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EXCLUSIVE: Search for Esther Wallace extended after discovery of items near Federal Falls

December 5, 2022

Federal Falls, generic image. VisitNSW.

By Peter Holmes

The multi-agency search for missing bushwalker Esther Wallace has been extended following the discovery of two items around Federal Falls on Sunday.

The Orange News Examiner can reveal that a hi-vis jacket believed to belong to Wallace was found at the base of a wall of blackberry during the search on Sunday. A source would not comment on the second item.

It is understood the discovery led police to extend the search by two days.

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

Esther Wallace and an SES vehicle. NSW Police/SES.

Wallace, 47, has been missing since early Wednesday morning.

The search continued throughout daylight hours on Sunday, with resources from Central West Police District, Police Rescue, PolAir, Police trail bike, and staff and volunteers from NSW SES, RFS (including trail bike operatives) and National Parks.

Volunteers from Cadia mine also joined the search parties.

NSW Police told The Orange News Examiner on Sunday night that the search would recommence on Monday at 8am.

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.


Temperatures in Orange reached 23C on Sunday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, though a top of 27C had been forecast. [By 2pm on Monday the temperature in Orange was 28C.

On Saturday a source connected to the search told The Orange News Examiner accessible areas around Federal Falls had been thoroughly swept twice, with no sign of Wallace.

"We're persevering," said one person involved in Saturday's search.

Asked for the exact location of the search, they said: "I can say it's centred in the general Federal Falls area - I can't go any more specific than that."

In a statement NSW Police told The Orange News Examiner that a "large number of items have been found in the area, however none are confirmed to be relevant to the investigation".

Police have given little away during the search period. They have held no 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.

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