Miss­ing man ‘still out there’ in the bush

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Local News - DONNA-LEE BIDDLE

It was a clear morn­ing on Novem­ber 30, 2004, when Robert Te Pae­whenua Roberts drove past the Kaimai look­out.

But his mind was far from clear.

The 53-year-old never made it home to Te Puke.

He made a U-turn on State High­way 29 and drove at speed through a brick wall at the sum­mit carpark be­fore crash­ing off the cliff.

The de­tails of what may have been Roberts last mo­ments were re­vealed at a coro­ner in­quest at the Hamil­ton Dis­trict Court last week.

Ex­perts say his body is still in the dense bush at the Kaimai Range.

His fam­ily, how­ever, be­lieve he’s still alive.

Two searches - one im­me­di­ately af­ter the crash and an­other the year af­ter - failed to lo­cate a body.

A stack of neatly folded clothes were found hid­den un­der a log: blue over­alls, brown work boots and thick socks.

Land Search and Res­cue ex­pert Bruce Sand­ford gave ev­i­dence at the in­quest.

He man­aged the search at the time and be­lieves Roberts, also known as Bob or Bobby, was ejected from the van as it flipped head-first down the cliff.

‘‘The clothes had been there a long time, they were cov­ered in leaf lit­ter and put in a heap,’’ Sand­ford said.

He also be­lieves Roberts ‘‘let the el­e­ments take over’’ and may have died of hy­pother­mia.

The ev­i­dence, in­clud­ing the clothes found and the de­tails of the crash ‘‘was con­sis­tent of a per­son de­ter­mined to fin­ish it’’, Sand­ford said.

But Lester Roberts says his fa­ther is still alive, though he hasn’t heard from him since the morn­ing of the crash.

‘‘Dad turned up to my place ag­i­tated,’’ Roberts said.

‘‘He had a dis­agree­ment with his part­ner and was stressed out.’’

Roberts went with his dad to pick up a ve­hi­cle and then drove home.

The pair made plans to meet af­ter work but that meet­ing never hap­pened.

‘‘He never talked about sui­cide or any­thing like that but I think he’s hid­ing, he’s done a run­ner.’’

For­mer Mata­mata Po­lice Sergeant Gra­ham McGurk held onto the miss­ing po­lice file for 13 years - right up un­til his re­tire- ment.

‘‘I was sure we were go­ing to find him, I thought he would be un­der the van,’’ McGurk said.

‘‘And when they pulled it up, I thought, now what?’’

It’s a case McGurk would like to bring clo­sure to.

‘‘It’s not some­thing that keeps me up at night but I’m al­ways won­der­ing, what if I did this and what if I did that?’’ he said.

‘‘I be­lieve he’s still out there in the (Kaimai) bush.’’

Coro­ner Gor­don Matenga has re­served his de­ci­sion for a later date.

CHRISTEL YARDLEY/STUFF

For­mer Mata­mata po­lice­man Gra­ham McGurk held onto the miss­ing per­son file for Robert Te Pae­whenua Roberts for 13 years.

SUP­PLIED.

Robert Te Pae­whenua Roberts went miss­ing on Novem­ber 30, 2004.

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