Mystery of the missing gold diggers

Written By komlim puldel on Kamis, 09 April 2015 | 20.01

Missing prospecting couple Jennie and Raymond Kehlet. Picture: Nine News Perth Source: Supplied

LIKE many prospectors before them, Raymond and Jennie Kehlet headed out to the picturesque mid-west region of Western Australia hoping to strike it rich.

They were experienced campers but prospecting novices, having recently developed the gold-digging bug.

But it has been more than two weeks since anyone has seen the WA couple prompting fears for their welfare.

The search for the Kehlets started last weekend after their Great Dane wandered into the Sandstone caravan park.

The Beverley couple were last spotted prospecting near the Table Top area on March 22 and were expected to return home for Easter.

A quick search of the couple's campsite, which was located 25kms outside of town, revealed they had not taken their cars, quad bike, generator, phones and credit cards.

All they were believed to be have with them was a metal detector, a GPS and some water.

For just over a week dozens of police and SES volunteers have been combing the vast terrain hoping to find the pair but have so far failed to locate any trace of them.

On Wednesday morning there was a development in the search, with a specialist search crew finding skeletal remains in an abandoned mine shaft not far from the Sandstone townsite, but it is believed they are not of the pair.

WA Police have said they were unable to identify the remains adding a forensic examination is still to be completed.

A few locals from the town have told they understood the remains found were too old to be the Beverley couple prompting more questions over where they could be.

Police have not ruled out foul play.

According to Sandstone shire president Beth Walton, the 49-year-old and 47-year-old are not the first prospectors to go missing in the region but they are the first couple.

She also told the local community still held out hope they would be found alive but warned the vast terrain surrounding Sandstone, a former gold-mining town 730kms north east of Perth, can be deceiving.

Those who make their way to the area in search of undiscovered riches, like the Kehlets, are aware of the dangers but most just don't how just how risky it can be, she added.

The landscape surrounding Sandstone is literally littered with 100-year-old abandoned mine shafts.

Some are marked by collars – raised earth encased by wooden logs – but most lay hidden under century-old dirt making the quest for hidden riches far more dangerous.

Ms Walton, who has lived in the region most of her life, says hundreds of prospectors pass through the town in search of gold each year but most are unaware of the hidden dangers.

"There are hundreds of mine shafts over 100 years old and some don't have collars on them," she said.

"You could just walk and fall into one."

It is this terrifying possibility that WA Police and the Kehlet's families fear may have befallen the Beverley couple.

Despite the tragic find on Wednesday, crews resumed the search this morning focusing heavily on the dozens of abandoned mine shafts in the region.

So far, more than 700sq km of the rugged terrain has been combed.

A helicopter involved in the extensive search for missing WA prospectors Raymond and Jennie Kehlet who have not been seen since March 22. Source: News Corp Australia

The couple's families' have also travelled to Sandstone to be close to the search efforts.

Mr Kehlet's daughter Charmaine Batista told Nine News earlier this week that it was "very, very difficult not knowing anything, not having any answers."

She also said her father was an experienced camper.

"He's extremely resourceful and he's very resilient. Obviously he's grown up in the country and we've done a lot of things out bush ... so he definitely knows his stuff and what to do when he's out there," she said.

Mrs Kehlet's former husband Jim Keegans also spoke adding he feared foul play might be involved.

"The police and the volunteers have got no idea, they've said it's not like any case they've had before, they just got no clue as to where they've gone," he told Nine News.

"They're looking into all possibilities, so they've got Major Crime and homicide detectives involved.

"Police have asked us to have a look to see if we can find anything suspicious or anything we think might be missing.

"We're hoping some sort of miracle happens and they turn up out of the bush but we're just hoping for the best."

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