Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Inquest news a blow for mother

Exclusive: Sarah Godwin doesn't believe her missing son Quentin is dead, but a coroner will have the final say.

An age-progressed image of Quentin Godwin done two years ago by a professional artist.
An age-progressed image of Quentin Godwin done two years ago by a professional artist.

Sarah Godwin's son has been missing for 21 years - but she is sure she will see him again.

At 4.30pm on May 20, 1992, Quentin Godwin, 18, walked out of his house in Titirangi, West Auckland. He was heading to his after-school job at a local supermarket.

He never showed up, and hasn't been seen since.

There were sightings of the teenager, known to his family and friends as Q, and there have been countless theories tabled over the years about what happened to him and why.

Mrs Godwin has never given up hope that her son is alive, safe and well and is missing by choice. So when she was notified that an inquest was to be held, which would declare Mr Godwin legally dead, she was devastated.

"The news of the inquest came as a complete surprise - and not a welcome one - just before Christmas," she said.

Quentin Godwin in 1991.
Quentin Godwin in 1991.

"I do not want or need a death certificate and am upset that the police are taking these steps so abruptly. Quentin's case has been an open file for 21 years."

In a missing-person case, once police have exhausted all avenues of investigation and believe the person is dead, they can refer the case to the coroner for a ruling.

If the coroner is satisfied that it is likely the missing person is dead and their body is destroyed, lost or cannot be recovered, an inquest will be held.

"It isn't a procedure that I personally want or need," Mrs Godwin said.

"If the coroner concludes there is enough evidence to assume he is dead and issues a death certificate, I don't feel it will mean anything. There is no proof he is dead so any conclusion along those lines will be based on circumstantial evidence.

"This won't bring any 'closure' because for me it's not conclusive and won't answer any of the questions as to what happened with Quentin after he left home."

She is not put off by the fact that her son suffered from bipolar disorder, or by a note he left which intimated he intended taking his own life.

It has been rumoured that Mr Godwin travelled to Australia or Thailand, got married and became a father in 1992. Police have found no evidence to support that.

"Hardly a day goes by when I don't think about him in some way," Mrs Godwin said. "I have had many thoughts and imaginings over the years but I think the most likely scenario is that he has found a place to settle in some rural area of New Zealand, probably living under an assumed name and hopefully with people around who care about him.

"He always loved gardening so it's possible he is working in that sort of environment."

Mr Godwin was born in England, the second of four and the only son. The family moved to New Zealand when he was 2.

Mrs Godwin returned to England two years after her son went missing and works as a charity fundraiser.

She is heavily involved with the charity Missing People, and joined Madeleine McCann's mother, Kate, on a campaign to get more support from the British Government for families of the disappeared.

Sarah Godwin's thoughts on her son:

I do think he's still alive and will do so unless there is actual proof otherwise. I think as his mother I'd have a gut feeling if he was dead now. It's not unusual for people who have been missing long-term to find it very hard - impossible even - to make contact again. There are all sorts of reasons, like guilt, ashamed, frightened, unsure of their reconnection with family, thinking maybe their family is better off to have forgotten them - and more. I feel that Quentin will be feeling any or all of these emotions - basically, where do you start after so long apart?

I want Quentin to know that we do think of him constantly and really miss him, he is part of the family always. I'd love to tell him family news about his nephews and nieces, sisters and stepbrother. If he ever feels like making contact there will be no pressures to do or say more than he wants. For me personally I just want to know how he is and where he is.

Obviously my deepest wish is to be able to talk together and one day to meet again, when the timing is right, and we could get to know each other again.

I hope someone with any information could find a way to let me know.

Declared dead by the coroner

Joanne Chatfield, 17
Disappeared November 1988, presumed murdered, declared dead in 2008.

Ronald Alfred Oldham, 9
Last seen playing at a Wellington wharf in 1941, declared dead in 2009.

Kelly Fitzgerald, 32
Disappeared in August 2009, presumed drowned after apparently taking her own life, declared dead in 2011.

Iraena Asher, 25
Disappeared at Piha in 2004, presumed drowned, declared dead in June 2013.

Margaret Kaye Stewart, 62
Last seen on June 13, 2005, walking in Rimutaka Forest Park, declared dead in September 2013.

Tomorrow

In the Herald, 10 of the country's most enduring cold cases.

- NZ Herald

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