A Christchurch man who went missing just over two years ago is now believed to have been murdered.

Richard Hinkley, who was 49 when he disappeared, was last seen at Kiwibank in Edgeware on December 12, 2015.

But in a major development in the past few weeks, police have searched a property in east Christchurch. The Star has learned the search has confirmed police inquiries that he has likely been killed.

Hinkley's body was not found during the search. Detectives have a key suspect.

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Hinkley was 1.84m tall, and of solid build, and had a shaved head when he was last seen. He often wore a beanie or hat. He was last seen wearing dark pants, a black T-shirt with a large white pattern on the front and a blue peaked cap with a dark blue logo on the front.

There have been no sightings of Hinkley reported to police since he went missing.

Police appear not to have been aware of Hinkley's disappearance until March 2016 when they issued a media statement seeking information from the public as to his whereabouts.

At the time, police said they were building a picture of what may have happened to him and were liaising with his family who had become increasingly concerned for his welfare.

But information received recently opened a major line of inquiry for detectives.

The Star yesterday attempted to talk to detectives investigating the Hinkley case about the breakthrough. But they did not respond to phone calls or emails.

The development in the Hinkley case is similar to that of missing Halswell man Michael McGrath.

McGrath disappeared 236 days ago. In December, after months of investigation, police and his family conceded McGrath was dead.

Police still list his disappearance as a missing persons case but they have been running a parallel homicide case for months.

They spent more than two months searching the Kate Valley landfill site for clues and took away more than 200 pairs of jeans, some of which will be forensically tested.

Police also made an extensive forensic search of a Halswell property belonging to McGrath's friend David Benbow. Police said he was a person of interest.

- Star Kiwi