Dad’s ‘mental torture’
McGRATH DISAPPEARANCE – NEW CLUES
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
Police recover more than
300 items in a
70-day dump search