Missing Persons Week – Unidentified body-in-a-bag nationwide reappeal

As Missing Persons Week 2021 continues, detectives from Tweed/Byron Police District are renewing a nationwide appeal to help identify a man whose decomposed body was found on the state’s Far North Coast almost a decade ago.

About 7pm on Saturday 24 November 2012, a cotton-fibre style bag was found on the bank of the Tweed River at Tumbulgum, about 10km east of Murwillumbah, by a member of the public.

Officers from the Tweed/Byron Local Area Command attended the scene and confirmed the bag contained human remains.

A post mortem examination established that the man was Caucasian and aged between 50 to 70-years-old.

He was 163cm tall, with a thin build and grey hair tied in a ponytail with a blue band. Further investigations have revealed the man wore dentures.

The post mortem was unable to determine the man’s cause of death, with no visible signs of injury and the body heavily decomposed.

Despite exhaustive inquiries and comparisons to missing persons cases from across the country, detectives were not able to identify the man at the time.

Tweed/Byron detectives established Strike Force Tukara to investigate the man’s death and to determine his identity.

A coronial inquest in 2013 returned an open finding, finding that the man could not be identified, and the date, place, manner and cause of his death were undetermined.

Strike force detectives have worked closely with forensic experts to conduct a range of DNA tests, including phenotyping, which involves using genetic sequencing to predict a person’s physical characteristics.

In early 2020, investigators engaged a forensic artist from the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee in Scotland to construct a 3D virtual sculpture and digital forensic facial reconstruction.

To coincide with National Missing Persons Week, investigators have released the artist’s impressions developed through the reconstruction, which depict what the man may have looked like and are appealing for assistance from the Australian community to help identify him.

Tweed/Byron PD Crime Manager, Detective Chief Inspector Brendon Cullen, is pleading with people across the country – but particularly on the NSW Far North Coast and in Queensland’s South East – to take the time to look at the facial reconstruction, hoping they may recognise this man from their past.

“This kind of technology allows us to apply all the scientific and DNA analysis which we have obtained so far and piece together the most accurate depiction of this man’s appearance.

“We have no doubt there are friends and family members somewhere around Australia who have a relative or loved one who just vanished – perhaps they weren’t listed as a missing person at the time. Maybe they are someone who you lost contact with in the early 2010s.

“While we are yet to find a match on any Missing Persons database, we are confident there is someone out there who will know this man and recognise his features.

“Any piece of information which could help us find out who he is will help us establish his links, his history, his associates, and ultimately determine the circumstances surrounding his death,” Det Ch Insp Cullen said.

The Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said police need help from the community to give this man back his rightful identity.

“The tragedy about this case is that someone somewhere is wondering where their brother is, where their mate is, maybe where their dad is, and this could be him,” Mr Elliott said.

“NSW Police Force detectives are highly-skilled investigators but they can’t succeed without information.

“If you are missing someone who matches this profile, please call your nearest police station or Crime Stoppers – it may be the call that solves this mystery, and ends a lot of heartache for a family,” he said.

Anyone with information about this investigation is asked to contact Tweed Heads Police Station or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Anyone with information about Strike Force Tukara is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.

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