Stolen goods linked to rescue

POLICE are investigating whether a two-day search involving a helicopter was hampered by the very people being rescued. 

The bizarre story began as a missing persons' case on Friday but had turned into a burglary investigation by Saturday.  

Bridgewater Inspector Matt McCreadie said stolen property was found in a 4WD that had been used by four men who became lost in bushland in the Central Highlands. 

Police also found ammunition in the 1980s Range Rover that had no plates and was abandoned by three of the men when it became bogged in the Woods Lake area.

No weapons were located. 

Police had linked some of the property in the vehicle to the burglary of a farm at Waddamana, Inspector McCreadie said. 

The Launceston men set out from home on Wednesday night to Waddamana.

It's unclear why but one of the men became separated from the group about 11pm.

Despite being due back in Launceston that night the 23-year-old wasn't reported missing until 6am on Friday. 

He was found about two hours later when, after two days of wandering through bushland, he knocked on a farmer's door. 

The other three men had left Waddamana without their friend on Wednesday night but after driving to Cressy returned to look for him. However they got bogged about 70 kilometres away in Woods Lake.  

Two of them, aged 20 and 31, then set out together and were picked up on Saturday morning on a rural road by a fisherman who drove them to Cressy where they were spoken to by police. 

The third man  was found about 2pm that day after reportedly also walking on to a road and being picked up by two tourists.  

Police  located him and later found the Range Rover containing ``items of interest'' believed to be stolen and confirmed stolen property.

All men were found exhausted but physically unharmed.

Police have asked property owners in the Central Highlands to check their farm buildings or shacks and report any items that may have been stolen since Wednesday.

Inspector McCreadie, who led the search for the missing men, said the police priority was always to protect life and property.

``No matter how people come to get into difficulty we will search for them.  The families of these men did the right thing reporting them missing,'' he said.

He said police would examine whether the men were actively evading police during the costly operation. 

No charges have been laid.

Police are asking members of the public who may have seen the gold or light brown 1980s model Range Rover 4WD, or any person acting suspiciously in any of the areas surrounding Bothwell, Waddamana, Woods Lake, Arthurs Lake, Dee Lagoon and Ouse to contact them on 131 444 or Crime Stoppers.