Tourist ‘faked death’ for life of sun and sand

 

A French tourist who vanished after making a mystery triple 0 call faked his own death at a notorious suicide spot and could now live in Far North Queensland, the former lead detective on the case believes.

The triple 0 phone call was made by a man with a distinct French accent who said he had just witnessed a person jump off the well-known suicide spot The Gap at Watsons Bay in Sydney on April 11, 1998.

When authorities arrived they found a torch illuminating a backpack with the belongings of French tourist Antoine Herran, 28.

Antoine Herran
Antoine Herran

 

The Gap at Watson’s Bay.
The Gap at Watson’s Bay.

 

They later found bodies of a man and a woman, leading them to believe the Frenchman had died. But when Antoine's family arrived in Australia from France they said it wasn't his body, with police later confirming it was another man.

The Frenchman's family confirmed his voice was on the triple 0 call. His passport was also missing from his backpack.

On the day he disappeared, Antoine checked in for his flight home, sending his baggage, before he left the airport and caught a ferry to Watsons Bay.

Former NSW detective Inspector Michael Gerondis said he had no doubt Antoine faked his death so he could stay in Australia.

He said the French tourist, who had been holidaying in Australia for three weeks, had spoken to a migration agent who told him he wouldn't be able to stay in the country.

"I'm sure he is living under an assumed name," Mr Gerondis said.

"There's no way he jumped off, he was very calm on the phone call.

"He will be in Queensland or up in the Northern Territory if you ask me.

"You go up to Queensland and that's what he really liked, the beach, the hot weather, the sun. He'd had two previous trips to Australia and I know he had liked the outback and he liked the coast.

"He's invented a new self and he's living a new life, he didn't want to go back to cold old raining France and he stayed here."

Mr Gerondis said the Frenchman had researched the coastguard and sent flowers to a friend back in France for an event he was supposed to be attending.

Former police detective turned journalist Meni Caroutas has investigated the case for years and spoke to Antoine's sister Sophie, 46, for his podcast The Missing.

The parents and sister of missing French tourist Antoine Herran
The parents and sister of missing French tourist Antoine Herran

Despite still being angry about flying out to identify his body, she hoped he would make contact with them.

"I love you and hope you are fine, you feel good and you feel happy in your life," Sophie told the podcast.

"Twenty two years ago you do a choice but I can accept your choice but you must only tell us you are alive.

"Because we need to know. For us, for our parents, you must tell us you are alive. For us it's too difficult to live like that. All every day I think of you. Everything I remember you."

His sister says she has a recurring dream about her brother.

"I turn around and recognise him immediately. In this dream I saw him with a woman with long blonde hair and two children."
Antoine would now be 50 years old.

He is described as caucasian, 182cm tall with a medium build. He was last seen wearing beige trousers, a yellow anorak and Akubra hat.

He has a scar on his stomach in the shape of a question mark.

The Frenchman could speak three languages, had thick round glasses and protruding ears.

Originally published as Tourist 'faked death' for sun and sand