Po­lice: miss­ing man was killed

The Southland Times - - Front Page - Blair En­sor blair.en­sor@stuff.co.nz

The body of a South­land man who dis­ap­peared in mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances five weeks ago was hid­den in a re­mote forestry block where his killer hoped it would never be found.

Dale Tama Watene, the father of a 5-year-old boy, was last seen alive in Otau­tau, 40 kilo­me­tres north­west of In­ver­cargill, on April 16, a day af­ter his 40th birth­day.

Po­lice found his body in the Long­wood forestry block, an area fre­quented by hunters and tram­pers, on Wed­nes­day af­ter a search at the week­end iden­ti­fied ‘‘ar­eas of in­ter­est’’ re­quir­ing fur­ther scru­tiny.

Yes­ter­day they an­nounced they had launched a homi­cide in­quiry into Watene’s death.

It ap­pears his killer or killers went to great lengths to cover their tracks. It’s clear they hoped his body would re­main hid­den.

De­tec­tive Se­nior Sergeant Stu­art Har­vey said an au­topsy was car­ried out yes­ter­day.

He ap­pealed for any­one with in­for­ma­tion about Watene’s death to con­tact po­lice.

Watene’s mother de­clined to com­ment yes­ter­day.

On Thurs­day she told The South­land Times she was re­lieved her son’s body had been found.

‘‘At least we know where he is and we can bring him home.’’

On the day he dis­ap­peared, Watene had a seem­ingly nor­mal con­ver­sa­tion with his mother be­fore shar­ing drinks with Sandi Gra­ham, a woman he’d been see­ing, at her home in Sorn St, Otau­tau.

He ap­par­ently left there to go and buy more al­co­hol, but never re­turned.

Watene’s truck, a blue 1995 Isuzu SUV, reg­is­tra­tion CGE 638, was found two days later at Holt Park, a short walk from Gra­ham’s Sorn St home. The bat­tery had been re­moved and diesel was pool­ing on the ground be­neath.

The last call made us­ing his cell­phone was about 9.30pm on April 16, but the in­tended re­cip­i­ent, be­lieved to be Gra­ham, didn’t an­swer, and his bank card wasn’t used af­ter he bought $200 worth of gro­ceries from a su­per­mar­ket in Otau­tau on his birth­day.

The South­land Times un­der­stands Watene had one car bat­tery that he switched be­tween two ve­hi­cles.

The bat­tery from his truck was found in a car at his home af­ter his dis­ap­pear­ance.

It’s be­lieved de­tec­tives are ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity the Holt Park scene was staged to look like Watene’s car had bro­ken down.

Po­lice searched at least two prop­er­ties be­fore they found Watene’s body – the Sorn St ad­dress and the home of one of Gra­ham’s as­so­ci­ates, Ge­orge Hyde.

The pair have not re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment.

Since Watene’s dis­ap­pear­ance, Gra­ham has posted sev­eral news stories about the case to her Face­book page.

On May 1 she wrote: ‘‘We all hope he comes back safe and well. One very missed hu­man.’’

Watene – de­scribed by po­lice as be­ing 183 cen­time­tres tall and thin – grew up in Huntly, in the Waikato, where most of his fam­ily, in­clud­ing his mother, live.

He moved to Otau­tau af­ter a stint in Perth about 15 years ago and se­cured a job on a dairy farm where his younger brother worked.

At the time of his dis­ap­pear­ance, Watene was work­ing for the same farmer driv­ing trucks and op­er­at­ing heavy ma­chin­ery.

He was known to dab­ble in drugs.

Some of Watene’s friends were im­me­di­ately sus­pi­cious when he dis­ap­peared, as he was not known to have men­tal health is­sues.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion about Watene’s death should con­tact De­tec­tive Sergeant Chris Lucy on 03 2110400 or Crimestopp­ers anony­mously on 0800 555 111.

‘‘At least we know where he is and we can bring him home.’’ Dale Watene’s mother

Dale Watene dis­ap­peared five weeks ago. Who­ever killed him ap­pears to have tried to cover their tracks.

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