The search for a missing Gisborne man after Cyclone Gabrielle is now being extended to remote flood-ravaged areas after CCTV showed Joseph Ahuriri travelled north of Napier and not south as police previously believed.
Ahuriri was previously last seen on CCTV on February 14 at 5.15am in Havelock North as Cyclone Gabrielle began to batter the region.
However, surveillance images from a Waitomo Fuel Stop, recorded on February 14 at 5.46am, now indicate he drove north towards Bay View village and the devastated Esk Valley, Hawke’s Bay Inspector Martin James confirmed tonight.
The 40-year-old’s family, who have been critical of the police search, had earlier this week already revealed the existence of the security footage, which they said showed Ahuriri heading towards the northern Hawke’s Bay town of Wairoa along State Highway 2. The highway was devastated by the cyclone and completely impassable in parts.
This new fuel stop footage puts Ahuriri 30km in the opposite direction from where police said he was last spotted on CCTV.
Ahuriri left his home in Gisborne on February 13 at about 4pm, driving south to Napier, and intending to return at about 2am the next day.
Ahuriri’s family said the father of eight had been visiting whanau in Hawke’s Bay and planned to return home but decided to stay at a Napier hotel because of worsening weather. He checked out of his hotel at 4.28am and was driving a white Toyota Hilux, registration DZH116.
During the past month, police supported by the NZ Defence Force and Urban Search and Rescue teams have conducted sweeps for Ahuriri and his vehicle, James said.
Search areas have included around Whakatu, Clive, Esk Valley, along the Napier-Taupo Rd (State Highway 5), State Highway 2, and many of the rural roads off SH5 and SH2.
This new information was a massive part in the “phase” of the search for the 40-year-old, Martin said, which was complicated by the fact that a lot of CCTV in the Hawke’s Bay area was not working at the time due to power failures.
Eastern District Commander Superintendent Jeanette Park has previously said police believed Ahuriri’s disappearance was unlikely to be cyclone-related, “although this cannot be fully ruled out”.
James said another part of this new phase of the search was interviewing the family and friends of Ahuriri.
“Regular contact has been maintained with his family who have been kept up-to-date with the investigation,” James said.
“Police continue to work hard to locate Joseph and appreciate the assistance from people who have come forward with information and CCTV footage.”
Police urged anyone on Seafield Rd and Glengarry Rd who has CCTV and who has not already been approached by Police to please make contact with police immediately.
Ahuriri’s daughter, Jah Cameron, has also pleaded for anyone in the area with security cameras to contact her.
“Contacted all hospitals and tried contacting all services that are helping within that area yet still nothing now all we can do is wait,” she wrote on social media.
“Come home safe to us dad, we will never stop searching for you.”
Anyone who has information that could assist the investigation is urged to contact Police by calling 105, or going online to 105.police.govt.nz using ‘Update Report’ and referencing 230225/2804.