Theo Hayez’s mother Vinciane speaks out on her backpacker son’s Byron Bay disappearance


The heartbroken mother of missing Belgium backpacker Theo Hayez has said while she will always have hope she’ll learn what happened to her son, she doesn’t expect to ever see him again after he vanished three years ago.

Theo, 18, was being kicked out of the Cheeky Monkeys bar in Byron Bay, northern NSW, where he was last seen by his friends at about 11pm on May 31, 2019.

Since then a wide-spread search effort, international police investigation and inquest has only been able to track down the cap he was wearing that night. 

Now, more than three years later, Theo’s devastated mother, Vinciane, has opened up on the toll his disappearance has had on her and their family.

‘I think that we will never know but I hope our situation, our story, is helpful to others,’ she told 60 Minutes. 

‘If you want to go on living, there is a time when you need to stop. There will always be sadness until the very end of our life but it is healthy to stop searching.

‘Theo is unhappy when I’m feeling sad. I also feel Theo is giving me strength.’ 

Theo Hayez’s mother Vinciane (above) said she has accepted she ‘will never know’ what happened to her son

Belgium backpacker Theo Hayez was last seen at a bar in Byron Bay on May 31, 2019 (pictured, Theo recording a video diary during his Australian trip)

Belgium backpacker Theo Hayez was last seen at a bar in Byron Bay on May 31, 2019 (pictured, Theo recording a video diary during his Australian trip)

She said she felt like there was still a ‘tiny window’ open which may reveal some details into what happened to Theo that night.

But when asked by reporter Tara Brown if she had hope her son would come home, a teary Vinciane replied: ‘I don’t think so’.

Theo spent his first few months in Australia with his beloved godfather, Jean-Philippe Pector, and his wife, Julia Malcolm.

Mr Pector broke down in tears while trying to describe what the loss of Theo has meant.

‘It’s unfair, it’s unfair. I think no one deserves that,’ he said.

Mr Pector has been outspoken in his belief that Theo was not alone the night he disappeared.

Data collected from Theo’s phone shows he went the opposite direction of his accommodation, Wake Up! Hostel, after he was removed from the bar.

It was also determined the teenager wasn’t overly affected by alcohol when he was kicked out of Cheeky Monkeys. 

The last movements of Theo Hayez have been tracked from mobile phone data, but the backpacker's fate is still unknown

The last movements of Theo Hayez have been tracked from mobile phone data, but the backpacker’s fate is still unknown

Police believe Theo fell down the face of a cliff after getting lost and trying to climb it to get back to the street (pictured, SES searching for Theo in 2019)

Police believe Theo fell down the face of a cliff after getting lost and trying to climb it to get back to the street (pictured, SES searching for Theo in 2019)

Mr Pector thinks Theo was taking a ‘nice way home’ before stopping for seven minutes near a cricket field, known as the ‘dodgy part of town’ with a nearby ‘tent city’ of rough sleepers.

It’s a theory former detective Gary Jubelin agrees with.

‘There’s this assumption he went off in the wrong direction, I don’t subscribe to that,’ he told the Channel Nine program.

‘He checked (Google Maps) eight times that we’re aware of, I think he was just keeping his bearings.’ 

Mr Jubelin added Theo wouldn’t have stayed in the ‘dodgy’ area for seven minutes unless he was talking with someone he was comfortable with.

Data from Theo’s phone shows his journey was very different after his stop at the cricket field.

Data collected from Theo's phone shows he went the opposite direction of his accommodation, Wake Up! Hostel, after he was removed from the bar

Data collected from Theo’s phone shows he went the opposite direction of his accommodation, Wake Up! Hostel, after he was removed from the bar

Theo's devastated godfather, Jean-Philippe Pector, and his wife, Julia Malcolm (pictured above) said his disappearance was 'unfair'

Theo’s devastated godfather, Jean-Philippe Pector, and his wife, Julia Malcolm (pictured above) said his disappearance was ‘unfair’

Immediately after he began walking faster and with confidence, despite not being familiar with the area.

‘I think that Theo had an encounter with maybe many persons,’ his mother Vinciane said.

‘I also believe he didn’t feel the danger immediately but something has happened.

‘I know that he was not alone that night.’ 

Police believe the 18-year-old may have fallen off a cliff on the night he vanished, but his mother said he would never take such a risk.

‘He told me that he would be extremely careful, that he would always calculate the risks. He would never jump off a cliff,’ she said. 

GPS tracking shows Theo went down to Tallow Beach, 5km from his hostel, using a little known and very well hidden bush track.

His family say the track, which is barely visible during the day, would have been ‘impossible’ for Theo to navigate alone at night, let alone quickly.

Theo then travelled to Cosy Corner at the base of a lighthouse where police believe he tried to scale the cliff of the lighthouse to get back up to the street.

Theo (pictured with a friend) was backpacking around Australia when he went missing on May 31, 2019

Theo (pictured with a friend) was backpacking around Australia when he went missing on May 31, 2019

Theo's family believe he was not alone the night of his disappearance and say GPS data from his phone supports their claims (pictured, an ambulance stationed above the cliff where Theo is believed by police to have fallen to his death in 2019)

Theo’s family believe he was not alone the night of his disappearance and say GPS data from his phone supports their claims (pictured, an ambulance stationed above the cliff where Theo is believed by police to have fallen to his death in 2019)

They theorise he then fell off the cliff, into the ocean below and was dragged out to sea. 

But messages on Theo’s phone show he spent time at the base of the cliff replying to unanswered messages from friends and family, none of which show him feeling distressed or lost.

His last message was sent at 12.56am on June 1, just six minutes before his phone activity mysteriously ceased. 

People close to Theo say he was responsible and would never have considered climbing up the face of the cliff.

Mr Jubelin added the cliff looks like a ‘mountain’ and that the idea of someone of sound mind attempting to climb the cliff ‘doesn’t add up’.

Other discrepancies the former detective pointed out in the police theory is that if Theo had fallen off the cliff face there should have been remains found on the rocks.

He also pointed out that his phone continued to ping after police allege he fell in the water.

A widespread search for Theo has only ever turned up a cap he was wearing the night of his disappearance (pictured, SES searching for Theo in 2019)

A widespread search for Theo has only ever turned up a cap he was wearing the night of his disappearance (pictured, SES searching for Theo in 2019)

Theo's family and former detective Gary Jubelin say Theo (above) was walking too fast and confidently in an unfamiliar area to be travelling alone the night of his disappearance

Theo’s family and former detective Gary Jubelin say Theo (above) was walking too fast and confidently in an unfamiliar area to be travelling alone the night of his disappearance

He also adds, supported by Theo’s family, that his recorded behaviour proves he was not intoxicated that night. 

Mr Jubelin, in his opinion, has ruled out the possibility Theo took his own life or deliberately disappeared.

He hasn’t ruled out misadventure but thinks the teenager was with someone at the time.

‘The evidence that’s presented that I’ve had access to is suggestive of the fact he was in company with someone,’ the detective said.

‘If he was with a person, that person or persons haven’t come forward so I would be looking for those people and treating it as suspicious circumstances.’ 

Theo’s disappearance was reported on June 6 after Mr Pector discovered he had missed his planned bus trip to Sydney and left his possessions at his accommodation.

‘We lived on adrenaline for weeks, no sleeping, wondering always and trying to find out what happened,’ he said of the initial search.

‘I was driving at night time seeing if he was roaming around and I’m seeing young men that looked like him, that same smile,’ he said.

‘I stopped in the middle of the road and ran towards them and then they had a really thick Australian accent.’ 

Theo (above) was reported missing on June 6, 2019, after he was last seen at a bar on May 31, 2019

Theo (above) was reported missing on June 6, 2019, after he was last seen at a bar on May 31, 2019

An inquest in Theo Hayez’s death has been underway since the beginning of this year.

It aims to analyse whether police appropriately responded to his disappearance as well as determine his cause of death.

The coroner will present their findings to the inquest on October 21.

The family aren’t confident it will reveal what happened to their beloved Theo. 

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