Body found in search for young couple near Bald Head

Albany Advertiser
Missing couple. 22-year-old woman Victoria McCloy and 20-year-old man Geoffrey Bignell travelled from Northam to Bald Head on Friday morning, 22 November 2019.
Camera IconMissing couple. 22-year-old woman Victoria McCloy and 20-year-old man Geoffrey Bignell travelled from Northam to Bald Head on Friday morning, 22 November 2019. Credit: Facebook

Police searching for a young Northam couple have found a body on the south side of Bald Head.

Officers, who have spent more than four days looking for Victoria McCloy, 22, and Geoffrey Bignell, 20, say they are now working to retrieve the body.

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

It is believed the young sweethearts fell into the water while rock fishing on Saturday, amid swells of up to 4 metres.

Rescuers battled both the clock and poor weather conditions as they desperately scoured the coast and land near the treacherous peninsula in the Torndirrup National Park this week.

Announcing the search had been halted yesterday, Great Southern District Superintendent Ian Clarke said highly experienced search teams had covered the region extensively — in some areas more than three of four times over — and had “done everything we possibly can”.

Mr Bignell, a talented bike trickser, and Ms McCloy, a dental assistant, were last seen that day in Albany buying what appeared to be a fishing gaff.

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

Ms McCloy’s mother raised the alarm on Monday morning after they failed to return home.

A bag of items belonging to the young couple was found at a rock fishing spot near the ocean’s edge on Tuesday evening.

Torndirrup National Park is known for its spectacular wave-carved features including the Natural Bridge, The Gap and the Blowholes and has a number of walking trail and lookout points including Sharp Point, Jimmy Newells, Stony Hill, Peak Head, Salmon Holes, and Bald Head.

Unfortunately the coastlines surrounding Albany are also notorious for people being swept into the ocean while fishing.

In April last year, 30-year-old Samuel Roth was swept into the ocean while fishing near West Cape Howe, 30km east of Albany.

He was not wearing a life jacket at the time and his death came just one week after a coronial report into the 2015-16 deaths of three fishermen off Salmon Holes — in the same national park as Bald Head — had recommanded life jackets be made compulsory for rock fishers.

Supt Clarke this week highlighted the need for rock fishermen to wear life jackets.

“For us it’s just highlighted the extremely risky nature of the Torndirrup National Park and its extremely rugged country,” he said.

“Make sure you’re well prepared, make sure you’re dressed correctly and if you are going to go to any location that does have a slightly higher risk — do everything you can to make yourself safe.

“If you’re thinking of going rock fishing or anything like that, please wear a life vest.

“The simple use of a life vest can make a huge difference and that’s a huge part of advice for anyone coming down here and going rock fishing.”

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