Police believe 25yearold case solvable
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.’’
Holding out hope . . . Detective Senior Sergeant Kallum Croudis still believes the disappearance of Timothy Pridding will be solved.
Possible location . . . Police believe the remains of Timothy Pridding may be somewhere at Trotters Gorge.
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.