Police and coastguards admit they are mystified at the disappearance of the crew from a boat found drifting off the Australian coast.

Police and coastguards admit they are mystified at the disappearance of the crew from a boat found drifting off the Australian coast.

Three men were aboard the 12m catamaran Kaz II when it left Airlie Beach in North Queensland on 15 April at the start of an eight week voyage to Perth. Three days later a coastal patrol aircraft spotted the boat drifting 160km off Townsville, apparently undamaged.

A Queensland sea rescue officer was winched down to the boat and found its engine idling in neutral, its radio on, its dinghy and all emergency equipment intact, laptops powered up, and the table prepared for a meal. But there was nobody aboard.

Despite a massive search covering 4,000 square miles and involving 12 aircraft and four ships, no trace of the missing crew was found. Police have now suspended the search and will not resume it unless information or sightings are reported.

Forensic experts examined Kaz II but a police spokesman admitted they were at a loss to explain the crew’s disappearance. There have inevitably been comparisons with the brig Marie Celeste, found adrift in the Atlantic in 1872 with its entire crew missing.