Suspect arrested in Wonnangatta Valley murder case
MELBOURNE, Australia – Twenty months ago, Russell Hill and Carol Clay went missing on a camping trip to the Wonnangatta Valley in Australia’s remote highland state of Victoria. Their camp was found set on fire, while deer carcasses were scattered throughout the valley.
On Thursday, the mystery of what happened to them, a case that had swept through the nation, came close to resolution when police announcement that a suspect had been charged with their murder.
“We hope this arrest will bring us one step closer to providing the answers families have been desperate for and more than deserve,” Victoria Deputy Commissioner of Police Bob Hill said at a press conference Thursday evening.
The announcement came three days after police arrested Greg Lynn, 55, who was identified by local media as a pilot for Australian airline Jetstar Airways.
Jetstar said in an emailed statement that it had been informed by police that an employee was being investigated for a “serious crime” and that, “of course, the employee was fired from his duties following his arrest. “
He was arrested Monday evening while camping at Arbuckle Junction in the Victorian high country, police said, about 15 miles south of where Mr Hill and Ms Clay were last known.
Police began questioning Mr Lynn, who lives in a Melbourne suburb, Tuesday morning and charged him with the murders on Thursday. He will appear in local court on Friday morning, Deputy Commissioner Hill said.
Police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the case.
The announcement follows a nearly two-year police investigation that garnered national attention.
Mr Hill and Ms Clay, both 70, left in March 2020 for what was supposed to be a week-long camping trip to the Wonnangatta Valley. A five-hour drive from Melbourne, it’s one of the most remote parts of the state, accessible only by 4×4 or horseback.
On the evening of their arrival in the valley, Mr. Hill, an avid amateur radio enthusiast, called to let his fellow amateurs know where he was.
It was the last time we had heard them. The next day, the hikers came across their burnt camp. Mr. Hill and Mrs. Clay were nowhere to be found.
Over the next several months, police returned to the site several times and scoured the area, although its robustness made search efforts difficult.
Rumors and media speculation have circulated around the case: about illegal deer hunters in the area; on the possibility that the couple, who were not married, had escaped together; and about a local recluse known as Button Man – although there is no evidence he was ever a suspect in the case.
In April of this year, the police found and taken in evidence two shovels, after new information led them to search for an area 20 miles northeast of where Mr. Hill and Ms. Clay were last seen. The significance of the discovery is unclear.
Last month, police, along with family members of Mr Hill and Ms Clay, renewed their calls for information on the case.
“He just disappeared and you’re just stuck,” Debbie, Mr. Hill’s daughter noted at the time. “We can’t mourn someone if you don’t know if they are really missing or if they are dead. It just left a really big hole, a deep hole.
Despite the arrest, many questions remain.
Almost three weeks ago, police released images of a dark blue Nissan Patrol car with a trailer that they said had “not yet been removed from the investigation.”
When police arrested Mr. Lynn, they seized his car, a beige Nissan Patrol. Local media reported that the police intend to say that Mr. Lynn had his car painted a different color to avoid detection.
Police are still looking for the trailer, Deputy Commissioner Hill said Thursday, and were eager to speak to anyone who purchased one between March and July 2020. Police believe the trailer was sold on Gumtree, a site online classifieds.
He said police had not located the bodies of Mr Hill and Ms Clay, but had focused on an area of the Victoria High Country where they would begin the search in the coming days.
“The police hope that we can locate the deceased and provide a permanent closure for the families,” he said.