Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Search for Luke Cochrane: Mother of missing teen speaks out

Luke Cochrane is missing in Whitianga. Photo / Supplied
Luke Cochrane is missing in Whitianga. Photo / Supplied

Catherine Tamati last heard from her son, Lucas Cochrane, on Saturday morning.

He was in Whitianga enjoying a weekend away with his mates - and had run out of cash.

"I was in contact with him on the morning of the day he disappeared. He was wanting me to transfer him some money, normal story for a teenage boy," she said.

However, that was her last contact with her eldest son who hasn't been seen since 10.30pm Saturday night when Cochrane, 19, left a function at the Whitianga Fire Station.

Tamati, with husband, Glenn, and their children Sean, 16, Jackson, 16, and Joshua, 17, are all at the LandSar headquarters in Whitianga this morning, hoping that one of the crews will find their son and brother alive and well today.

However, given it's now the third day he's missing, the family, including dad, Dave, and his partner Debbie Adamson, are concerned.

"It's out of character for Luke not to contact myself. He would always contact me if he wanted money or gets in trouble and wants a ride somewhere," said Tamati.

Catherine Tamati, on behalf of all the family, was now pleading with the Whitianga and Coromandel community in general that if they see anyone matching Luke's description to get in touch with police ASAP by calling 111.

She said her son was very sporty and into soccer and cricket.

"He came to Whitianga to support his friend whose father passed away a year ago and were having a function to remember him. [His friends] were all very supportive of each other and were looking forward to a weekend away."

Glenn Tamati said Cochrane was a promising cricketer.

"He was just a great kid and always full of life, always getting up to mischief."

The family would remain in Whitianga until their son and brother was found, Catherine Tamati said.

"We have all been involved in the search and are all positive and hoping for the best."

No one at the fire station function can remember anything unusual and say the 19-year-old left between 10pm and 10.30pm. His phone was active for another hour after that. Then there was nothing.

Lucas' dad Dave Cochrane told the Herald he was unaware his son was missing until Sunday morning.

Since then more than 30 people, including his friends and family, had scoured the streets for clues.

"You hear about this sort of thing on the news and it's one of those things that you feel for the family and, well, it's tough. Real tough."

Lucas, known as Luke to his friends, had gone to Whitianga from Auckland with a friend, Taine Douglas.

Douglas says that although Luke had been drinking it wasn't enough for him to be concerned about his friend.

Luke didn't say goodbye when he left, but Douglas says that's not uncommon.

The difference this time is he never made it home.

The friends had rented a bach and if Luke had planned to go back there it would have been a 10-15-minute walk.

He would have passed many houses and other buildings, including New World, The Warehouse and Placemakers. The river is also nearby. Searchers have looked in all those areas but had yet to find any sign of the missing teen.

"The events as to what's happened seem to be a bit sketchy," said his father. "It seems that he came out of the fire station about 10.30pm, his phone was active until 11.30pm from a local [Vodafone] repeater station so that tends to indicate he has been in the area until at least 11.30pm. Thereafter we just don't know. Wherever he is he can't charge up and we've rung him plenty of times."

Luke was not equipped or dressed to be out in the open overnight, especially in the heavy rain that fell over the region.

His family said it was unusual for him not to touch base.

"He's a pretty pretty fit sort of a guy and quite reserved. This is out of character for him. If he happened to run out of phone credit or money or whatever he puts his hand up and makes contact. So this, for him to just suddenly disappear is totally out of character."

Cochrane said his son had a new job in the logistics industry based at Auckland Airport's dangerous goods department and was due to be at work yesterday.

He said Adamson, family and friends had been searching the township and its surrounds and would continue to do so today.

"As it stands at the moment we are covering off the ground in the local vicinity and we have a bach at Matarangi and we have been over there four times in the past 24 hours that I have been in town."

The family are pleading with anyone who has seen Luke to come forward. "We're not ruling out any area at this stage, everything is on the table so if anyone sees someone fitting his description please call 111."

Police have asked locals to check their sections, properties or any garages or outside buildings.

The officer in charge of the search, Sergeant Gareth Barnes, said the search, which went on until dark last night, would resume this morning with more LandSar teams from Hamilton.

However, dark threatening rain clouds are beginning to close in on the town, another complication for an already diverse search operation.

Barnes said yesterday Whitianga provided a unique area to search as it involves the township - where Lucas was staying - coastlines, waterways and hilly farmland.

Aerial searches are also being carried out.

"You hear about this sort of thing on the news and it's one of those things that you feel for the family and, well, it's tough. Real tough," Dave Cochrane said.

His family said it was unusual for him not to touch base.

"He's a pretty pretty fit sort of a guy and quite reserved. This is out of character for him. If he happened to run out of phone credit or money or whatever he puts his hand up and makes contact. So this, for him to just suddenly disappear is totally out of character."

Cochrane said his son had a new job in the logistics industry based at Auckland Airport's dangerous goods d1epartment and was due to be at work yesterday.

He said his partner, Debbie Adamson, Luke's younger brother Sean, family and friends had been searching the township and its surrounds and would continue to do so today.

"As it stands at the moment we are covering off the ground in the local vicinity and we have a bach at Matarangi and we have been over there four times in the past 24 hours that I have been in town."

Luke is European, 182cm in height and of medium build with short, sandy-coloured hair. He was wearing a black T-shirt, dark blue jeans, a black peaked cap and white, red and blue Nike shoes.

- NZ Herald

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