A State Coroner Found Missing Backpacker Theo Hayez Is Dead, But How He Died Is Still Unclear

NSW State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan has concluded that Belgian teenager Theo Hayez — who went missing in Byron Bay in 2019 — is dead. However, she wasn’t able to conclude the cause or manner of his death.

O’Sullivan found that suicide was a highly unlikely cause, and she also said there seemed to be no reason Theo would have intentionally vanished.

She couldn’t make a finding, though, on the two competing theories for his disappearance presented at the inquest.

As reported by 9News, those theories are that he was killed in an accident while climbing towards Byron Bay lighthouse or that a person or persons caused his death and disposed of his body.

“Sadly, there is just insufficient evidence before me to substantiate or exclude either theory,” O’Sullivan said.

She also acknowledged the sadness and loss faced by Theo’s family and friends.

“It is obvious from the evidence he had a bright future ahead of him,” she said.

Theo went missing in Byron Bay in 2019, where he was reportedly last seen leaving the Cheeky Monkeys bar on May 31 after being ejected by security. He was 18-years-old at the time.

Police were then alerted six days later after Theo hadn’t returned to his hostel and couldn’t be contacted. There was a wide-scale search for him, but it only recovered a hat which is believed to have belonged to Theo.

NSW Police established a $500,000 reward for info on the case in February 2022.

Theo’s godfather Jean-Philippe Pector told reporters outside the Byron Bay courthouse he still hoped the reward would produce more evidence.

“We knew that there wouldn’t be any breakthrough after going through the whole inquest process,” he said, per the ABC.

“We’re still hanging in there somewhere, hoping that at some point in the future there will be something.”

As reported by 9News, O’Sullivan’s recommendations included cutting some of the red tape in searches for missing persons.