James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Woman who vanished had paid for trip

Search called off for 79-year-old recluse whose disappearance is 'out of character'.

The last sighting of the mother, Alison Philip, of four was last Monday at her Whangamata home.
The last sighting of the mother, Alison Philip, of four was last Monday at her Whangamata home.

An elderly Whangamata woman who has been missing for a week had recently booked and paid for tickets to travel to Norfolk Island and South Africa, says a friend.

A sea and land search for 79-year-old Alison Philip was called off on Saturday night after a group of about 60 people from the Coromandel and Hamilton scoured the area around the Bowentown Domain, near Waihi Beach.

The last sighting of the mother of four was last Monday at her Whangamata home.

But the alarm was not raised until a walker at the domain noticed her silver Honda Accord had been parked there for several mornings in a row late last week.

Ms Philip's friend Kay Powrie said she lived alone and while affable at their Mah Jong nights at the Whangamata Club she was a private person.

Ms Powrie said her friend's disappearance was completely out of character.

She said she travelled abroad frequently and had recently made plans to go on another overseas holiday.

"She had just booked a holiday and paid for it to go to Norfolk Island and she was going to go to South Africa in October on holiday," said Ms Powrie.

"I believe that trip had already been paid for so it seemed very strange to me."

Ms Philip's husband, Ian, died about a year ago but she would keep herself busy by staying fit and walking long distances around Whangamata.

She had also walked the New York marathon and Hawaii marathon and played indoor and outdoor bowls.

"I know she lost her husband but I didn't think she was depressed.

"She probably had her days when she was lonely and missed him," said Ms Powrie.

"I don't know whether she has gone for a swim and has gone missing, I really don't know.

"But they did call the search off ... I suppose you can't search for ever and a day, can you?"

Police said Ms Philip had no known medical conditions or issues of concern that could cause her to get into difficulty and her disappearance was unexplained.

They said she rarely frequented the area where her car was found.

Another associate of Ms Philip, who asked not to be named, said she last saw the woman, who had lived in Whangamata for about 10 years, about three weeks ago.

"She really was a nice person but a recluse and a person who kept her own company."

She said members of her family had travelled from Auckland to help with the search but her disappearance had mystified and stunned the local community.

"It's just a real thunderbolt. No one can explain it."

Can you help?

If anyone has any information regarding her whereabouts or any information regarding activity around Alison Philip's vehicle in Anzac Bay please contact Sergeant Fraser of the Waihi police urgently on ph (07) 863 8179

- NZ Herald

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