Police looking for information on missing man - eight years later

By Matthew Backhouse, Cherie Howie

The body of Matthew Alexander Hamill was never found. Photo / Queenstown Police
The body of Matthew Alexander Hamill was never found. Photo / Queenstown Police

Police have renewed an appeal for information about a man whose disappearance eight years ago sparked speculation he had faked his own death.

Matthew Alexander Hamill, who would now be 65-years-old, was last seen in the Frankton area of Queenstown on the afternoon of October 29, 2008.

Police have not said why they are suddenly seeking information on Mr Hamill.

His Mitsubishi vehicle was found on the morning of October 30, 2008, at lookout point on State Highway 8 at Cromwell.

Inside the car was a suicide note that indicated Mr Hamill intended to take his own life.

Some of Mr Hamill's personal belongings were also found at the Roaring Meg lookout and down a steep bank near his vehicle, leading down to the Kawarau River.

But Mr Hamill's body has was never found.

Police reopened their missing persons case in December 2009, just over a year after Mr Hamill's disappearance, saying they were not convinced he was dead.

Detective Sergeant Grahme Bartlett said at the time that the lack of a body was one of the main reasons for renewing the search for Mr Hamill.

Experienced local search and rescue personnel had expected the body would have been found within the year since he went missing.

Mr Bartlett said the police investigation could not categorically determine whether Mr Hamill committed suicide or might still be alive.

But by 2010, both police and Mr Hamill's family were rejecting speculation that he faked his own death.

"As far as the family is concerned, Matthew is dead and they have moved on. The thought that he may still be alive is not something they want to contemplate," Mr Bartlett told the Herald.

He described the suggestion Mr Hamill had faked his own death as "poor taste".

"There's nothing that's been suggested by the police Mr Hamill faked his death."

David Onions - the general manager of Millbrook, the resort near Arrowtown where Mr Hamill worked as the food and beverage purchase manager for two years - said at the time there was "absolutely nothing" to suggest Mr Hamill was alive.

"The family consider Matthew missing presumed dead and they don't want to reopen the whole matter. The conjecture seems to be because no body was found, but the reality is they don't always appear."

Police are now seeking information from the public about Mr Hamill and ask anyone who has information on his disappearance, or who may have seen him on October 30, 2008 to contact them on 03 441 1600.

They say inquiries have revealed Mr Hamill travelled regularly to Oamaru and also had ties in Auckland and Vietnam.

Information can also be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

There have been no sightings of Mr Hamill since he was last spotted at a Frankton business on October 29, 2008 wearing a yellow jacket, sunglasses, dark brown trousers, cream-coloured jersey and black shoes.

Mr Hamill was born in Northern Ireland and had a tattoo of a black and green turtle on his right shoulder. He left his homeland at a young age and was well-travelled, including time spent in Canada.

He was survived by several children from more than two partners.

There have been similar cases of people vanishing in suspicious circumstances, most recently when Queenstown man John Beckenridge and his 11-year-old stepson, Mike Zhao-Beckenridge, vanished.

Mr Beckenridge broke a Family Court order when he picked Mike up from school in Invercargill on March 13 last year. Eight days later his car was found at the bottom of an 88m cliff near Curio Bay with no sign of the pair. Some believe the former pilot has escaped overseas with Mike and a police say a criminal inquiry is ongoing.

Bassett Rd killer Ron Jorgensen also famously vanished 20 years after the grisly double murder that earned him a life sentence. Following his release from prison in 1984, Jorgensen's abandoned car was found at the bottom of a cliff near Kaikoura.

Though his body was never found, he was declared dead in 1998. But rumours persist that he became a police informant in Australia. His fate remains unknown.

- NZ Herald

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