After four years without a breakthrough, NSW police have turned to Sydney’s gay and lesbian community in a bid to solve the mystery surrounding a missing French tourist.

Detectives at the NSW police Commercial Crime Agency (CCA) this week asked members of the gay and
lesbian community to come forward if they recognise Antoine Herran (pictured).

Acting on suggestions from one of Herran’s relatives in France that Herran might be gay, police now suspect the missing man came to Australia in 1998 to create a new life for himself under a presumed identity in Sydney’s gay scene.

The circumstances surrounding Herran’s disappearance continue to dumbfound authorities. In the early hours of 12 April 1998 the Frenchman vanished after phoning 000, claiming that he had just witnessed a suicide at The Gap.

The emergency personnel that responded to the call discovered what they thought were the signs of a clear-cut suicide. At the top of the cliff face they discovered Herran’s backpack with a torch shining directly on it. At the bottom of the cliff they found the body of a man.

But police became puzzled when Herran’s parents arrived in Sydney two weeks later to identify the body. After inspection, Herran’s parents declared to police that it was not the body of their son.

Police later discovered the dead man was a 27-year-old psychiatric patient who had thrown himself from the cliff hours after Herran placed the call.

Investigators said there are no suspicious connections between the disappearance of Herran and the discovery of the man’s body at the base of The Gap.

Despite the fact that there has been no confirmed sighting of Herran since that morning, police are adamant that the French tourist is still alive.

I don’t believe for a second that he is dead. To accept that, you would have to say that from the moment he left France he intended to come all the way over here to kill himself. I don’t accept that, Detective Inspector Michael Gerondis of the CCA told Sydney Star Observer.

Suspicions that Herran is leading a new life in gay Sydney surfaced two weeks ago during a police conversation with the Frenchman’s family.

One of his family members said that perhaps [Herran] was keeping a deep secret about his sexuality and [the family member] hinted that he was gay. In a small town in France that is not something that people are comfortable with, Gerondis said.

When we found his backpack there was a card in there from a karaoke-type venue where you pay to have women’s company. He was telling people that he had been going to this establishment and having fun with various women. We believe that was a way for him to throw us off the scent -“ when we started making enquiries we discovered that he had never ever been there.

Police concede that Herran’s appearance could have changed dramatically since the photo was taken, but said he could still be identified by his sticking out ears, a still identifiable French accent and a large question mark shaped scar on his stomach from an operation he had when he was a child.

Gerondis told the Starqthat he is re-releasing Herran’s photograph because investigations into the mystery are now almost at a loss.

Look, I don’t want to deport him or have him arrested. Right now we just want to help his parents and family. So if someone knows him they could ring me on his behalf and tell me his address or phone number in France -“ something that only he would know -“ we’d be happy. We need him to let his family know he’s doing OK because at the moment it is just inhumane. They are still suffering.

Anyone that might have information on the whereabouts of Antoine Herran can contact Detective Inspector Michael Gerondis or Detective Brad Nolan on 9281 0000.

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