Appeal to identify car after disappearance of campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay

Twenty months after they were last seen, detectives from the Missing Persons Squad have released an image of a vehicle and a trailer they believe may be able to assist in their enquiries to locate missing Wonnangatta campers, Russell Hill and Carol Clay.

Detectives have been unable to eliminate the blue four-wheel drive – believed to be a mid to late 1990s model Nissan Patrol – and its trailer from their enquiries, and are keen to speak to the driver of the vehicle or any witnesses who may have seen the vehicle in the area at the time.

Russell and Carol were last heard from on 20 March, 2020 when they were camping in the Wonnangatta valley.

Since that time, police have conducted significant, meticulous and protracted searches of the area in the hope of discovering even the smallest clue as to their disappearance.

These searches have involved detectives from the Missing Persons Squad, local police, the Search and Rescue Squad, Air Wing, Dog Squad and the Remote Piloted Aircraft and Systems Unit, as well as the Australian Federal Police and the use of NSW Police’s cadaver dogs.

Significant support has also been provided by Parks Victoria and the Victorian State Emergency Service.

Detectives are today renewing their appeal for information in the hope there are people out there who are still yet to speak to police that have information about the campers’ disappearance.

Russell left his Drouin home on 19 March, collected Carol from her home in Pakenham in his white Toyota Landcruiser.

He was last heard from on 20 March via HF radio stating he was at Wonnangatta Valley in the Victorian Alps when he made the call.

Carol told friends she was heading away and was expecting to return home on 28 or 29 March.

Investigators have been told Russell and Carol were camping together at Wonnangatta River near the Wonnangatta camping ground.

It’s understood that Russell purchased a DJI Mavic drone before going camping and the drone is still yet to be recovered.

Campers found Russell’s vehicle with signs of minor fire damage at their campsite, which was completely destroyed by fire, near Dry River Creek Track in the Wonnangatta Valley on 21 March.

The scene of the fire was examined by arson chemists and police would still like to speak to anyone who saw this fire or the smoke from it.

Police remain keen to speak to anyone who was in the Wonnangatta area around that time, including campers, 4×4 day trippers, hunters, fishermen or trail bike riders, regardless of whether they saw or heard anything.

This is so police can continue to eliminate people and vehicles from their extensive investigation.

Detectives are also keen to speak to anyone who was in the area of Howitt Plains and Zeka Spur Track on 19 or 20 March, and the Wonnangatta Valley and Wonnangatta Station between 20-24 March.

Police have also established that Russell was camping alone with his Landcruiser in the area of the King Billy and Bluff Track between 11-13 March.

Information was later received about a sighting of an older person or pair in the Black Snake Creek, Eaglevale River crossing and the Ollies Jump area on 22-23 March, however investigators have now spoken to the couple and established they were not the missing campers.

A drone located in the Gippsland area earlier year and handed into police was examined and investigators have confirmed it was not Russell’s.

Two shovels located in Mount Hotham back in April have also been forensically tested but so far police have not been able to link them to the campers’ disappearance.

It is still yet to be fully determined whether the pair’s disappearance is suspicious, however investigators have long believed it is likely a third party was involved in their disappearance.

Anyone who sights Russell or Carol is urged to contact triple zero (000) immediately.

Anyone with any other information regarding their disappearance is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or log onto

Quotes attributable to Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper:

“Throughout our extensive and significant investigation over the last 20 months, we have not been able to eliminate this blue four-wheel drive from our enquiries.

“We have witness statements that put this blue vehicle and its trailer in the valley at the time Russell and Carol were there, and indeed near the spot that they had set up their camp.

“Detectives have also been given information that a vehicle attempted to leave the valley late at night on the evening of Friday 20 March, but the Myrtleford gate was closed because of the bushfires, meaning that the driver had to make a complicated turn back in the direction from which they had come.

“That same vehicle is also spotted on two cameras at the top of Mount Hotham, consistent with where a vehicle would exit the valley given the closure of the Myrtleford gate.

“We understand that initially, given the confusion around COVID-19 and state-wide lockdowns that people may have been reluctant to come forward, or that someone may simply have missed our repeated appeals for information.

“But if you are the driver of this blue Nissan Patrol, or you know who is, we would urge you to come forward – if nothing else, so we can eliminate you from our enquiries and move forward.

“Both families are still desperate for answers about what happened to Russell and Carol and why, and I know our investigators are doing all they can to try and get those answers for them.

“If you do know something or have heard something, no matter what it is, then I urge you to come forward and hopefully we can continue to fill in all the pieces of this puzzle until we get the result and answers both families deserve.”

/Public Release. View in full here.