Mystery disappearance sparks concern

Police and forensic investigators search a property in Akers Rd, Linton, Palmerston North. Photo / Graeme Brown.
Police and forensic investigators search a property in Akers Rd, Linton, Palmerston North. Photo / Graeme Brown.
An investigation has been launched into the disappearance of a 48-year-old man from Whanganui.

Whetu Teaola Hansen has been missing since November 24, and police say they are concerned for his safety.

A house in Linton has been under armed guard for days as officers search the property for signs of his whereabouts.

Police say they became aware of his disappearance when they tried to locate him for an unrelated matter on December 3. A search warrant was issued on December 5 and investigators have been at the Akers Rd house, where he was known to visit, ever since.

"Police have serious concerns for Mr Hansen's safety and we believe that there are unexplained reasons behind his disappearance, of which we cannot elaborate further on except to say that they are a cause for concern,'' said Detective Senior Sergeant Simon Harrison.

However, a police officer yesterday told the Herald on Sunday that a murder inquiry had been launched, although police later would not comment further.

"The investigation team are working to trace Mr Hansen's movements leading up to his disappearance and the search warrant at this address forms part of our inquiries. Officers at the property are looking for any evidence that shows he has been at the property recently,'' Mr Harrison continued.

"We also want to speak to anyone that may have any information about his whereabouts, or any other information that could help us with our investigation and I encourage those people to contact police.''

A team of around 25 staff are working on the investigation, with 15 officers stationed at the Linton property today.

Mr Harrison attempted to reassure nearby residents that "they need not fear for their safety'', after some expressed concerns over armed police officers outside the house.

"The deployment of armed officers is for staff security and to protect the integrity of the scene while the thorough examination is being carried out.''

The search is expected to be completed by mid-next week, he added.

Whetu Teaola Hansen
Whetu Teaola Hansen
Mr Hansen is described as being of Maori descent, medium build, approximately 5`8 in height, with brown eyes and dark greying hair.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Dave Wilson on (06) 213 9595, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

The presence of dozens of police officers, investigators from Environmental Science and Research, Defence Force personnel, and a tent in front of the garage, indicate a major crime scene.

Chloe Hewitt, a former resident of the street, said the missing man had lived there with his partner for many years.

Neighbour Judy Craw said: "It's really scary. Police have been there every day armed with machine guns - not just pistols - but machine guns. My son goes to work at 5am and they are still on guard and they are there when he comes home. They are there all night long."

Jaiden and Haley McDonald, who live on a nearby farm, said an officer had asked about the property and its occupants.

"The police were asking about him and when was the last time we saw him.

"I don't really know him but I have met him once and he was lovely," said Haley.

She said he occupied the main dwelling while a young couple possibly lived in the sleepout.

"He would always wave to me when I went walking with the kids but I haven't seen him since earlier this week."

The last two nights had been sleepless, she said. "I feel uneasy because they say we are safe but here they are with guns. Why do they need them if we have nothing to worry about?"

Another neighbour Lisa McKelvey was frustrated the police had not told them what was going on.

"They just questioned [me] about a vehicle I had seen in the area."

A police spokeswoman said the investigation was expected to take until the middle of next week.

"At this stage we are not prepared to go into any further detail due to our ongoing inquiries.

"Police want to reassure the residents living in the area that there is no cause for ongoing concern in the community."

The officer leading the investigation into the disappearance of Mr Hansen, Detective Senior Sergeant Simon Harrison, said he wanted to make clear the armed police guarding the property were not carrying machine guns.

"I also want to take this opportunity to address media reports that officers guarding the property with machine guns are totally incorrect; the New Zealand Police do not have machine guns,'' he said.

"The deployment of armed officers is for staff security and to protect the integrity of the scene while the thorough examination is being carried out.''

A police spokeswoman said the firearms were rifles and not machine guns.

 

- additional repoting by Alecia Rousseau of the Herald on Sunday

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