23 August 2019

Man charged following hoax missing swimmer report

| Ian Campbell
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Gillards Beach, north of Tathra. Photo: NPWS

Gillards Beach, north of Tathra. Photo: NPWS.

The community has welcomed news that the alleged fraudster at the centre of last week’s search and rescue operation off the Far South Coast has come forward and will face court.

News of the Gillards Beach hoax upset many at the weekend, with police launching a criminal investigation and a search of a different kind to locate the 42-year-old Victorian man at the centre of the story.

Police say “a man has been charged after he filed a false missing person report.”

Jenny Robb writes on About Regional Facebook, “Glad he has to face the music!”

Emma Tweedie says “I hope he is made to pay for all the emergency services that wasted their time on this.”

A court attendance notice has been issued and the wanted man is now due to appear before Bega Local Court on Tuesday, October 15, after his solicitors in NSW made contact with police on behalf of their client.

Police are yet to interview the man, and he remains in the community.

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

Speaking to Region Media on Saturday (August 17) morning when news of the hoax broke, Chief Inspector Peter Volf said, “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.”

Chief Inspector Volf said the court will decide if the man is asked to pay the cost of the rescue effort which is estimated to be around $1 million.

The saga started just before dusk on Wednesday, August 14, a massive land, air, and sea search that was ready to push into its third full day before the lies were uncovered.

Police initially reported that the man’s twin brother had found his siblings belongings on the Gillards Beach, between Tatha and Bermagui and raised the alarm.

An extraordinary effort followed 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 – all in vain.

It’s thought the man was going to assume the identity of his made-up twin in order to dodge fraud charges in Victoria.

Local police and Bega Valley SES crews on Gillards Beach, Aug 15. Photo: Bega Valley SES Units Facebook.

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