Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Crucial find in mystery missing man case

Les Writght has been missing since Monday, but police believe they have found his car. Photo / Supplied
Les Writght has been missing since Monday, but police believe they have found his car. Photo / Supplied

Police searching for a West Coast man missing in the Waikato have found his car in an isolated rural area in the King Country.

The lead for the location of Les Wright, from Punakaiki, followed a report by a meter reader who spotted the 63-year-old's car parked on an isolated forestry road near Barryville, between Benneydale and Mangakino, said Sergeant Phil Bell of the Waikato Search and Rescue Squad.

"As a result of this news police and Land Search and Rescue volunteers have converged on an area off Waitaramoa Rd, near the Pureora Forest Lodge.

"Searchers have been joined by a specialist tracking dog and at 7.40am we had positive reports via radio that the team were following a strong scent."

Mr Wright left a Te Kuiti camping ground on Monday for a day trip.

Mr Bell said narrowing the search area was definitely good news but the development wasn't without challenges.

"This area is quite well known to SAR teams because of its challenging nature.

"Though the terrain is quite flat the forest canopy is very thick and people often can't see the sky and become disoriented. Without a compass this area is very difficult to navigate and a number of people have become lost in it."

Mr Wright was brought up in Timaru and moved to the West Coast in 1973 as a radio journalist. He has since earned a reputation as a historian and author, and has penned several books, including Waiuta and latterly Brighton.

For a number of years he owned and published the West of the Alps free tourist newspaper.


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