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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

My Brit son vanished on a gap year and all we found was a shark-gnawed bone – I’ll never know what happened to him

WHEN Tania MacNabb hugged her son goodbye at the airport as he headed off backpacking, she didn’t realise it would be the last hug they ever shared.

Her son, Hugo Palmer, 20, had been saving for months to go on an adventure of a lifetime to Australia with four of his friends.


Hugo Palmer, 20, saved for months to go on an adventure of a lifetime to Australia with his pals[/caption]


Hugo’s mum said leaving Australia after her son went missing was the hardest thing she’s ever had to do[/caption]


But their travels ended in tragedy after Hugo and his best friend, Erwan Ferrieux, vanished three months into the trip and never returned.

Their belongings were found on a beach in New South Wales, leading police to believe they had drowned after being dragged underwater by dangerous riptides – well known by locals, but not by tourists.

Tragically, Hugo’s body was never recovered, and Tania and her family were only able to hold a proper funeral with a single bone that had been recovered – which was discovered after having been gnawed by a shark.

And the mystery deepened when cops confirmed Hugo was dead before his body was likely eaten by a shark – leaving his family with few clues on his cause of death.


His heartbroken mum Tania has bravely decided to speak out to warn thousands of teens about to set off on gap year adventures.

She claims the beach Hugo died at lured in tourists without properly warning them of the dangers.

Speaking from her home in Forest Row, Sussex, Tania said: “He was so excited for his life to begin, he wanted to go and have this huge adventure – and it was all snatched away from him.

“The last phonecall I had with him, I lectured him about driving safely – I wish I had known instead to warn him about this.”


Riptides can flow at up to 5mph – faster than an Olympic swimmer – dragging even the most experienced swimmers away from the shoreline and leaving them exhausted.

Tania has since discovered the beach is notorious for strong rip tides, and locals are well aware of the dangers.

But the beach is unpatrolled, and invites tourists with a host of barbecuing facilities and beach huts for changing.

Hugo had been backpacking with five school friends around Australia for three months when he managed to save up enough money to buy a car and travel across Australia, stopping at Shelly Beach, just north of Sydney, NSW.


The boys had driven out to the beach, but the alarm was only raised the following morning when locals found their belongings still lying on a beach towel.

When Hugo’s belongings were returned to his family, heart-breakingly, the page of his Lonely Planet travel guide was turned down at Shelly Beach.

Tania recalled: “We flew straight out to Australia, and when we were there, so many locals told us they are always pulling tourists from the sea there.

“It was like a scene from Jaws – everyone was enjoying the beach but there was this huge secret that they were hiding about the water.


“Locals told us it’s notoriously dangerous, but apart from a note at the entrance along with the beach rules, there is nothing that highlights the danger.

“One man told me that he voluntarily patrols the beach on a Sunday to warn tourists about the water, but he wasn’t able to get to the beach the day Hugo died. He was devastated.”

The search for the boys was called off after a week, and Tania was forced to return home.


“Leaving Australia without Hugo was the hardest thing I have ever had to do,” she said.

“I don’t know how they got me on the plane.”

The Australian coroner recorded a verdict of death by misadventure – and believes it was likely that Hugo drowned.

Two years after the boys vanished, human remains were discovered in the sea by spear fishermen that was later identified as Hugo’s thighbone.


Chillingly, forensics teams confirmed there was a carnivorous bite on Hugo’s thigh bone – probably inflicted by a shark, although it’s not believed he was alive when this happened.

Erwan’s bones washed up at the southern end of Flynn’s Beach – a couple of miles down the coast from where they vanished.

“All we had was one femur bone,” Tania said.

“The funeral felt bizarre, I didn’t really feel anything. It is so hard being so far away from where he is and not knowing what happened in his final moments.


“Did they both go and swim together, or did one of them get into trouble and the other one try to rescue them? I will play the possibilities over in my head forever.

“If I lived nearby, I would be fighting tooth and nail for increased warnings at the beach in Hugo’s name – but it’s hard to do from the other side of the world.

“I wish I could go back to the airport and hug him just a little bit longer.

“Hugo was a really sensible and cautious lad, if he had understood how dangerous that beach was there is no way he would have gone into the water.


“If his death can help save someone else by warning them of the dangers, then I think that would be what he would have wanted.”


The Australian coroner believes it was likely that Hugo drowned[/caption]


Hugo’s mum claims the beach he died at lured in tourists without properly warning them of the dangers[/caption]
September 10, 2023 at 11:49AM

from The Sun


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