Family accept boatie missing for two years is probably dead

By Kurt Bayer, Ben Aulakh

Kerry Blair, 55, was last seen on March 8, 2014, heading off, by boat, from a remote bay in the Marlborough Sounds. Photo / Supplied
Kerry Blair, 55, was last seen on March 8, 2014, heading off, by boat, from a remote bay in the Marlborough Sounds. Photo / Supplied

The children of a boatie missing for more than two years have accepted it is more than likely that he is dead, an inquest has heard.

Their lawyer, Allister Davis told the final day of an inquest into the disappearance of experienced seaman Kerry Blair, that his family had accepted he was probably deceased.

Blair, 55, was last seen by a friend on March 8, 2014. At the time he was heading off, by boat, from a remote bay in the Marlborough Sounds which cannot be named for legal reasons, to get some "greasy fish 'n' chips" for tea.

His boat was found days later floating off the coast of Taranaki. Blair was not on board, and his body has never been found.

Coroner Marcus Elliott has been considering four possibilities about the Blair's fate including suicide, accident, foul play, or staged vanishing.

Davis told the inquest today that Blair's family thought police hadn't acted quickly enough when their father went missing.

Davis said that the seaman had been reported missing on May 9, yet the search for him hadn't begun until May 13.

He said the safety margins around how long a person could be missing for before they were in danger were much shorter on the water than on land.

"You can walk 10 miles on land, but you can't swim 10 miles," Davis said.

The family had also been concerned that the police approach to the search for the missing boatie had been undertaken from the point of view that he had committed suicide. He said the police did not consider "any other scenarios".

The hopes of the family had also been previously raised about their father after messages they had sent him on Facebook had shown up on the Messenger application as having been "seen" by him.

However, counsel assisting the coroner, Elizabeth Bulger told the inquest today that the activity had been down to an error with Facebook.

It had been confirmed that his account had not been logged into since the day he was last seen.

Kerry Blair with his three children, Rochelle, (left) Dylan and Cherise. Photo / Supplied
Kerry Blair with his three children, Rochelle, (left) Dylan and Cherise. Photo / Supplied

Blair's family had also criticised the police for not considering the possibility of foul play, something Davis said the police didn't take seriously because they "weren't interested in".

The family also criticised police for the way they had gathered evidence during the investigation, with the lack of police job sheets detailing their efforts on important aspects of the search a concern, Davis said.

The police also hadn't retrieved any of Blair's voicemail messages or email records.

"Who is to know what they would have contained. They would have been of great assistance in the search," he said.

Police lawyer Pip Currie said that there were "countless missing persons reports filed" every day, and that in this case a "very capable man on the sea" had been reported missing.

Currie said at the time there had been "nothing concrete that suggested Blair was in trouble".

He hadn't called for help, he was in a seaworthy vessel on a calm sea. She said that there was "nothing which had raised any concerns that he was in any sort of distress".

Currie said that the most likely scenario was that Blair had taken his boat out to sea "with the intention of committing suicide."

Blair's financial position at the time meant a staged disappearance was unlikely, and there was no evidence of foul play, she said.

Currie also said that some of the uncertainty about where the seaman had gone "has to lie with Blair himself".

If he had told his colleague that he was heading off to Greymouth or Westport, police would have a place to start their search for him, she said.

However, police say they were hampered by the limited information they had about his whereabouts.

Coroner Elliott reserved his findings, which will be released at a later date.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 07 Dec 2016 08:57:32 Processing Time: 677ms