Rachel Antonio: Police to start searching Bowen tip
POLICE are preparing to conduct an exploratory dig at the Bowen tip in north Queensland, in a renewed hunt for the body of missing schoolgirl Rachel Antonio.
The unprecedented dig would initially seek to locate and assess waste from the period when the 16-year-old went missing, to determine if it could yield evidence.
It comes after a Courier-Mail podcast series revealed a former tip manager kept diaries of where he put the town's rubbish at the time.
Rachel disappeared 19 years ago, on Anzac Day 1998, after being dropped off at a cinema by her mum.
Parents Ian and Cheryl Antonio, who believe her body may have been put in a skip and ended up at the tip, welcomed the renewed investigations.
"I'm happy they're going to have a look. I think they have to," Mr Antonio said yesterday.
"I don't expect them to dig up the whole tip, but to do a bit and see if there's any hope of finding anything, I feel that's the best way to go."
Former tip manager Hugh Smith's diaries include a hand-drawn map showing where he put rubbish the week after Rachel went missing.
Detectives plan to first dig up an area where the diaries show waste was dumped eight months after Rachel vanished, The Courier-Mail has been told.
A forensics officer will assess how much the waste has degraded, as a guide to whether further searches should be conducted.
The dig was to go ahead as early as this month but has been delayed because of wet and wild weather.
Bowen is still recovering after being hit hard by category 4 Cyclone Debbie, and police need to wait until the ground has dried out. The tip has never been searched. The view is that Rachel's body may have been put there because of limited time to dispose of her.
A coroner last year found that former Bowen Surf Life Saving Club captain Robert Hytch, who was then 25, killed Rachel and hid her body after a secret romance.
Mr Hytch, who is appealing the coroner's findings and has always denied any involvement in the disappearance, has no one to verify his whereabouts for about half an hour on the night Rachel vanished. A shirt he wore has never been found and is among items police would seek to find in any tip search.