Dad’s ‘men­tal tor­ture’


The Press - - Front Page - SAM SHERWOOD

As Michael Mc­Grath’s tor­tured fam­ily mark the 200th day of his dis­ap­pear­ance, The Press can re­veal a ri­fle be­long­ing to a man be­ing in­ves­ti­gated is miss­ing.

Mc­Grath, 49, left his Christchurch home with­out his 1994 blue Subaru Le­gacy or his bike on May 21, not to be seen again. The cash builder’s wal­let and money were found in the locked house in Hal­swell.

Po­lice in­quiries have cen­tred on Mc­Grath’s school friend David Ben­bow. The Press can re­veal a ri­fle be­long­ing to Ben­bow, who has a firearms li­cence, ap­pears to be miss­ing.

Po­lice de­clined to com­ment on the new in­for­ma­tion.

Po­lice spent about 10 days search­ing Ben­bow’s prop­erty in Candys Rd and The Press has pre­vi­ously re­vealed Ben­bow went to the Park­house Rd, Sock­burn, trans­fer sta­tion soon after Mc­Grath’s dis­ap­pear­ance to dump a small amount of rub­bish.

The Press has vis­ited Ben­bow sev­eral times. He said pre­vi­ously he was the vic­tim of a witch hunt by po­lice and me­dia.

Mc­Grath’s fa­ther, Kevin, who spoke to me­dia for the first time yes­ter­day, said he had lost hope his son would be found alive.

‘‘It’s men­tal tor­ture re­ally,’’ he said. ‘‘The hurt to­day is still as raw as it was six months ago when Michael went miss­ing. You can­not stop think­ing about it, ev­ery day, no mat­ter how much you try.’’

Si­mon Mc­Grath went to his brother’s house on May 23 to look for him and was spooked.

‘‘You can imag­ine me walk­ing through his house that night re­al­is­ing things did not look good.

‘‘In­stinc­tively you know your brother, you know what he’s like and my gut in­stinct told me that night . . . some­thing sin­is­ter had hap­pened.’’

Si­mon strug­gled the first few days after the dis­ap­pear­ance as he de­bated whether to be at work or at home.

‘‘It was a night­mare sit­u­a­tion. I used to wake up ev­ery night. It was al­most like TV re­al­ity play­ing in your own life. As time goes on it be­comes eas­ier. You sort of ac­cept he’s not go­ing to re­turn but there’s still the fact he’s out there and there will be some­one out there that knows some­thing.

‘‘It’s al­ways in the back of your mind what­ever you do. What­ever you looked for­ward to in the past, you don’t look for­ward to as much.’’

The fam­ily de­scribed Michael as a quiet and pri­vate per­son, a per­fec­tion­ist at his job and hav­ing a good group of friends.

Si­mon said they were broth­ers and best mates.

The fam­ily’s mes­sage to the pub­lic is: ‘‘Come for­ward. If there’s any­one out there with in­for­ma­tion, they re­ally need to come for­ward and say some­thing.’’

In­quiry head De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Dar­ryl Sweeney said he be­lieved Mc­Grath was dead but would not call the in­ves­ti­ga­tion a homi­cide in­quiry.

‘‘It’s get­ting the in­ves­tiga­tive at­ten­tion that is war­ranted for Michael be­ing miss­ing. It’s sim­ply not a homi­cide be­cause we haven’t found him yet.’’

Sweeney said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion ini­tially cen­tred on the 24 hours after Mc­Grath was last seen alive and po­lice had since gained a much greater un­der­stand­ing of what had oc­curred.

He said po­lice had sight­ings of in­ter­est and sig­nif­i­cance for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion from May 21 through to May 22. The sight­ings in­cluded Mc­Grath’s blue Subaru Le­gacy and a sil­ver 1999 Toy­ota Camry.

Sweeney con­firmed Ben­bow, who owns a ve­hi­cle of the same make and model, re­mained a per­son of in­ter­est in the case.

Po­lice re­cently vis­ited Mc­Grath’s home again and re­ex­am­ined the prop­erty, he said. Items of in­ter­est were found.

Po­lice had also com­pleted area in­quiries at hun­dreds of homes around Hal­swell and wider Christchurch, and had re­viewed CCTV from all ma­jor busi­nesses in the area. Thou­sands of leaflets were dis­trib­uted.

Sweeney said the foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tions, in­clud­ing 6000 po­lice hours at Kate Val­ley Land­fill, were ‘‘prob­a­bly the most de­tailed we’ve un­der­taken in some time in Can­ter­bury’’.

About 300 items were taken from the dump. In­ves­ti­ga­tors were about two-thirds of the way through ex­am­in­ing the items be­fore a se­lec­tion is sent to ESR for a closer look next year.

Sweeney said a ‘‘con­sid­er­able num­ber’’ of peo­ple had been in­ter­viewed and con­tin­ued to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion. Key in­ter­views with peo­ple con­nected to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would hap­pen again.

Sev­eral weeks into the in­ves­ti­ga­tion po­lice sought help from an in­ter­na­tional ex­pert, Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice Com­man­der Mark Harrison.

Sweeney said Harrison had pro­vided a ‘‘strong ev­i­dence-based’’ ge­o­graph­i­cal pro­file to help lo­cated Mc­Grath’s body.

When asked where he be­lieved Mc­Grath was Sweeney said po­lice had in­for­ma­tion that was help­ful to them, with searches in tar­geted ar­eas to come. ‘‘We’re work­ing through that in­for­ma­tion. I think the area is be­com­ing clearer to us all the time, but clearly we haven’t found Michael yet.’’

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion can call 0800 346 364 (0800 FINDMICHAEL). In­for­ma­tion can also be pro­vided anony­mously by call­ing Crimestop­pers on 0800 555 111.

The hurt to­day is still as raw as it was six months ago. Kevin Mc­Grath Miss­ing man’s fa­ther

Kevin Mc­Grath is an­guished by the dis­ap­pear­ance of his son Michael Mc­Grath, who has been miss­ing more than 200 days. Photo: IAIN McGRE­GOR/STUFF

Search teams comb prop­er­ties around Hal­swell In­quiry head Dar­ryl Sweeney con­cedes Mc­Grath is likely to be dead

De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Dar­ryl Sweeney. Photo: DAVID WALKER/STUFF

Michael Mc­Grath re­ported miss­ing

Si­mon Mc­Grath

David Ben­bow

Po­lice re­cover more than

300 items in a

70-day dump search

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