The homicide squad is now involved in the search for a missing mother of two in northern Victoria, after her burnt-out car was found at Myrtleford, police say.
Karen Chetcuti, 49, a mother of two teenagers from Whorouly, near Wangaratta, was reported missing about 9:30pm on Wednesday.
A red Citroen sedan, believed to belong to a local council worker, was found engulfed in flames on Halls Road, Myrtleford, early on Thursday morning.
The missing persons squad was leading the investigation, but the homicide squad is now assisting, police said.
Detective Sergeant Sol Soloman from the homicide squad said a concerned friend reported her missing.
“The lady didn’t turn up to work on Wednesday, she didn’t make any contact with anyone throughout the day,” he said.
“This is completely out of character by her. She is described by people who know her as being very punctual, efficient, she’s very highly thought of.
“Local police went to her home and she wasn’t there. Her car was missing but it was discovered that there were lights on in the house and her handbag and purse were still there.”
Detective Sergeant Soloman said there was no sign of struggle at Ms Chetcuti’s house but said her mobile phone was also missing.
“She lives a normal lifestyle. She doesn’t just disappear without letting the family know and the fact that her car was discovered a long way away from her home, completely burnt out, raises the spectre of alarm even greater,” he said.
“We’ve been searching a wide area today between the vicinity of where the car was found at Myrtleford and taking in a number of points of interest up to Whorouly.
“I really hope she’s still alive but the longer it goes, the more grave the situation becomes in relation to her survival.”
Teenaged children ‘distraught’
He said the last sighting of Ms Chetcuti they knew of was at the pub between 5:30pm and 7:30pm on Tuesday, but she was acting normally.
“There was nothing untoward about her attendance there or her activities there,” he said.
“Her demeanour was described to us as being totally normal, nothing out of order.”
Detective Sergeant Soloman said they still hoped to find Ms Chetcuti alive.
“Her children are completely distraught and very concerned about their mother and what may have happened to her,” he said.
Police have asked anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers.
“If they’ve seen that car parked anywhere or being driven around by anybody … or any information they may have about Karen and any concerns she may have been having would be of great assistance,” Detective Sergeant Soloman said.