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Search for Missing Bushwalker in the Yarra Ranges Called Off

The search for the 57 year old Canadian man Warren Meyer who went missing a week ago while bushwalking in the Yarra Ranges east of Melbourne has been called off:

Police have scaled down a search for a Canadian bushwalker missing since Sunday in the Yarra Ranges National Park, east of Melbourne.

Warren Meyer, 57, from Beaumaris, was last seen at the Dom Dom Saddle car park in the region last Sunday morning.

A police spokeswoman said the number of searchers had been scaled down as hopes of finding the man alive faded.

Earlier today, 53 Country Fire Authority volunteers, 40 State Emergency Service members and 15 search and rescue police searched over new ground in a last ditch attempt to locate the bushwalker. [The Age]

This weekend I went and hiked the same trail that Mr. Meyer disappeared on. I go hiking just about every weekend anyway and since I have never hiked this particular trail before I figure I would go and check it out. I began the hike over at Fernshaw which is opposite from where Mr. Meyer began his hike at Dom Dom Saddle.

In yellow below, I highlighted Morley’s Track that Mr. Meyer disappeared on:

I began at Fernshaw because I figured that the Dom Dom Saddle area would be packed with search and rescue personnel. At Fernshaw I was literally the only person there. The trail as can be seen in the map above runs nearly parallel to the road that runs through the mountains connecting Healsville to Marysville.

Here is the sign announcing the start of Morley’s Track and the route to Dom Dom Saddle:

Right from the start it becomes obvious how thickly vegetated this area is:

Most of the mountain ash trees are of medium size along the trail, but occasionally there are a few extremely large trees with some extending over 100 meters in height. The trail was overgrown in some areas due to the thick vegetation with plenty of fallen logs as well, but for the most part the trail was of decent quality like you see below:

Throughout the walk the trail remains heavily forested:

To further give readers a further idea of how forested and thick the underbrush along this trail really is, here is a quick video I shot of the terrain with my camera:

If Mr. Meyer did leave the trail it would be easy to get disoriented from where the trail is located. However, if he did leave the trail it would have to be towards the east because if he went off the trail and was disoriented to the west he could easily hear the cars on the highway to reorient himself. So if he was lost he would have to have been to the east. However, if he went east he would have to cross the stream pictured below:

This stream can be heard for quite some distance a way, so if Mr. Meyer was lost to the east it would have to be quite some distance from the stream. This stream runs right to Healsville so anyone lost can easily get back to town by following this stream. So he would have to be far enough from this stream not to hear it which would then put him on the slopes of Mt. Donna Buang.

I would think that since Mr. Meyer is an experienced bushwalker, he would know that there is a lookout tower on top of Mt. Donna Buang. If he was lost he could simply just head to the top of the mountain to find help. This why I don’t think he got lost during his hike.

This leaves the possibility he slipped and was hurt somewhere. It was reported that Mr. Meyer had a cellphone with him. I tested my cellphone out there and it did not get a signal so if he slipped and injured himself his cellphone may have been useless as well. I think this scenario will always remain a possibility, but I would think that with over 100 people looking for him in an area that isn’t that big somebody would have eventually found him. I say this will remain a possibility because the underbrush is so thick in the area that I think it is possible that the search party could have missed him, but probably unlikely.

After discounting the lost or injured scenarios as unlikely, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the police are opening a criminal investigation into his disappearance:

POLICE fear a missing Melbourne bushwalker may have been murdered and are investigating the movements of a man they suspect could be involved.

Detectives called in to probe the disappearance of experienced bushwalker Warren Meyer in the Yarra Ranges revealed yesterday that a man in his late 30s had been in the area at the time and was a “person of interest”.

Mr Meyer, 57, a Canadian national living in Beaumaris, was due to return from a 10-kilometre bushwalk in the Mount Dom Dom area at noon last Sunday but has not been seen since.

A massive search covering more than 100 kilometres of tracks and roads and more than five square kilometres of forest has failed to find any trace of the married father of two.

Mr Meyer, a consultant civil engineer, set out at 7.30am from the Dom Dom Saddle car park with food, water, a phone and GPS.

Police want to speak to a group of about eight people who were camping in the Black Spur, Narbethong or Acheron Way area over the Easter break and who might have given the suspect a lift to Warburton.

The man has been interviewed by police and admitted he had been in the area.

Police spokeswoman Creina O’Grady said the man claimed to have come across the group of campers on the day Mr Meyer disappeared and that they gave him a lift to Warburton. Detectives want to speak to the campers to check his story. [The Age]

On the map below you can see Warburton is on the opposite side of Mt. Donna Buang:

The Black Spur, Narbethong, Acheron Way area is just north of Dom Dom Saddle. So this mystery hiker may have hiked from Warburton over Mt. Donna Buang to Dom Dom Saddle and then walked further north up the Black Spur road before finding some campers to catch a ride with back to Warburton via the Acheron Way road. If anyone knows anybody who was camping in this area over Easter Weekend you might want to tell them to contact Victorian police.

If this mystery hiker did assault Mr. Meyer while their paths crossed on the trail, it would seem to me that Mr. Meyer’s body would at least have been fairly close to the trail for the searchers to find. Once again I can’t stress enough how thick the brush is and maybe the searchers just missed him.

I don’t know what happened to Mr. Meyer, but it is strange and tragic at the same time. When I reached Dom Dom Saddle there were a lot of people, police, and even ABC news there. I didn’t take any pictures because I don’t believe taken photos of people obviously very upset is the proper thing to do. I just took a quick look and left. I just hope authorities will be able to find out what happened to Mr. Meyer so his family can have peace of mind about what happened.

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