The family of a hitchhiker who vanished in north Queensland more than 30 years ago are hopeful new leads in the case will bring them closure.

The family of a hitchhiker presumed murdered in 1982 say they’re disturbed by news a north Queensland abattoir has become the focus of the cold case.

Tony Jones, who was 20 when he disappeared, last made contact with his Perth-based family on November 3, 1982, to say he planned to hitchhike to Mount Isa from Townsville to meet his brother.

He was reported missing about a week later and has not been seen since.

In what may be a major breakthrough in the case, police on Thursday said they have identified two “significant places of interest” – a slaughterhouse and a hotel in Hughenden, inland from Townsville.

Brian Jones, Tony’s brother, says it’s distressing that an abattoir has become the focus of the investigation.

“For 32 years you’ve had the trauma of not knowing and wishing you did know,” the 60-year-old told AAP from his home in Perth.

“Then suddenly you hear something like that and you wonder whether you want to know or whether it could be worse than you could have ever have imagined.”

Police won’t say why they’ve focused on the abattoir but have revealed three people have come forward in recent weeks saying they saw Tony Jones at the Grand Hotel in Hughenden in November 1982.

Brian says he isn’t optimistic the sightings will lead to a breakthrough in the case, as previous reported sightings, including in Hughenden in 1982, were all dismissed.

“But we don’t know what they’ve said and what descriptions they’ve given so I’m trying to keep an open mind to that possibility,” he said.

He says it’s unlikely his brother would have visited the Grand Hotel as he didn’t have any money on him and knew his brother was waiting for him in Mount Isa.

“Tony had a mission to get to his brother as quick as he could to help him out,” Brian said.

“So the idea of him sitting in the pub having beers in Hughenden doesn’t add up to us.”

Brian says he’s grateful to police for their efforts in trying to solve the three decade long mystery of what happened to his brother.

Lead investigator, Townsville Detective Acting Superintendent Cheryl Scanlon said police are hopeful of a major breakthrough.

“It’s the biggest piece of collective information certainly in the last decade in this investigation,” Det Sup Scanlon said on Thursday.

She wouldn’t say why the abattoir was a place of interest or if police believed Mr Jones had been killed there.

Police last month said they now believe Mr Jones was killed in Hughenden.

Previous investigations had focused on Townsville and a campsite at the Cloncurry River.

The high-profile case sparked national missing persons week, which last year marked its 25th year.

A coronial inquest in 2002 could only conclude Mr Jones’ death was “at the hand of a person or persons unknown” and police investigations should continue.

AAP cleo/mmr