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Friend of Esther Wallace has been "very helpful" in assisting police target specific search areas

December 5, 2022

Google Earth/NSW Police.

By Peter Holmes

The man who was with Esther Wallace around Federal Falls before she vanished has “been very helpful with the enquiries”, according to acting superintendent Gerard Lawson, relieving commander at Central West Police District.

“[He has] provided a lot of information that's been able to help us focus where the search should be,” Lawson said on Tuesday.

Police have given little away during the search, which is now in its seventh day.

Federal Falls, generic image. VisitNSW.

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.

Asked by The Orange News Examiner if there was a reason for this low-key approach, Lawson said: “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 confirmed the search was continuing throughout Tuesday, describing it as “rugged and quite difficult”.

“We have had the family kept informed, but everyday we reassess. 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.”

A source told The Orange News Examiner that exhaustion was setting in among those who were scouring the challenging terrain.

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.”

As hopes fade that Wallace could survive this long in the bush, cadaver dogs trained to track the scent of human remains are on standby.

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 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 - Monday and Tuesday.

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

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

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. The weather had cooled a little on Tuesday.

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".

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