Missing man ‘still out there’ in the bush
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.
Former Matamata policeman Graham McGurk held onto the missing person file for Robert Te Paewhenua Roberts for 13 years.
Robert Te Paewhenua Roberts went missing on November 30, 2004.