Po­lice be­lieve 25­year­old case solv­able

Otago Daily Times - - FRONT PAGE - DAISY HUD­SON daisy.hud­[email protected]

PO­LICE be­lieve they know the where­abouts of the re­mains of a man miss­ing in Dunedin for over 25 years — and who may have killed him.

Ti­mothy Pridding, a 34­yearold Dunedin me­chanic, was last seen in Novem­ber 1994.

Af­ter no sight­ings of him for eight years, a coro­nial hear­ing in 2003 con­cluded he was dead.

Po­lice have long be­lieved his death was a re­sult of foul play.

De­tec­tive Se­nior Sergeant Kal­lum Croudis, the of­fi­cer in charge of the file, has re­vealed po­lice had a ‘‘strong sus­pect’’ for Mr Pridding’s death.

‘‘I be­lieve that the strong sus­pect is alive and in New Zealand, as things progress, we’ll con­tinue to work away on that,’’ he said.

‘‘En­treaties to the Crown haven’t bore any fruit around charg­ing an in­di­vid­ual. But I never give up hope on that, be­cause that in­di­vid­ual is still around, there’s po­ten­tial still for Tim’s re­mains to be found.’’

The file was re­viewed as re­cently as De­cem­ber, and the four card­board boxes con­tain­ing the case files were sit­ting in Det Snr Sgt Croudis’ of­fice.

Po­lice be­lieved Trot­ters Gorge was a strong area of in­ter­est in the search for Mr Pridding.

‘‘Po­lice in the past have spent quite a bit of time in the area of Trot­ters Gorge, look­ing there, and based on what I know, both from the sus­pect and the in­quiry file, that’s a po­ten­tial area of in­ter­est.

‘‘We put staff in Trot­ters Gorge, we put a he­li­copter up, we did a num­ber of things of that na­ture, but it’s such a vast area, with­out an in­di­ca­tion of where that may be, it makes it tough.’’

Mr Pridding was be­lieved to have been in­volved in mi­nor drug deal­ing be­fore his dis­ap­pear­ance.

Po­lice still be­lieved that was the strong­est mo­tive be­hind his death.

‘‘He did dab­ble in the drugs area, and I know that’s dis­tress­ing, and was dis­tress­ing to Ge­orge and Betty [Mr Pridding’s par­ents], but he was in­volved in mov­ing mainly cannabis­based drugs.

‘‘Drug sales and debt were looked at as a very strong ba­sis for mo­tive.’’

But po­lice were at a dis­ad­van­tage with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion from the start.

‘‘Be­cause of the tran­sient life­style that Tim led, we didn’t re­ally know about it for a month that he was gone.

‘‘That re­ally put us at a dis­ad­van­tage be­cause of people’s mem­o­ries, that made things dif­fi­cult.’’

De­spite the decades that have passed, Det Snr Sgt Croudis still be­lieved the case would be solved.

‘‘I’m con­fi­dent there are still people out there who have spo­ken to the people that knew, or hung around with Tim at that time, that could as­sist us, but for one rea­son or an­other, they choose not to.’’

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion should con­tact Dunedin po­lice.

Imag­ine say­ing good­bye to your son, only to later re­alise it was the last time you would ever see him alive. That was the re­al­ity for a Dunedin cou­ple, whose son has been miss­ing for quar­ter of a cen­tury. Daisy Hud­son re­ports.

FOR years, Ge­orge and Betty Pridding would be out for a drive, or run­ning er­rands, when they would catch a glimpse of some­one and pull their car to the side of the road.

It might have been a shock of blond hair. It might have been a fa­mil­iar ex­pres­sion.

What­ever it was, it was enough to make them think they had spot­ted their son walk­ing along the foot­path.

Their hearts would leap, hope would blos­som, and then, ev­ery time, be crushed just as quickly.

Be­cause 25 years af­ter they last saw him, Dunedin man Ti­mothy Pridding re­mains miss­ing.

‘‘It’s been a long time, and a lot’s hap­pened since,’’ his fa­ther said.

Now 95 years old, Mr Pridding lives alone in his im­mac­u­late Mos­giel home.

His wife, Betty, died about five years ago. She never knew what hap­pened to their only son.

Mr Pridding be­lieved he would do the same.

‘‘There’s no res­o­lu­tion to it,’’ he said.

‘‘Five years ago, I lost my wife, but I know where she is; I can go there.

‘‘With Ti­mothy of course, it’s just noth­ing.’’

Ti­mothy (34) was de­clared dead by a coroner in early 2003, eight years af­ter his 1994 dis­ap­pear­ance.

His body has never been found.

In Novem­ber 1994, the Prid­dings had a holiday home in Cen­tral Otago and were spend­ing the week­end there.

Ti­mothy told them he would head through to stay with them on the Satur­day, but never ar­rived.

That was when his par­ents first knew some­thing was wrong.

‘‘When he didn’t come up, and we came back on the Mon­day, we got quite con­cerned be­cause we hadn’t heard from him,’’ Mr Pridding said.

‘‘If he said he was going to do some­thing, he would do it. That’s what made us very sus­pi­cious about his dis­ap­pear­ance.’’

When they re­turned to their home at Fair­field, Mr Pridding de­cided it was time to go to the po­lice.

When asked about the ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the softly­spo­ken Mr Pridding ap­peared un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally an­gry.

‘‘I don’t want to talk about that.

‘‘I wasn’t im­pressed.’’

When se­nior Dunedin de­tec­tives be­came in­volved, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion im­proved, he said.

But years passed with­out any an­swers.

Then came the coro­nial hear­ing into Ti­mothy’s dis­ap­pear­ance in 2003.

‘‘It was bloody aw­ful,’’ Mr Pridding said bluntly.

‘‘It was the most de­press­ing thing that I’ve ever done.’’

He knew the coroner at the time, Jim Con­rad­son, whom he found ‘‘very help­ful’’.

But hear­ing the po­lice ev­i­dence about his son was ‘‘un­com­fort­able’’.

It’s true that the ev­i­dence did not paint an en­tirely pos­i­tive pic­ture of their son.

Po­lice be­lieved Ti­mothy was a small­time drug dealer, who was killed af­ter rack­ing up drug debts.

Mr Pridding knew noth­ing about his son be­ing in­volved with drugs.

But, he ad­mit­ted, his son was no an­gel.

‘‘Ti­mothy was a hu­man be­ing, he had his faults. We all have. I’ve got plenty.

‘‘He smoked a bit, he was a smoker, but as for any­thing other than cig­a­rette smok­ing, we never saw any sign of that.’’

The Ti­mothy he re­mem­bered was a hard­work­ing me­chanic who was close to his mum, and who had a way with the ladies.

‘‘He got on with ev­ery­body, he was par­tic­u­larly so­cia­ble with the girls. He was quite an at­trac­tive boy, blond hair, he was re­ally quite pop­u­lar.

‘‘He used to call in ev­ery cou­ple of weeks. He was quite close to both of us, but par­tic­u­larly to his mother.’’

While he be­lieved his son was dead, the coro­nial rul­ing had not brought any clo­sure.

He still said his son had dis­ap­peared, rather than say­ing he had been killed.

‘‘They’ve said that the ev­i­dence in­di­cates he’s some­where, passed. But that doesn’t end it be­cause I don’t know that.

‘‘You’ve seen noth­ing phys­i­cal to say that.’’

He still gets flash­backs about the days fol­low­ing Ti­mothy’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

‘‘There’s a hole left there that was never filled in Betty’s case and won’t be in mine.’’

That was the hard­est part about the whole thing — the not know­ing.

It is clear the decades of un­cer­tainty and dashed hopes have taken their toll.

Mr Pridding was open about the fact he be­lieved the case would never be solved.

‘‘It can’t be solved now.

‘‘I lived through the war, I know how these things are.’’

There was per­haps a small glim­mer of op­ti­mism in his voice when he said: ‘‘I do think that there are people who do know.’’

So what would he say to those people, af­ter all these years?

‘‘I’d just like to know where he is, that’s all.’’

PHOTO: PETER MCIN­TOSH

Hold­ing out hope . . . De­tec­tive Se­nior Sergeant Kal­lum Croudis still be­lieves the dis­ap­pear­ance of Ti­mothy Pridding will be solved.

PHOTO: GRE­GOR RICHARD­SON

Pos­si­ble lo­ca­tion . . . Po­lice be­lieve the re­mains of Ti­mothy Pridding may be some­where at Trot­ters Gorge.

PHOTO: OTAGO DAILY TIMES

Cop­ing with the un­known . . . Ge­orge and the late Betty Pridding, pic­tured in 2003, share mem­o­ries of bet­ter times with their fam­ily be­fore son Ti­mothy dis­ap­peared.

Ti­mothy Pridding

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