains while searching for Hayez.
Ms Liddle, 42, was last seen in the Mooball area, between Byron Bay and Tweed Heads, in October 2019, but was not reported missing until January
Erwan Ferrieux and Hugo Palmer
Erwan Ferrieux and his British friend Hugo Palmer, both 20, were reported missing during their holiday of a lifetime in 2019.
Police feared they had drowned in Port Macquarie after their belongings were found in the sand on Shelly Beach.
In June 2019, two human bones washed up – and forensic testing revealed they are most likely Mr Ferrieux’s.
None of Mr Palmer’s remains have been found.
The bones of French backpacker (right) who has been missing since February have washed up on a beach in New South Wales