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EXCLUSIVE: Search for Esther Wallace again extended following discovery of footwear prints

December 7, 2022

The search is focusing on Boree Creek. Google Maps.

By Peter Holmes

The search for Esther Wallace has been extended into an eighth day following the discovery of footwear prints.

The Orange News Examiner has been told that flat footwear prints consistent with sandals were found by searchers on Tuesday, and it is understood they have been sent for laboratory testing.

The prints were one of a few items of interest found during Tuesday’s operation. The Orange News Examiner is not aware of the nature of the other items.

The search for 47-year-old Wallace, who was reported missing from Federal Falls by a friend last Wednesday morning, was due to be shut down at sundown on Tuesday.

It was felt that there was no way someone could survive without food in the bush for this long.

According to a source the flat prints had maintained their integrity, meaning they hadn’t been trampled by wild pigs or kangaroos. This suggested they may only be a few days old.

The Orange News Examiner understands the prints were not located in an area that would normally be traversed by bushwalkers. If they were created by Wallace’s sandals, it could suggest that she had been following a water source but become disorientated.

The staging post for the search shifted on Wednesday morning from Federal Falls campground to Lidster RFS.

The source said the discovery of more items of interest "we can’t exclude as signs of life” meant the search would continue.

“Even as remote as that possibility is, we can’t discount it.”

The search on Tuesday and Wednesday included NSW Police, NSW Ambulance, NSW Rural Fire Service and NSW SES, police told The Orange News Examiner.

Boree Creek runs from Towac Way through Federal Falls and Glenwood State Forest to Cargo Road at Lidster.

With police and volunteers from the Rural Fire Service and the SES succumbing to exhaustion and injuries, it is believed the main source of manpower today will be supplied by police.

Google Earth/NSW Police.

On Tuesday police said the man who was with Esther Wallace around Federal Falls before she vanished had “been very helpful with the enquiries”.

“[He has] provided a lot of information that's been able to help us focus where the search should be,” said acting superintendent Gerard Lawson, relieving commander at Central West Police District.

Police have given little away during the search.

Federal Falls, generic image. VisitNSW.

They have held no formal press conferences and kept details supplied to enquiring media to a minimum, only releasing the agencies involved in each day's search, and information about the times of day the search was conducted. Other questions relating to the search have been left unanswered in email responses.

Two reporters - from the ABC and The Orange News Examiner - were able to speak briefly to acting superintendent Lawson when he attended the aftermath of the fire at Glenroi Heights Public School early on Tuesday morning.

Asked by The Orange News Examiner if there was a reason for this low-key approach, Lawson said on Tuesday: “No, there's no reason for that. It's just us getting on with business.

“We've been focused on the search for this woman, trying to find her because as you can appreciate, the longer she's missing the less chance of finding her well. [It] evaporates.”

He said the search was “rugged and quite difficult”.

“We have had the family kept informed, but everyday we reassess," he said. "I can tell you the search won't continue indefinitely, but we do make an assessment every day about what will happen the next day.”

Asked if he was confident Esther Wallace was somewhere around Federal Falls, Lawson said: “There's always that possibility that she's been able to find her way off the mountain and is elsewhere, and if that's the case and people know where she is, please come forward and tell us. There's a reason why we're concentrating our search here.”

The multi-agency search for Wallace was extended following the discovery of two items around Federal Falls on Sunday.

The Orange News Examiner revealed that a hi-vis jacket thought to belong to Wallace was found at the base of a wall of blackberry during the search on Sunday. Sources would not comment on the second item.

It is understood the discovery led police to extend the search by two days - Monday and Tuesday.

When Wallace was first reported missing NSW Police said she was wearing an orange jacket, black pants and sandals.

It is believed the jacket was located in an area that had been searched multiple times, and was said to be in reasonably good condition.

Those in the search parties were updated on Sunday on the chances of someone surviving in the bush under different scenarios, such as if Wallace had access to drinking water, or had been injured or become disorientated.

They were told that in the best case scenario a fit person with bush smarts could survive for up to seven days, but that if Wallace had been injured after going missing survival could be limited to three days.


Those involved in the search have faced challenging conditions. The terrain is dense and muddy. There are landslides, and plenty of snakes and insects, including armies of vicious jumping jack ants, on the move. Searchers are said to be coated in stinging nettles.

The search was due to be called off on Sunday night, however the discovery of the hi-vis jacket and the second item have led police to extend the search through Monday and Tuesday. It is believed the search will be focused around the area where the jacket was located.

About 8.30am last Wednesday emergency services responded to reports that a woman had become separated from a companion while bushwalking at Federal Falls through the Mount Canobolas State Recreation Area, approximately 20km southwest of Orange.

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