Convicted rapist says he was the last to see Whorouly mother Karen Chetcuti before she disappeared

A convicted rapist says he was the last person to see a mother-of-two before she disappeared from the small Victorian country town of Whorouly.

Michael Cardamone told Fairfax Media he was not involved with Karen Chetcuti's disappearance, now the subject of a homicide squad investigation, but he was the last person to see her before she went missing.

Police arrive at Karen Chetcuti's house on Saturday.
Police arrive at Karen Chetcuti's house on Saturday. Photo: James Wiltshire

"I don't know what's happened," he said.

Mr Cardamone, who was released from jail last year after serving nine years for rape, lives around the corner from the 49-year-old mother in the town of Whorouly, near Wangaratta.

Karen Chetcuti's body was found near Lake Buffalo.
Karen Chetcuti's body was found near Lake Buffalo. Photo: Facebook

Their properties share a boundary.

Victoria Police say the last confirmed sighting of Ms Chetcuti was leaving the Whorouly Hotel at 7.20pm on Tuesday. 


But Mr Cardamone said he had invited Ms Chetcuti to his home to collect some tomatoes that he had grown and she was at his property from 8.40pm to 9.15pm that night.

"When she left here, she took off towards home," he said.

Police released this photo of Karen Chetcuti's car.
Police released this photo of Karen Chetcuti's car. 

He said the container of tomatoes she had taken was later found on a bench in Ms Chetcuti's home.

Mr Cardamone was also interviewed by other media on Friday, telling them he had spoken to Ms Chetcuti over the fence at 9.15pm on Tuesday after he had been picking tomatoes. 

Police and SES search Karen Chetcuti's property at Whorouly.
Police and SES search Karen Chetcuti's property at Whorouly. Photo: Blair Thomson

Police searched parts of Mr Cardamone's property on Friday and he said detectives had questioned him.

"I'm stressed out to the max, I haven't been sleeping," he said.

The body of missing Whorouly woman Karen Chetcuti has been found by police.
The body of missing Whorouly woman Karen Chetcuti has been found by police. Photo: Facebook

Mr Cardamone said he was being targeted because of his "incarceration". He said investigators were welcome to search his home.

He said a white car had been seen leaving Ms Chetcuti's home on Tuesday night, with her red car following behind. Her car was found burnt-out in Myrtleford, about 20 kilometres away, at 5.15am on Thursday.

Mr Cardamone said he saw Ms Chetcuti's red car parked in a side street near the Target store in Myrtleford sometime before it was set alight.

It is understood another neighbour saw a white car leaving the Ms Chetcuti's home on Tuesday night, but it is unclear as to what time.

Police said they were speaking to a number of people in relation to the disappearance.

Homicide Squad investigators visited Mr Cardamone's home shortly after 2pm on Friday.

Three detectives spent about five minutes at the home, knocked on his door and checked around the back and garage.

There was no sign of Mr Cardamone, though his white ute was parked outside. Detectives would not say why they were there.

Earlier on Friday, homicide squad detective Sergeant Sol Solomon said suspicions were raised about the disappearance when Ms Chetcuti did not turn up for work on Wednesday.

He said police checked her home and found the lights had been left on, and her handbag and wallet were still there. At that stage, her car was still missing.

"It certainly paints a picture of the involvement of a second party in her disappearance," he said.

"There was no sign of any struggle or disturbance having occurred there."

Ms Chetcuti, the mother of two teenagers, is well-known and liked in the Whorouly and Wangaratta area.

She had moved from Melbourne to Whorouly with her husband, who she is now separated from, to run the pub about two decades ago. The pair were publicans for about five years before Ms Chetcuti began working for the City of Wangaratta, where she had most recently been a records coordinator.

"Karen is a popular and valued member of staff," City of Wangaratta chief executive officer Brendan McGrath said.

Friend Greg Haysom said Ms Chetcuti, who serves on a number of committees, is a "major part of Whorouly" and recently helped raise over $20,000 for the football club change rooms.

Mr Haysom described Ms Chetcuti as a "great mother" to her two children. 

"I don't think you will find anyone who would say a bad word about her, she has the most infectious smile," he said. 

Detectives continued to search Whorouly and Myrtleford on Saturday.

Police focused on a number of areas of interest, including the properties behind Ms Chetcuti's.

The area is mostly sparse farmland and long grass, but officers did go through a junkyard of old cars a couple of kilometres behind the missing woman's property.

There were also line searches in long grass adjacent to where her burnt-out car was found on Thursday morning.

The car, now at Wangaratta police station, was found engulfed in flames on Halls Road, which becomes a dirt road leading up to a lookout in Myrtleford, about 20 kilometres from Whorouly.

The road runs next to state forest, in which specialist police on dirt bikes went into on Friday morning.

On the other side of it is paddocks, which police and SES focused on for their line searches. Houses are nearby.

Police released new photos of Ms Chetcuti and her car in a further attempt to garner information as to her whereabouts.

Detectives would like to speak to anyone who saw Ms Chetcuti or her red 2004 Citroen Sara, with registration XWC 149, any time after 7.20pm on Tuesday.

They would also like to speak to anyone who saw any suspicious activity in the area.

Detectives said they have also narrowed down Ms Chetcuti's movements on Tuesday, releasing security vision of her at Aldi in Wangaratta between 5.12pm and 5.17pm before she went to the Whorouly Hotel for a drink.

Detectives said on Friday she had not been seen or heard from since she left the hotel at 7.20pm.

This is despite her neighbour Mr Cardamone claiming Ms Chetcuti had been at his property between 8.40pm and 9.15pm.

Investigators urge anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via