HOMICIDE Squad detectives have commenced a search at a rural property after identifying and locating the vehicle of interest in the 2014 disappearance and suspected murder of Raphael Joseph.
Raphael Joseph, then aged 37, was last seen getting into the back seat of a silver Holden Commodore on Dartbrook Road, Auburn, about 11.20pm on Thursday, March 20, 2014.
Mr Joseph was reported missing by his family on Saturday, March 22, 2014, and it was quickly established he could have met with foul play.
Detectives from the State Crime Command's Homicide Squad, assisted by detectives from South West Metropolitan Region, established Strike Force Halfbeak to investigate the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and suspected murder.
Strike force detectives recently identified and located the silver Holden Commodore, which they believe is the vehicle Mr Joseph travelled in on the night he disappeared.
An initial inspection of the Commodore revealed a secret compartment in the dashboard, where investigators located a 'stash box', which is believed to be linked to illicit drug supply.
Further investigations also led strike force detectives to seize a further two vehicles, which also featured professionally-installed secret compartments.
The Homicide Squad's Detective Chief Inspector Grant Taylor said all the vehicles are undergoing specialist forensic examination.
"Strike Force Halfbeak detectives established the Commodore is almost as it would have been around the time of Mr Joseph's suspected murder – only the wheels have changed – and are confident the forensic results will assist with inquiries," Det Ch Insp Taylor said.
"We believe Mr Joseph trusted the occupants and voluntarily got into the car, and it's likely he was aware of the drug supply activities.
"From the information we've gathered, we believe Mr Joseph was driven from Auburn to another location and murdered."
Their investigations have led detectives to conduct a large-scale search at a rural property at Blaxlands Ridge today (Tuesday, February 20).
"We are being assisted in the search by the Forensic Evidence and Technical Services Command, Rescue and Bomb Disposal Unit, the Public Order and Riot Squad, PolAir, and local police (Hawkesbury Police Area Command)," Det Ch Insp Taylor said.
"Officers are searching for items relevant to the investigation, and we believe Mr Joseph may have been buried on the property.
"The community have been supportive of our investigation and provided assistance and information, but we know there are people who haven't been as forthcoming.
"We are confident there are people who associated with Mr Joseph and know what happened to him, even if they weren't there that evening.
"While we are following strong lines of inquiry, I would encourage those people to come forward now, as it won't be long before we come for you," Det Ch Insp Grant Taylor.
Police are urging anyone with information that may assist Strike Force Halfbeak investigators to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence.