A heartbroken family say they are living a nightmare as they hunt for their missing father and grieve for their mother who died a month after his baffling disappearance.

Bulls man Kevin Hartley, 54, was last seen riding his quad bike to go fishing at a Manawatu beach on February 16.

Then on March 14, his wife of more than 30 years Joanne Hartley died. Her death is before a coroner and legal restrictions prevent publication of further details.

The couple's son-in-law Daniel Hanson told the Weekend Herald the double tragedy was a family's worst nightmare.


He said Kevin Hartley, an engineer, and Joanne, a St John worker, had a long and loving relationship and the pair had just become grandparents to baby Lucas, who is now 12 weeks old.

"I'd love to say the family are coping well but in all honesty it's a very, very hard situation and we find ourselves lost in thought quite often about what exactly we're going through.

"There's such a range of emotions. It's a washing machine of emotions, you're going from cycle to cycle. Even though I'm just the son-in-law, I feel like I've lost my parents as well and it's pretty sad.

"As happy as we are as new parents it's sad to know (Lucas) won't grow up with half of his grandparents. We will raise our son to know what good and decent people they are.

"Everything they did was for their children. They were just the most outgoing and loving people. They always cared for everyone else. They have three beautiful children together, and a lovely marriage so it's absolutely heartbreaking."

The family describe the disappearance as uncharacteristic, and they believe an accident may be to blame. There was "no evidence" to suggest any other scenario, Hanson said.

The official search has been pared back despite the family's vow not to give up hope of finding him.

"Obviously with the time now passed, (family) just want to find him," Hanson said.


"We have not given up any hope of locating Kevin.

"Each day that you go out there searching, in whatever capacity you do, you have hope the entire time you're out there. It's very demoralising to come back without having located him however, I will not stop searching whenever I can.

"I still have hope, because at the end of the day he's somewhere. It's as simple as that. Until we've found him I'll be continuing to look. I owe that to my family and to myself."

Kevin Hartley, Leigh Hanson, Joanne Hartley, Anna Hartley, William Hartley
Kevin Hartley, Leigh Hanson, Joanne Hartley, Anna Hartley, William Hartley

Kevin was last seen driving a quad bike from Parewanui Rd to Scotts Ferry beach, towards the bombing range tower in Santoft Forest.

Hanson said Hartley was en route to fish and had taken bait and equipment. His quad bike was found in sand dunes.

Initial full-scale searches involved hundreds of community members who scoured the beach, the sand dunes, Santoft forest and surrounding areas. It was possible Hartley had entered the water but weather conditions at the time, including Cyclone Gita, meant a dive search hadn't happened.

The inquiry remains open and Hanson understood police were formulating plans for further searches, while a police spokesperson said limited searches were being carried out "when new information comes to light".

Hanson said it was important to the family that they publicly thank volunteers, police, Search and Rescue, and those who had donated to their Give A Little fund- which has amassed more than $18,000.

"It's been absolutely humbling. I don't want to say overwhelming, but you know, there's no word to show your gratitude and all we can do is to thank them from the bottom of our hearts," he said.

"We've also been very, very impressed and happy with the response from Victim Support. They do a fantastic job. I can't say enough about them, they provide a service that you wish no one had to use but has to be provided and they do a wonderful job.

"It's given us some huge lessons as not only family, but as humans, how important it is to communicate and always talk. Don't let the mind linger or something, you should always talk to your loved one."


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234