A hunting buddy of the missing North Australian man Jeremiah Rivers has spoken publicly for the first time, while his heartbroken family is desperately seeking answers.
- One of the missing man’s six pig-shooting comrades speaks to the media
- Police have raised interest in a pub fish and chips order
- Desperate family members continue their search for their loved one
Meanwhile, a fish and chips order at a pub near the search area has caught the attention of police.
Mr Rivers, an experienced bushman from the Gija tribe also known as Jayo, was last seen walking away from the group he was camping with near Wippo Creek, south of Noccundra in southwestern Queensland, on the morning of October 18th.
Police investigators are treating his disappearance as suspects and homicide detectives are involved.
Mr. Rivers’ six hunting companions have been interviewed several times by detectives who have said the men’s stories did not match.
No one has been charged and police have not identified any suspects, while a potential connection to a wave of fuel runs has not led to major breakthroughs.
Mr. Rivers’ family members from the East Kimberley region of WA have managed to get in touch with some of the men who were last with him.
Four of the six men are now known by the family, while the other two remain unknown.
Pig hunting expedition involved breach of border control
The pig hunting trip started from Balranald, New South Wales, where Mr Rivers played football.
It involved his close friend from Darwin, Jojo Kantilla; another man from the Balranald area, Matt Moore; and two acclaimers from Melbourne, Kane Toohey and Travis Clare.
The other two men in the group can be seen on the road construction security camera.
The group of seven ignored border controls as they crossed into Queensland and camped near Wippo Creek.
The first stories leave the family with questions
Family members first found out that Mr. Rivers had disappeared on October 20, two days after his last sighting.
The family claims Mr Kantilla called them to say his friend had walked away from the campsite to hunt hunting dogs, but in a later conversation he said Mr Rivers was looking for a water hole to swim in.
Amanda Rivers, Mr. Rivers’ aunt, claims that Mr. Kantilla made it clear that it was only him, Mr. Rivers and Mr. Moore on the trip, so the family was shocked to later find out about the other four in the group.
She said in the weeks after Mr Kantilla cut off communication completely and family members fear he may be reimbursed by those angry at his silence.
Police are questioning pub staff over fish and chips ordering
Melbourne man Travis Clare told ABC he and the others tirelessly searched for Mr Rivers the day he disappeared using ter and quad bikes.
They then divided into two groups, one going to Noccundra and the other to Cunnamulla.
Police intercepted both and escorted them back across the border the next day.
A trailer with two quad bikes was left behind at the campsite, which has been examined by forensic scientists.
But what has interested police is the behavior of two unidentified men at the Noccundra Hotel on Monday night, less than 12 hours after Mr Rivers’ companions said he had disappeared.
Hotel officer Sarah Turner told ABC that two men entered the pub and asked for fuel and returned several times to buy water and soda.
She said they ordered seven meals, a number of investigators considered strangely given at the time were apparently missing, so there would only be six in the group.
“They said they had friends camping down the road,” she said.
The pub’s CCTV was replaced at the time, and Mrs. Turner could not remember what the men looked like.
Police questioned her about the incident for hours, and until now, the line of investigation has not been known to the public.
However, it is not known if the two men were part of Mr Rivers’ group of companions.
Mr. Clare says he has helped family members
ABC has texted and called Mr Kantilla but has not been able to contact Mr Moore.
Kane Toohey said he had been helpful to the family, even providing GPS coordinates to help with their search, but has not commented further.
Clare answered ABC’s questions with a series of emails, insisting he was trying to help the family with Mr. Rivers’ disappearance.
“I’ve been in touch with several members of Jayo’s family since he disappeared, and I’ve reviewed all parts of the trip thoroughly,” he said.
The family promises not to give up
Close relatives have rotated through searches in outback Queensland, mostly searching on foot in scorching hot weather, but months without a trace have left the family low morale.
The family’s GoFundMe page and fundraiser events have helped fund the search for the popular Warmun native football player, but Jayo’s aunt Belinda Rivers said more help was needed.
“We want to find this kid and bring him home. So we need all the fundraising we can get so more family members can help with the search,” she said.
Queensland police did not directly answer detailed questions with reference to the ongoing investigation.
“Investigators have been in contact with a number of people who were in the Nocundra area at the time [Jayo went missing]said a spokesman.