Carol and Russell vanished in Victoria two months ago. Now police are probing 3 'sightings'.

Victoria’s high country is a ruggedly beautiful place. One of winding bushland roads linking quaint tourist towns, of snow-dusted mountains, of walking tracks and waterfalls. But it’s also the setting of several mysteries.

Over the past 12 years, at least six people have vanished among the region’s towering gums.

Among the most baffling of all is the most recent: the disappearance of Russell Hill, 74, and Carol Clay, 73, long-time family friends who went camping along the Wonnangatta River near Billabong on March 19 and never returned.

Watch: New information in the search for missing campers, Russell and Carol.

Video by 9 News

Police said Hill, a former bush logger, collected Clay from her Pakenham home at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 19, and they set off into the alps. Hill radioed a friend and his wife, Robyn, the following day and said he’d check in again. But he never made contact.

Campers found Hill’s Toyota LandCruiser in the Wonnangatta Valley on March 21 alongside a burned-down tent, table and camp chairs. The keys were still with the ute, which was in working order and well-stocked with supplies. Arson chemists investigated the scene, but police said the cause of the fire remains inconclusive.

Neither Clay nor Hill has used their phones, bank accounts or made contact with loved ones, and police say it’s still yet to be determined whether their disappearance is suspicious.

Sightings of an “out of place” woman.

The mystery deepened even further this week, as police released details of three possible sightings of Clay and Hill on March 22, the day after their burnt-out campsite was discovered.

One witness claimed to have seen an “older lady” waiting to use the long drop toilet at Back Snake Creek on March 22. The same day, an older couple was seen driving out from Black Snake Creek hut; according to that report, the lady was “wearing lipstick and looked out of place”. Finally, an older couple were also seen near the Eaglevale River crossing and campsite.

Police are appealing for anyone who was in those areas on that date in the hope they can determine whether the couple was Clay and Hill.


Police also established that Hill visited the area alone between March 11-13. He was camping near the King Billy and Bluff Track, and had a drone with him. The drone has never been recovered.

A number of theories have emerged about what happened to the pair, fuelled in part by the fact that Hill’s family thought he was going on the trip alone.

According to The Age, Victoria Police Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper last month refused to speculate on the nature of the relationship between Clay and Hill, as it was a “delicate” situation for the families.

“It was a bit of a surprise to Robyn [Hill] that Russell and Carol had been camping together but… I don’t want to speculate on what that relationship was, whether it was two people who enjoyed each other’s company and camping in the Australian wilderness.”

Detective Inspector Stamper added there was nothing to indicate the friends had vanished on purpose.

“The eloping theory, in my mind, is not credible,” he said.

High country mysteries and the “Button Man”.

Russell Hill and Carol Clay’s disappearance is just one to haunt the alpine region in recent years.

There was experienced and well-equipped bushwalker Warren Meyer, 57, who never returned from a short hike at Dom Dom Saddle in 2008. David Prideaux a 50-year-old former Barwon Prison governor who vanished from Mount Stirling while on a hunting trip with his brother in 2011. Conrad Whitlock, 72, whose BMW was found parked off Mount Buller Road in 2019, his keys, phone and jacket still inside.

And Niels Becker, 39, who went missing while on a five-day hike from Mount Stirling in late October. According to The Age, the last known sighting of Becker was by a regular visitor to the area known only as “the button man”. The experienced and enigmatic bushman, reportedly aged around 70, camps alone in the bush for long periods and earned his name by carving buttons out of deer antlers.

The newspaper reported that police hiked to the ‘button man’s’ clifftop campsite near King Billy Track to ask him about Becker, and he confirmed he’d seen a well-equipped hiker in the area around that time.

Yet there are sadly no further signs of Becker’s whereabouts, nor the Meyer’s, Prideaux’s, Whitlock’s, Hill’s or Clay’s.

Mysteries of the high country that have left dozens desperate for answers.

Anyone with information about the cases mentioned in this article is urged to contact CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000 or log onto All reports can be made anonymously.