By Deborah Diaz

The Robinson family always expected their son would return and tell them what had happened in the years since he left home as a teenager.

Instead they buried the 25-year-old yesterday in a family plot at Thames, almost two weeks after his body was found with a shot to the head on an isolated Kakapotahi beach, on the South Island's West Coast.

"There was always hope, and now that's gone," said an aunt, Sharon Bicknell, on behalf of David's Rotorua parents, John and Joan Robinson.

David was dearly missed by his family in the eight years since he left home, the last of these apparently spent as a transient.

The family are still struggling to understand the death of "the cheekiest grin and the most gorgeous chuckle" they knew.

When the quiet teenager hit a rough patch with his parents, no one ever imagined it would lead to years of estrangement.

"If you have not had teenagers, then there's no way to describe it. They get to a certain stage and rebel, and you can't tell them what to do. Every mother has been through it. He wasn't over the top. He was just a loner who wanted to do his own thing," said his aunt.

Mrs Bicknell last saw her nephew six years ago, after tracking him down living in Taupo. David wrote to his parents several times in the next few years but contact became infrequent and then stopped.

The family now hope the public will come forward with information that can solve the killing. David, at 1.95m in height and with auburn hair, must have been seen.

They also have a special message for others who have lost touch with their family like David: drop a postcard in every now and then.