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There is no missing swimmer at Gillards – it’s a massive hoax

Ian Campbell17 August 2019
Police say the search has been downgraded tonight and will be reassessed in the morning. Photo: Bega Valley SES Units.

Police, SES, and Surf Life Savers comb Gillards Beach, Aug 15. Photo: Bega Valley SES Units.

The time, energy and concern of emergency services looking for a missing swimmer on the Far South Coast over two-and-a-half days has been a huge waste. There is no missing man, the story is a big fat lie designed to escape alleged fraud charges.

A land, air, and sea search was launched just before dusk on Wednesday (August 14) from Gillards Beach between Tathra and Bermagui.

The story was that a 42-year-old Victorian man had gone for a swim and not returned.

Police at the time reported that the man’s brother had found his sibling’s belongings on the beach and raised the alarm.

None of it is true and has been revealed as a hoax with the man now on the run from police.

An extraordinary effort involving PolAir, Eden Water Police, NSW Ambulance, State Emergency Service, Marine Rescue NSW, Surf Rescue NSW, the Westpac Surf Life Saver Helicopter and Drone, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service has been combing the coast – all in vain over Thursday and Friday.

Estimates put the cost of the whole operation at around $1 million.

Marine Rescue NSW crews from Bermagui and Meribumla and Eden Water Police comb the sea, Aug 15. Photo: Twitter @MarineRescueNSW.

Crews from Marine Rescue NSW at Bermagui and Merimbula, with Eden Water Police search the ocean, Aug 15. Photo: Twitter @MarineRescueNSW.

Chief Inspector Peter Volf says every effort will be made to bring the alleged fraudster to justice.

“It’s very disappointing, so much expense and time wasted making every effort to find this man at sea.”

“It was a very well run police operation by Marine Area Command and local police, supported by good detective work, a great multi-agency operation the community can be proud of.”

The man, who it seems invented an identical twin as part of the scam, is more devious than violent and isn’t considered a danger to the public.

The Westpac Lifesaver Drone, part of the search. Photo: Twitter @SLSNSW.

The Westpac Lifesaver Drone was used as part of the search. Photo: Twitter @SLSNSW.

Speaking with Region Media Stephen Leahy, CEO of the Westpac Life Saver Helicopter says if the court allows, they will look to recoup expenses from what he describes as a “malicious, well thought out hoax.”

“It has cost us almost $33,000, it’s $3,500 per hour to run the chopper,” he says.

The Life Saver chopper crew spent nine-and-a-half hours in the air, but a total of around 20 hours on the job, even starting at 6 am with first light on the first day of the search, rather than the usual 8 am start.

“Our funding comes from a range of sources, community donations is one of them so this is very disapointing,” he says.

“This shouldn’t stop people from calling Triple 0 (000) if they think someone needs help, mistakes happen, that’s life, but this is a criminal hoax.”

What's Your Opinion?

6 Responses to There is no missing swimmer at Gillards – it’s a massive hoax

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Michele Michele 9:35 pm 19 Aug 19

Most definitely the costs should be replaced by the man responsible for such a hoax
Our community support kindly with their donations to support those that are in real need
Dont let any others even think that this is an opportunity to try a hoax themselves .
Needs to be seriously dealt

Harry Watson Smith Harry Watson Smith 11:26 am 18 Aug 19

Each unit who participated in the search should be congratulated for the effort put in, especially those who put to sea. A combined operation which at the local level worked very well. The big question is who is in control of initiating this exercise and the extent – miles off shore with helicopters 5 nm out to see for a single person. A person is called missing because of some clothes left on a beach. Well please stand back and speak to the person who initiated the call immediately, investigate, look at the situation, the location and the chances of a happy ending – a forensic analysis
Unfortunately I have seen this far too often with inexperienced management initiating a search without stopping to think practically at the local level with local knowledge. Any fisher or sailor knows the counter current flows north from Tathra to Goelan Heads so why then search the surrounding coast as the management tasks each unit to do?
The twitterati will say – what if it was you missing? Well I have experienced it watching the resources tasked to find my vessel as I sat and had a cup of tea in a secluded bay well out of danger just because management did not pick up the phone and ask “where the hell are you?” I wont give the full story because it highlights the incompetence.
Well done the individual units in doing a great job without question but let all of us ask how could this happen? Is there a missing person protocol that is apply on land but common sense is thrown to the wind when it involves the sea.

Jenny Jenny 5:10 pm 17 Aug 19

So many implications 🙁
delayed searches in future as calls for help are verified.
the risk that all involved took with their own lives in the pirsuit of a hoax
wasted resources from all corners
volunteers becoming jaded with giving their precious time.
the list goes on

Sally Sally 3:41 pm 17 Aug 19

Surely the police would have obtained evidence of the missing mans ID before commencing a search and rescue for him?? How did they know who they were searching for? How can the police go looking for a fabricated person??? If they were that stupid – believe the lies of man being investigated for fraud – They have learnt a very valuable yet costly lesson!

robert Whiter robert Whiter 3:39 pm 17 Aug 19

In My opinion a recent mugshot of this criminal should immediately be published far and wide in order that the public is given every opportunity to assist in the apprehension of this individual who has cost us all big dollars

Carol Carmody Carol Carmody 12:45 pm 17 Aug 19

He should pay the cost and go to jail.

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