The mystery of the identity of skeletal remains found in the Tasmanian bush appears to be solved, but the puzzle of whose bones lay in dense scrub for years may have never been answered if not for a stroke of luck.
The discovery of human remains in thick bush south of Hobart by bushwalkers a week ago led to Tasmania Police issuing a call for help.
Police released a photo from an SD card found in a backpack of a man they said at the time could “possibly” be the deceased and asked for anyone with information regarding his identity to contact them.
On Sunday night, Michael Nydegger contacted the ABC in Hobart from Switzerland to identify himself as the man in the photo.
Mr Nydegger said he had been alerted to the story of the missing man by a friend, who had seen the story and sent him a link to a Swiss newspaper article.
“I opened it, read it and saw my picture on the article and said, ‘that’s me’,” Mr Nydegger said.
“I said well yep, I know who [the deceased] is.
“This is a friend of mine, a dear friend of mine, one of the best friends I ever had.”
‘It must have been an accident’
Mr Nydegger said his friend Thomas Münger left Switzerland in December 2010, intending “to have a new life and said he was going to do something completely different”.
“He had been to Tasmania before. He was quite fond of fishing — he had been to New Zealand and he liked it there, and it is of no surprise to me that I hear something of Tasmania,” he said.
“It may have been an accident. I guess he must have come off the path or something or must have had an injury or something, who knows,” he said.
“It is a shame that he had been lying there for six years. This must happened after just a short time that he went away from Switzerland, so it is a shame.”
Mr Nydegger said after he saw the story he contacted the deceased’s family, telling a relative “I found this article and that I strongly think it is his brother”.
“It is a closure of some kind. We all knew that we may never hear from him again,” he said.
“We always hoped we would hear from him again.”
After being contacted by Mr Nydegger, the ABC notified Tasmania Police.
You’ll hear from me ‘sooner or later’, deceased told family
Erich Münger confirmed the family had been contacted by Tasmania Police about Thomas, whom he had not heard from since he left in 2010.
“It’s not really a shock, it’s bad news but somehow surprised, somehow not,” Mr Münger said via Skype from Switzerland.
“He said he like to leave Switzerland and start a new life somewhere else on this world, so he said ‘you won’t hear from me … but sooner or later you’ll hear from me again’.”
“We expected to hear before now, but the longer it takes we think something happened.”
Mr Münger, who has two other brothers, said as they did not know where Thomas was, they did not report the matter to police.
“[Thomas] said that he liked Tasmania and New Zealand, that is the most favourite place he’s seen on his trip around the world,” Mr Münger said.
On Sunday afternoon, Tasmania Police said they were “liaising with the family and Swiss authorities to verify the information”.
“We are working to confirm the deceased man’s identity. It’s important to provide answers to the deceased’s family and return the remains to them,” Detective Acting Sergeant Michael Manning said.
Information can be provided anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online at crimestopperstas.com.au.