WhatsApp to assist in search for missing Belgian backpacker in Australia

WhatsApp to assist in search for missing Belgian backpacker in Australia
Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez disappeared in Australia on 31 May. Credit: © Belga

Messaging app WhatsApp will assist police in efforts to find Théo Hayez, a Belgian student who disappeared at the end of May while on a backpacking trip in Australia, a representative of the company said on Monday.

"WhatsApp cares deeply about the safety of our users and our hearts go out to Theo Hayez and his family," a spokesman told Australian news agency AAP. "We understand the important work being carried out by law enforcement and are assisting them in accordance with applicable law and our terms of service."

The messaging app's response comes after Hayez's father called on to the company to release data which could shed more light into the disappearance of his son, saying it was of “vital” importance to determine what had happened before he went missing.

However, the messaging app said that it cannot access the content of Hayez's conversations, which are encrypted, and that they can only provide "limited data."

Hayez, an 18-year-old student from Auderghem, was last seen on May 31 as he was leaving an establishment in Byron Bay, a popular destination for backpackers in Australia.

On Monday, his father held an emotional press conference alongside local authorities, in which he called on anyone with information to reach to out to police.

A murder investigation was opened on Monday, after search efforts at the weekend yielded no results.

Two CCTV videos are so far the only evidence of the 18-year-old Belgian backpacker that police have been able to obtain since Hayez went missing over a fortnight ago.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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