A YELLOW ute believed to hold crucial evidence to a cold-case murder has been uncovered in Tenterfield.
The owners of the 1980 model XD Ford yellow utility had no idea it could be connected to the killing of Bingara man Darren Royce Willis, until police came knocking.
The yellow ute – which was at the centre of of a public appeal for information earlier this month by Strike Force Barca – sent detectives hunting leads through NSW and Queensland, and a list of previous owners.
Eventually, they traced the ute to Tenterfield. It was seized and is undergoing forensic examination by specialist officers. Police believe it could hold vital DNA clues to solving the murder.
Investigators believe it was used in the suspicious disappearance of the 45-year-old in 2010, at some time before his body was dumped. His remains have never been found.
On Thursday, Detective Inspector Ann Joy said the car had been seized earlier this month, but it had taken some time to verify that it was the exact ute central to the homicide investigation.
"People have contacted us with information that investigators have had no prior dealings with," she said.
"There are completely fresh lines of inquiry and they are significant in terms of the investigation progress."
Detectives are also hunting several new leads including pinpointing the day Mr Willis, also known as Spaz, was murdered.
Police believe he had been drinking at the Sportsman's Hotel on the night of December 10, 2010, then left, before locals possibly saw him near the Imperial Hotel.
The final movements now centre on a seven-day period after December 10.
"We've gathered new information that assisted in the investigation on a particular day post the 10th of December to establish his movements," Detective Joy said.
"They'll continue to work out those to build a timeline of events, to narrow down his movements.
"We've certainly seen some significant developments in the investigation since that last public appeal."
Police have "persons of interest" that have been identified in the investigation, but no arrests or charges have been laid.
A YELLOW ute that is key to the suspected murder of a New England man has been found and seized by police.
Strike Force Barca - the police operation set up to investigate the suspicious disappearance and murder of Darren Royce Willis - confirmed they had seized the early-model ute that they believe is linked to his death.
The 1980 model XD Ford cream/yellow utility - which was at the centre of a public appeal for help earlier this month - was seized and is being forensically combed for clues.
Police believe it could hold vital DNA clues to solving the murder. Investigators believe it was used in the killing of the 45-year-old before his body was dumped. His remains have never been found.
New England Detective Inspector Ann Joy said police "had made significant developments" in the cold case.
She said investigators "believe the vehicle is of significant forensic value" and it is continuing to undergo forensic examination.
As a result of community help, detectives believe they have uncovered more information on Mr Willis', also known as “Spaz”, last movements in December 2010 in Bingara.
"During the same appeal, new information not previously known by police was obtained. This has assisted investigators to confirm Mr Willis' last movements," she said.
Previously, detectives believed he was last seen leaving a local Bingara hotel on the night of December 10, 2010, and had been investigating his movements over a seven-day period.
"The fresh information provided has allowed investigators to focus in on a particular day during that week," she confirmed on Thursday morning.
"We now expect to narrow down the movements of both Mr Willis, and those responsible for his murder, on that particular day."
Following on from the most recent appeal, Detective Inspector Joy said investigators are urging locals or anyone with information who might have come into contact with Mr Willis in his final days, to come forward.
"Detectives are urging any person that believes they had contact with Mr Willis in any way prior to his death to look through any physical records they may hold," she said.
"This may include diaries, accounts, or phone records that would assist with their recollections of dates."
Anyone with information is urged to contact Moree detectives on 6757 0799.
Mr Willis' body has never been found, but a breakthrough in the case in 2018 turned the long-term missing person report into a murder cold case – prompting a $350,000 reward for any information that leads police to his killers.
Already, detectives have identified “persons of interest”.
In late May, as part of the murder probe, specialist officers and divers combed the river and its banks in the Eaglehawk Reserve, or Four Mile area as its known to locals, on the outskirts of Bingara.