Clo­sure as miss­ing man is found

Whangarei Report - - FRONT PAGE -

Nearly 14 years af­ter a Korean man went miss­ing in Whanga¯ rei, his re­mains have been dis­cov­ered, bring­ing clo­sure for the fam­ily, po­lice and vol­un­teers who searched for days.

Korean man Sun Il Keum had only been in Whanga¯ rei for two days vis­it­ing his son when he wan­dered off on No­vem­ber 19, 2004.

Keum was 74 years old, spoke lit­tle English, suf­fered from Alzheimer’s and was un­fa­mil­iar with Whanga¯ rei.

He left his son’s house for a walk on Otaika Rd and was last seen head­ing to­wards the shop­ping cen­tre about 9am. He failed to re­turn home and his son raised the alarm with po­lice about 5pm the same day. His dis­ap­pear­ance sparked a mas­sive search across the city of Whanga¯ rei but he was never found.

Last Mon­day about 10.15am North­power work­ers who were clear­ing thick scrub at a site in Morn­ing­side, off Sun Val­ley Drive, no­ticed some items of cloth­ing and on closer in­spec­tion dis­cov­ered skele­tal re­mains.

A week later a coro­ner cleared po­lice to re­lease the name af­ter be­ing sat­is­fied the re­mains were that of Keum.

Head­ing the orig­i­nal search was Se­nior Sergeant Cliff Met­calfe, who had just been ap­pointed the of­fi­cer in charge of the po­lice spe­cial­ist Search and Res­cue squad.

He still holds the po­si­tion with the squad and had al­ways won­dered what hap­pened to the miss­ing Korean man.

Met­calfe went to the Morn­ing­side site last week and, as soon as he saw the cloth­ing, he knew they had found Keum.

He was last seen wear­ing a blue jacket, long brown pants, white sports shoes and a light coloured floppy hat.

Met­calfe said the re­mains were taken to Whangarei Hos­pi­tal where po­lice car­ried out vic­tim iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­ce­dures. The scene was blessed by a kau­matua.

“Along with the cloth­ing and other items we found, in­clud­ing a wal­let with a Korean coin, we were able to iden­tify him as Mr Keum,” he said.

“The fam­ily who are now liv­ing in Christchurch have been con­tacted and have been able to con­firm the items found be­longed to him.”

“It’s clo­sure for the fam­ily and clo­sure for those who searched for him be­cause now he has been found.”

Met­calfe said the area in which Keum’s re­mains were found had been searched ini­tially and had also been sub­ject to Po­lice Search and Res­cue train­ing days us­ing the cold case sce­nario.

He said over the years he had al­ways re­mem­bered the case and won­dered where the miss­ing man had gone.

“It was one of the big­gest and most ex­ten­sive searches we have ever done in North­land.

“It was an un­re­solved case that I never for­got about,” he said.

How­ever, very dense scrub in the area was dif­fi­cult to work through and it was only while clear­ing for a new sub­di­vi­sion that the area had be­come eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and ex­posed the cloth­ing and re­mains.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter Keum was re­ported miss­ing, up to 40 po­lice SAR staff and vol­un­teers con­ducted an in­ten­sive search of the Otaika, Rau­manga and Morn­ing­side ar­eas.

The fol­low­ing week 22 peo­ple un­der­took a fur­ther day-long search of the Morn­ing­side and South End Ave area on foot, while po­lice also flew in the North­land Res­cue he­li­copter, all to no avail.

In an in­quest in 2006 coro­ner Max Atkins ruled Keum had died of nat­u­ral causes or ex­po­sure and was prob­a­bly in an in­dus­trial waste­land in an area near Morn­ing­side Rd and Re­warewa Rd.


North­power work­ers were clear­ing scrub on a new sub­di­vi­sion in Morn­ing­side when they dis­cov­ered cloth­ing and skele­tal re­mains.

Sun Il Keum went miss­ing 14 years ago and now his re­mains have been dis­cov­ered.

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