More than 60 police officers have been joined by cadaver dogs and volunteers in Wednesday’s search for Allecha Boyd’s remains, concentrating on a 600 metre-wide zone within a state forest southwest of Coolamon.
Police are working shoulder-to-shoulder as they scour dense bushland in the Lester State Forest with the aim of returning the missing Wagga woman to her family.
Ms Boyd, 27, was last seen in Coolamon on August 10 last year, and police allege she was murdered some time that afternoon. While searches of bushland have been made around the area, her body is yet to be found.
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This search marks the third large-scale combing of the forest during the investigation into Ms Boyd’s disappearance and alleged murder at the hands of two men, who were charged separately in 2017. The case is still before the court.
“The main objective here today is to find Allecha Boyd and bring her back to her family,” Wagga Police District crime manager Detective Inspector Darren Cloake said at the scene.
“I wish I could say that definitively we would find her here today but it’s a difficult task – in most cases you find your own luck through action and this is a clear example of us demonstrating that.
“During the course of the investigation more information has come our way which has allowed us to clearly identify some specific areas.
“We use technology, witness accounts and a whole range of movements to build a complete picture. There’s no guarantees that we’ll find her here but police will continue to search this area until Allecha is discovered and we can bring her back to her family.”
The search, which forms part of inquiries by Strike Force Amias, began at 6am on Wednesday morning and involves police from the southern and western regions, the dog squad and public order unit.
Two cadaver dogs joined the search and were being used in short bursts to assist ground searchers and to help speed up the process.
Senior Constable Adam Aitken from the dog squad said while the weather was favourable to searching, the belief that Ms Boyd was buried means the difficulty of the search increases.
“We believe that she is buried, so the search becomes a lot harder,” he said.
“We have to stay close with the other troops that are here and work in with them, so when they find something of interest we’re able to be deployed straight there and have a look at that area.
“We’ve got good sunshine and a light breeze. If the odor’s there, it will come across to the dog and the dog will use her trained responses.”
Officers were close as they conducted a shoulder-to-shoulder line search across specific sections of the state forest.
“(Police are) probing the ground, trying to create a pathway for those pathogens to rise to the surface to give the dogs the best advantage towards trying to locate the grave site,” Detective Inspector Cloake said.
“The objective is to return Allecha Boyd back to her immediate family, but certainly there’s a large degree of forensic interest that we have in terms of progressing the homicide investigation. A body of any nature will obviously help us determine the cause of death and identify that person to the satisfaction of the coroner and hopefully secure convictions before the courts.”
Ms Boyd had moved to Wagga two years ago, after living in South Australia and Victoria, and was working as a chef in the city prior to her disappearance.
A 19-year-old man was arrested when police raided a Gurwood Street home in Wagga on November 7. He was charged with murder, possessing an unauthorised prohibited firearm, possessing ammunition without a permit, not keeping a prohibited firearm safe and breach of bail. A second man, 37-year-old Samuel John Shephard, was charged with murder two weeks later.
Two months prior to the arrests, Ms Boyd’s sisters Rhiannan and Tammara Boyd offered a $100,000 reward in a public appeal for information.
Detective Inspector Cloake said police remain in regular contact with Ms Boyd’s family.
“They’ve lost a sister, they’ve lost a daughter, an aunty and they haven’t got the complete picture yet because it’s an ongoing investigation,” he said.
“Certainly if anything is discovered they’ll be the first to know.”