Search suspended for missing Northam couple

Daryna ZadvirnaAlbany Advertiser
Albany Sea Rescue were involved.
Camera IconAlbany Sea Rescue were involved. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

The search for a young Northam couple has been formally suspended with police declaring they have done everything they could to find the pair alive.

The search was called off for the day at 2pm yesterday due to poor conditions, and was declared a “search and retrieve” diving operation by Superintendent Ian Clarke this morning.

"We've conducted a peer-review of the search, and as a result of that we're satisfied we've done everything we possibly can," he said.

Perth’s police divers will arrive in Albany on Sunday, set to begin the search of key locations of the ocean on Monday morning.

“We will now move into the process of putting together a missing person’s file, as we can’t definitively say what had happened,” Supt Clarke said.

“However all of the information and evidence we have located during the course of the search strongly indicates that Tory and Geoff were fishing on rocks ... and something potentially occurred on Saturday afternoon, when we believe there was a 4m swell.”

The family of Geoffrey Bignell, 20, and Victoria McCloy, 22 were formally notified of the situation by the police yesterday evening.

Supt Clarke said he expressed his deepest condolences to the family and thanked all the volunteers involved with the search.

Background

Items belonging to the couple were found at a rock fishing location off the Bald Head walk trail, police revealed yesterday, as the search for the couple stretched into its third day.

Supt Clarke described the situation as “pretty dire” yesterday afternoon and said there was a “very strong possibility” the couple had fallen into the ocean.

Surf life savers searching on their jet skis.
Camera IconSurf life savers searching on their jet skis. Credit: Albany Sea Rescue

“It’s a very strong possibility (that they may have fallen into the ocean) but we can’t definitively say that it’s the case,” Supt Clarke said.

“We've done everything we can to date to try to locate them and certainly some of our search actions are focused on drift patterns, if in fact they did go into the water on Saturday.”

A rescue team from Perth had joined the search to comb “riskier areas” along the Bald Head peninsula.

Supt. Clarke said the worsening weather had made the search more challenging.

“We have had SES personnel that have been walking on the peninsula, however some of those teams have had to return as the weather has started to close in with rain, reducing the visibility,” he said.

Pro Drone Solutions' Brad Harkup helped with the search.
Camera IconPro Drone Solutions' Brad Harkup helped with the search. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Worried but hopeful relatives of the missing pair arrived in Albany earlier this week.

Mr Bignell and Ms McCloy were last seen on Saturday when they were buying items for their fishing and camping trip in Torndirrup National Park.

Their car was found in a carpark at the start of the Bald Head walk trail, a challenging walking trail which has been the setting for several rescues in recent years.

It is understood the couple had planned to go rock fishing in the area.

Ms McCloy’s mother raised the alarm on Monday morning.

SES volunteers returning from their search yesterday because of bad weather.
Camera IconSES volunteers returning from their search yesterday because of bad weather. Credit: Daryna Zadvirna

Police officers, rangers, SES volunteers, Albany Sea Rescue, surf life savers on jet skis and a drone operator have been involved in the search, bolstered by search planes.

Supt Clarke said the couple were familiar with the area, having lived with family in Albany for a few months earlier this year.

It is understood Mr Bignell had fished in the area several times before and the couple had spent the previous weekend in Albany.

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