Family of missing Indigenous man plead for help after Queensland police scale back search

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The family of a 27-year-old man missing in south-west Queensland say they are picking up the search for him after police scaled back their operation.

Jeremiah Rivers, from Warman in east Kimberley, has been missing since Monday 18 October.

Rivers was camping with friends near Wilsons River, about 20km south of Noccundra, before he went missing. He was travelling with the group, heading to Darwin to visit family.

Police say Rivers was last seen leaving the camping ground about 9.30am. On Monday police said they were scaling back their operation, which had involved land, aerial and underwater searches. The force says it is continuing to support the family.

Rivers’ mother Joanne Rivers, along with his aunt Belinda Rivers and uncle Digby Rivers, have travelled to Noccundra to look for him.

Belinda Rivers posted a video update to her Facebook page on Monday evening, saying there was still no sign of Jeremiah, and urged family and friends to help them.

“There’s still no update, we still haven’t found him,” she said. “And as you can see … there’s no search party, the party [has been] called off.

“But we’re here by ourselves, so if you can, come down and help. There’s no sign of him.”

The family is staying at a hotel in Noccundra, with no reception and only a single pay phone available to them.

Emma Hooper, a family friend, said they had “no funds or resources” to continue the search, having used their money to travel from the Kimberley: “There is no phone reception out there. They can only communicate via messenger wifi from the local hotel. The weather is very hot and terrain vast and harsh.”

Related: Northern Territory’s education policy hands remote Indigenous students an impossible dilemma

Hooper said she had spoken to Joanne Rivers, who said they were not using any vehicles and that they were running out of food.

“He has a very loving family, and they are desperate to find him,” she said. “It is totally out of his character not to contact his family. Please help us find him. This is a life or death situation and requires immediate help.”

Joanne Rivers has set up a Gofundme page to help fund the family’s search.

“Jayo is one of eight siblings and is loved and cherished by a large extended family of the Rivers, Purdie in the Kimberleys and NT regions,” it says. “He is an outgoing young man and avid Fremantle Dockers fan.

“It is out of character for Jayo not to contact his family. We are very concerned about this situation.”

    Hooper said the family were convinced he could stay alive for an extended period and were holding out hope to find him surviving in the wilderness.

    “Jeremiah grew up on Country. He knows bush skills, but he is on different country than his own.”

    To complicate matters, two of the people Rivers was camping with have tested positive for Covid-19, forcing three police officers into isolation.

    The group were escorted back to New South Wales by a local officer, after being intercepted by police near the Noccundra Hotel following a suspicious vehicle report.

    All the officers have returned negative Covid tests.

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