Police are investigating whether the Jetstar pilot arrested over the mysterious disappearance of two elderly campers repainted his 4WD a different colour soon after they vanished.
Gregory Lynn, 55, was apprehended by heavily armed police in a dramatic operation on Monday, which saw special operations officers swoop in on two helicopters to make the arrest at a remote campsite in Victoria and seize his vehicle.
Detectives recently made a public appeal for a blue late 90s Nissan Patrol which had been captured on CCTV in the area at the time Russell Hill, 74, and Ms Carol Clay, 73, are believed to have been murdered during a secret camping trip in Wonnangatta Valley in March 2020.
The pilot’s Nissan Patrol, which has been seized, is the same make and model as the one police were looking for, and has the same roof rack – but is beige, not blue.
With Mr Lynn reportedly under the eye of police for many months, they are now investigating whether he repainted the car shortly after the couple disappeared.
Police teams executing search warrants also swarmed Lynn’s Caroline Springs home on the outskirts of Melbourne’s west, leaving neighbours on the quiet suburban street stunned.
The Qantas subsidiary has now stood down the senior pilot, although no charges have been laid as of late Tuesday night.
Keen camper and dad Gregory Lynn, 55, (pictured) was apprehended by heavily armed police in a dramatic operation on Monday, which saw special operations officers swoop in on a helicopter to make the arrest
The mid-1990s model Nissan Patrol (pictured) is now central to the investigation because painstaking video analysis has managed to account for every car exiting the remote valley that weekend – except the blue 4WD
The secret lovers snuck off for a trip to Victoria’s remote Wonnangatta Valley on March 20, 2020 and have never been heard from since.
Investigators were baffled by the lack of solid leads in the case until painstaking video analysis uncovered a mysterious off-road vehicle towing a trailer, near the remote campsite.
Detectives said the blue 4WD was the only vehicle unaccounted for on the night they vanished.
But when SOG teams in tactical gear rushed in to arrest Mr Lynn in remote bushland at Licola, north of Sale, about 100km south of where the couple vanished, they found a 4WD matching what they were looking for – but coloured beige.
It has now been taken back to the Forensic Services Centre at Macleod in Melbourne’s north east and will be examined for evidence.
The off-roader (pictured) which police are investigating whether was painted beige, was taken by police on Monday at a remote campsite in East Gippsland where heavily armed officers swooped on the suspect, north of Sale
Russell Hill (pictured, left) and Carol Clay (right) are believed to have been murdered during a camping trip
The 4WD (pictured in a police sketch) has roof racks, side steps, off-road tyres and a bulbar. The box trailer is ‘fairly standard’ but has been fitted with ‘off-road wheels’
Mr Lynn’s social media profile shows a wholesome family man with an enthusiasm for camping and a love of nature.
A shocked neighbour who witnessed swarms of investigators descend on the street recalled meeting the man now at the centre of one Australia’s biggest mystery cases.
‘I was washing my car… I saw the guy coming… he just walked past and I said “hi”,’ the resident told the Herald Sun.
‘He said “welcome to the street”… we just had a chat and we spoke about an incident where some kids got attacked around here a few weeks ago.
‘I said “we will have a beer sometime”, and that was it.’
A 55-year-old man suspected of involvement in the disappearance of the missing couple was arrested on Monday
Mr Lynn told him he worked for Jetstar, but the airline has now ‘removed him from duty as a result of their arrest’.
The carrier told Daily Mail Australia the airline ‘has been advised by Victoria Police that one of its employees is under investigation for a serious crime’.
The Qantas subsidiary said it ‘will work to assist in this due process any way we can’.
As well as flying for the budget Aussie airline, the Caroline Springs man also worked for Qatar Airways from 2002 to 2007.
Lynn (pictured) also worked for Qatar Airways
Ms Clay’s sister Jill Walker said the development in the case took her by surprise after so much heartache.
‘It’s absolutely amazing actually but scared as well because we’ve been holding this together for 20 months now… 20 months is a long time,’ she told 7News.
‘It’s been an incredible shock and because it’s been such a mystery, it’s been a bit unfathomable. There’s no sense that there’s a reason for this.
‘If this can be resolved we can then let go, have a memorial and move on. But until that happens, we can’t.’
Mrs Hill’s wife said for her the most important thing is to find the couple’s bodies.
‘We want an answer,’ Mrs Hill told the Herald Sun.
‘I just want them found, that’s all we want. The rest will follow. We need closure.’
Ms Clay’s sister Jill Walker said the development in the case took her by surprise after so much heartache. Pictured: Carol Clay
Russel Hill (pictured) was an experienced bushman who new the remote area well – but has not been seen for 20 months
When detectives released the CCTV image of the 4WD they refused to say whether the camera atop Mount Hotham had captured the vehicle’s registration plate, but it now appears almost certain it had.
The Homicide Squad reportedly had the 55-year old under heavy surveillance for weeks, if not months.
Police made repeated public appeals for information when the elderly campers went missing 20 months ago, just days prior to Australia being plunged into the Covid pandemic.
Mr Hill left his Drouin home on March 19 and picked up Ms Clay from her home in Pakenham in his white Toyota LandCruiser.
The experienced bushman made a call via HF radio to his best mate best mate Rob Ashlin on the evening of March 20, saying he was at Wonnangatta Valley in the Victorian Alps.
The pair went missing in the Wonnangatta Valley, more than 200km north east of Melbourne
Mr Hill’s white Toyota Landcruiser (pictured) was found with minor fire damage at their burnt campsite near Dry River Creek Track in the valley on March 21
An aerial view of the remote Wonnangatta Valley shows where the couple went camping
On March 21, campers found the couple’s campsite near Dry River Creek Track in the valley completely scorched with Mr Hill’s car suffering minor fire damage.
Detectives believe the pair were attacked between 6pm and 11pm during a random confrontation with another camper, who then set their campsite alight to cover their tracks.
Witnesses have since come forward with new information that revealed just how difficult – and dangerous – it would have been for the killer to flee the high country on the night the lovers vanished.
A motorist, believed to be towing a trailer, was seen driving erratically around midnight after reaching a closed gate on a narrow stretch of road north of the campsite.
Finding the road unalterably blocked, the driver – who was heading towards Myrtleford – would have needed to have performed a difficult u-turn with a trailer on the narrow road to go back the way the car had come.
Mr Lynn’s social media profile shows a wholesome family man with an enthusiasm for camping and a love of nature
A man was dramatically taken into custody by special operations officers over as part of the investigation into missing campers Carol Clay (left) and Russell Hill (right). The pair have not been heard from since March 20, 2020
Hours later, the Nissan Patrol was snapped by a roadside security camera 60km away on the Great Alpine Road at Mount Hotham just after sunrise.
If so, the driver would have required considerable expertise of the area to navigate the perilous journey between the two locations.
The drive between the sightings would have involved tricky driving routes on challenging remote tracks that zig-zag through the region.
Possessions belonging to the couple were found inside Mr Hill’s Toyota 4WD at the scene.
The only things missing were their mobile phones and a remote control drone that is yet to be recovered.
Mr Hill’s wife Robyn, 71, said she had no idea her husband was with another woman when he went missing.
She said her husband had been friendly with Ms Clay for decades but was unaware they were travelling together.