Police have charged a Victorian man with the murders of missing Wonnangatta campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay.
Greg Lynn, 55, was on Thursday evening charged with two counts of murder after three days of questioning and an exhaustive near two-year investigation by police.
Mr Lynn — a Jetstar pilot with a love for camping — was arrested on Monday night at a remote campsite in Arbuckle Junction, 1.5 hours south of Wonnangatta in the state’s east.
Assistant Commissioner Bob Hill said his thoughts were with the victims’ families but stressed the investigation was far from over, with investigators preparing to search for remains in bushland in Victoria’s Alps.
“The past 20 months has been an incredibly difficult time for them, and I know the grief remains as raw as ever,” he said.
“We are hopeful that this arrest brings us a step closer to providing answers the families have been desperately seeking and richly deserve.”
The charges are the latest development in a captivating 20-month case, which started on March 20 of last year, when Mr Hill and Ms Clay were last heard from.
Despite the significant development, the investigation is far from over, with police narrowing in on a dense area of Victoria’s Alpine region that they believe could hold the key to finding the couple’s remains.
Investigators from the Missing Person’s Squad will be sent in to set up a crime scene in an area with thick vegetation.
“Forensic specialists will commence searching at that location in the coming days. Police are hopeful that we will be able to locate the deceased and provide ultimate closure to the families,” Commissioner Hill said.
The investigation ramped up a fortnight ago when police unveiled photos of a blue four-wheel-drive towing a trailer they believed could be linked to the case.
Police on Tuesday were then seen towing away Lynn’s 4WD to be taken for forensic examination in Melbourne.
The car – although a sandy brown colour – closely resembled the dark blue Nissan Patrol police had been searching for in recent months following an appeal to the public for the owner of the car to come forward.
Commissioner Hill said police believed the trailer had been sold on Gumtree and would work with the organisation to track its whereabouts.
Mr Hill first left his Drouin home to embark on the fateful camping trip on March 19, before collecting Ms Clay from her home in Pakenham in his white Toyota LandCruiser.
The pair then travelled via Licola, spending one night at Howitt High Plains before heading into Wonnangatta Valley on March 20.
Mr Hill – who did not tell his wife he was with Ms Clay – was last heard from the next day via HF radio, stating he was at Wonnangatta Valley in the Victorian Alps.
The next day, campers found Mr Hill’s vehicle with signs of minor fire damage at their campsite, which was completely burnt out, near the Dry River Creek Track in the Wonnangatta Valley.
Since that time, police have conducted extensive searches of the area, including missing persons squad detectives, local police, the search and rescue squad, air wing, dog squad and even the Australian Federal Police.
The “exhaustive” investigation had police using specialist investigative techniques, questioning hundreds of people and eliminating hundreds of vehicles which culminated in Monday’s arrest.
Commissioner Hill said it had been a “complex and exhausting” investigation.
He said while there was a mix of emotions, investigators felt relieved but also incredibly fatigued.
“This has been one of the most significant investigations we’ve undertaken in recent years,” he said.
“The investigators are relieved, but they appreciate there’s more work to be done. It has been a long haul, 20 months, in fact, of commitment and dedication that has been extraordinary.”
The couple’s family members spoke out in the past few days, welcoming news a suspect had been arrested and desperate for answers about where their loved ones’ remains were.
Ms Clay’s sister Jill said her beloved 73-year-old sister’s disappearance had been tough and hoped the man’s arrest would bring closure.
“Emotionally, it’s brought up everything during that time – a lot of grief and pain. We haven’t known how, we haven’t know why, they just vanished,” she said.
“Now all of a sudden there’s a glimmer and we might get some answers.
“It would be such a relief to have those answers, to have a memorial for Carol and Russell.”