Eighteen years ago Graham Vanstone left his dad's house on Father's Day, and was never seen again.

The 49-year-old left his father Alan's house at around 5.20pm on September 5, 1999, wearing a white short-sleeved t-shirt and dark blue jeans, after spending time with family.

Once he arrived at his Akaroa home, he contacted his partner Maeve Allen.

She later told police she had been driving through Ashburton when she got the call at around 6.20pm.

Advertisement

He promised to have the jug on for her when she returned home.

But when she got there, he was gone.

THE MISSING

Vanstone is one of 385 New Zealanders who have disappeared since 1939.

More than a third of those are unexplained. More than 100 lost at sea.

According to information obtained under the Official Information Act (OIA), Canterbury is the most common place to go missing, making up 19 per cent of the country's total.

Nearly half of those go tramping in the region's beautiful mountain ranges and are never heard from again.

However, more often than not, the reason behind why a person goes missing remains a mystery - a third of all cases over the past 78 years are identified as 'unexplained'.

FROM FISH TO WINE

In the 1990s, Graham Vanstone was transitioning from being a successful fisherman to realising his dream of owning a 'lifestyle block with an income'.

Advertisement

After selling his quotas, he purchased a 5 acre property overlooking the village of Akaroa, 80km south east of Christchurch with the idea of starting a vineyard.

"He decided being wet and cold all the time was not the best idea for the second half of his life, so he sold his quota and invested money in other ventures," Dr Graeme Coles, the man who would take over the unfinished venture, said.

"He [Graham] got some vines planted and did all the work to start a vineyard on a steep site above a village."

However, Vanstone never got to taste the fruits of his labour, disappearing before his first vintage was picked.

His elderly father, Alan, initially took over managing the vineyard, before Coles - a crop and food scientist and Graham Vanstone's brother-in-law's cousin - took over production.

Both of Graham's sons also took on roles at the business, which produces a couple of hundred cases of wine a year.

AN 18-YEAR INVESTIGATION

Detective Inspector Tony Hill became involved in the case around five months after Vanstone went missing.

Officers left no stone unturned, he said, and he is confident they followed up on every lead to its full conclusion.

A number of scenarios have been visited, and revisited, over the years.

Father's Day 1999 was a decent spring Sunday, with a high of 17C and clear skies.

In the days following Vanstone's disappearance police urged nearby farmers to check outbuildings and sheds for any signs of habitation.

Perhaps he had gone for a walk and sheltered from a turn in weather.

Or maybe, as mentioned by police at the time, Vanstone was alive and did not want to be found.

His father Alan, then 78-years-old, told The Press newspaper on October, 4, 1999, his son may have been abducted.

However, he couldn't think of any motive, he said.

"He would not have left home unless he was forced to," he told The Press at the time.

"He took no clothing and no shoes. Even his jandals were left behind."

Police forensically searched the home and found no evidence of a struggle, Hill said - they do not believe he left the house forcibly.

The majority of his personal belongings were found at his Akaroa home - including his wallet, keys and car.

The cell phone he used to call Maeve Allen at 6.20pm was still sitting by his bedside.

In fact, the police struggled to confirm what he did take with him.

No one could provide police with a good inventory of his wardrobe, Hill said, so they couldn't even determine whether he left the house with shoes on.

"His relationship with his then-partner hadn't been going that long. Although he had a strong relationship with his family and father, not to the degree that someone could conclusively say he had nine pairs of shoes and one's missing," he said.

It is a case that sticks with him, Hill said.

"No one wants to have a case that they've never brought to a natural conclusion. But, I'm also more than satisfied that the length police have taken to investigate this case has gone above and beyond," he said.

As for Vanstone's family, Hill said he is frustrated for them.

"They would like some closure into what happened to Graham. I suppose after all this time they still sit in a position where they wonder 'where is Graham?' to this day."

Vanstone's family declined to comment, as did his then-partner Allen.

Today, the father and son share a final resting place at the Akaroa Catholic Cemetery.

The gravestone reads: "In memory of Alan James Vanstone 21 March 1921 - 30 January 2003, much loved husband, father & grandfather."

Another inscription just below reads: "Also in memory of his son, Graham John Vanstone, disappeared in Akaroa on 5th September, 1999 - aged 49 years"

MICHAEL MCGRATH

Missing man Michael McGrath
Missing man Michael McGrath

Christchurch man Michael McGrath, 49, has been missing for nearly four months.

He was last seen at his home on Checketts Ave, Halswell at 4.30pm on Sunday May 21, but wasn't reported missing until Tuesday.

His normal routine was to have dinner with his mother on Tuesdays but he never showed up.

His family found his home locked, with his wallet and cash inside.

McGrath's 1994 blue Subaru Legacy sat in the driveway and his push bike was also left behind.

His phone has not been used since May 21, nor has his bank account.

Within days, a detailed search and rescue operation ensued and a dive squad scoured waterways in the Halswell area.

Three properties were scene examined, including that of Christchurch Men's Prison guard and childhood friend, David Benbow - who police would say would be a 'person of interest'.

A team of more than 20 police staff searched the Kate Valley refuse centre over four weeks - where a considerable number of 'items of interest' have been found.

McGrath's twin brother, Simon, said family and friends are desperate to get him home.

"You have these nightmares," Simon McGrath said.

"I wake up and I'm living a nightmare. I think something sinister has happened to him.

"I know something bad has happened. He's never walked off in his life. He's a good brother, good set of friends. He wasn't on the wrong side of the law. It's not something he would do."

Investigations into McGrath's disappearance are continuing.

Police have set up a dedicated phone line for people who have information regarding his whereabouts.

Anyone with information can call 0800 346 364 (0800 findmichael) or provide information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

YURI SANTANA

Yuri Santana. Photo / Supplied
Yuri Santana. Photo / Supplied

It's been nearly a year since then-17-year-old Yuri Santana told his mother he was going for a walk.

On October 4, 2016 he left his home on Rangitata Huts Road in Clandeboye at about 10am, wearing light blue shorts and a light grey zip-up jacket with light green striped on the sleeves.

He was last seen on Badham Rd, near the intersection of Rangitata Island Road at 11.40am - and hasn't been seen or heard from since.

In the days following Santana's disappearance, search teams and a helicopter were used to explore the Rangitata River area.

The family, who also have a 7-year-old daughter, moved to New Zealand from Brazil nine years ago, and don't have other family here for support.

His mother, Rosy Santana, said the day her son left he was pretty much normal - he was a calm and quiet boy in general.

Santana's 18th birthday was in December - an occasion his family had to celebrate without him.

"I miss him so much," Rosy Santana said, "the fact there is no sign anywhere to find him is making me feel... I don't know even how to describe the feeling... Not having him around is making me suffer."

The investigation into the disappearance of Santana has been suspended pending any further information or lines of enquiry, police said.

Anyone who sees Yuri or has any information about his whereabouts is asked to call 111 or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

BY THE NUMBERS

The following have been missing for a year or more as at May 2017:

• Auckland City: 14
• Bay of Plenty: 44
• Canterbury: 73
• Central: 21
• Counties/Manukau: 21
• Eastern: 18
• Northland: 20
• Southern: 61
• Tasman: 36
• Waikato: 22
• Waitemata: 24
• Wellington: 31

• Homicide: 24
• Search and Rescue (Aviation): 5
• Search and Rescue (Lake): 10
• Search and Rescue (Land): 13
• Search and Rescue (Mountain): 37
• Search and Rescue (River): 11
• Search and Rescue (Sea): 110
• Suspected suicide: 28
• Unexplained: 147