The mother of Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez, who has been missing for more than a year, has thanked the community that refuses to stop looking for him.
The 19-year-old vanished on May 31 last year in Byron Bay, northern New South Wales and has not been seen or heard from since.
The Belgian backpacker’s mother Vinciane Delforge thanked the Byron Bay locals who created a moving tribute to the teenager on Sunday night – the one year anniversary of his disappearance.
A photo of Hayez was projected across the town’s famous lighthouse while the tribute was live streamed online.
The lighthouse was also lit up in orange, Theo’s favourite colour.
Vinciane Delforge (pictured with son Theo Hayez) has thanked the Byron Bay community that refuses to give up looking for her son who was last seen in the beach town a year ago
Theo Hayez with his girlfriend Severine Marcotty. Theo vanished on May 31 last year after leaving Cheeky Monkey’s in Byron Bay, northern New South Wales
‘From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank all those who contributed to (Sunday’s) incredibly beautiful event in honour of Theo,’ Ms Delforge said in a statement on Tuesday.
‘I wish I had been there with you all and I think a lot about you, the Byron Bay community, my Australian friends.
‘Your continuous support means a lot to us.
‘It helps us endure this very difficult time and the pain of not knowing what happened to Theo.’
Ms Delforge had previously taken a relatively minor role in the public appearances and appeals by Theo’s family, with his father Laurent Hayez leading the campaign after flying to Australia soon after the disappearance.
The backpacker’s cousin, Lisa Hayez, also paid tribute to the backpacker and Byron Bay community during Sunday’s service.
Locals created a Looking for Theo Facebook page which regularly carries out searches for the missing teenager and shares any updates on Hayez’ disappearance.
Theo’s family have fought tirelessly to find out what happened after he went missing in Byron Bay last year (Mr Hayez (centre) pictured with his friend and Theo’s female cousin) at a media conference in 2019
Theo Hayez was last seen leaving the Cheeky Monkey Bar on May 31 in Byron Bay, northern New South Wales
‘We all miss you so much. You’re the kind of person who brings so much happiness to everyone who meets you,’ Lisa said in a video displayed on the lighthouse.
‘You cannot imagine how much I miss your laugh… every time I saw you I couldn’t stop laughing because you were naturally making me so happy.
‘Since the 31st of May, Byron Bay changed. People who didn’t know each other before united with the same goal; finding you.
‘They never stopped for a second, and trust me they’re not ready to stop til we know what happened to you.
‘I promise you that we’re never going to give up. I hope so much that wherever you are, you’re okay and happy.’
The family have maintained Hayez was not alone on the night he disappeared.
The leading theory in Hayez’s disappearance is that he fell into the sea while trying to climb cliffs near Tallows Beach and his body was washed away.
Police began a land, sea and air search when they were alerted to his disappearance by staff at the Wake Up! Hostel in Byron Bay on June 6.
Hostel staff raise the alarm after finding his belongings, including his passport, left untouched.
The only possible trace of the teenager was a cap similar to one he wore that was found in bushland near the lighthouse
The only possible trace of the teenager was a cap similar to one he wore that was found in bushland near the lighthouse.
Hayez’s father made an emotional public appeal to help find his son after news broke he was missing.
‘I promised Theo’s little brother that I would bring his brother home. Please, help me keep my promise to him,’ he told reporters through tears at Tweed Heads Police Station.
Hayez’s disappearance made headlines around the world and several volunteer groups formed to search for him.
The case has been referred to the NSW coroner.
Hayez’s godfather Jean-Philippe Pector says he is still overwhelmed with grief as the one year anniversary of Theo’s disappearance looms.
‘In my mind, somewhere, I don’t want to believe that it happened — I don’t know if it’s a way to protect myself,’ he told ABC.
‘When I wake up at night, my brain does not stop working on what should I do, or is there more to do?’
He insists that the search for Theo will not stop until ‘we think we have nothing more to do’.
Data from Theo’s phone has traced this route as his last known movements before he vanished on the night of May 31 2019