The father of missing autistic man Nigel Peterson says the family is struggling to come to grips with not knowing what's happened.

The search for the 33-year-old was suspended at 4.30pm today and will resume again tomorrow morning.

Nigel went missing on Friday between 3pm and 5pm. He was living in a flat on Otonga Rd under 24-hour care and problems with the hot water cylinder meant he and his housemates had to relocate.

However, when he was being moved, he jumped out of the car and ran off.


Police said members of the public saw him shortly after 3pm but he hadn't been seen since.

Police are reviewing CCTV footage to establish the direction of travel Nigel was headed when he was last seen on Old Taupo Rd.

Teams of Land Search and Rescue squads from Rotorua and Tauranga today went door-to-door in the areas surrounding Otonga Rd asking residents to check their properties.

Constable Colin Fraser, who leads the Rotorua Search and Rescue Squad, said while people were happy to help and allowed the teams to search their properties, they failed to find him or any clues.

He said search teams had previously focused on open spaces, including parks, reserves, schools, golf courses, retirement homes and hospitals.

Fraser said given Nigel's autism, it was possible he was at someone's property and they didn't know he was there.

"He could have easily wandered into the backyards and be in a garage. He could be sitting on a chair at the back of a garage waiting to be found because he wouldn't necessarily be able to seek his own help."

Retired Detective Sergeant Colin Matthews, who now lives on Sophia St, was working in his garden when the search teams went to his house.

Matthews told the Rotorua Daily Post he had seen publicity about Nigel and was happy for the search teams to look around his property, although he said he had already looked himself.

Meanwhile, Nigel's father Chris said he and other family members were helping in the search.

"We feel like we have to do something ... We have had a phenomenal number of people wanting to help but we are just not getting any breakthrough or progress. It's a struggle that's for sure. It's hard to come to grips with really and it's getting to the stage now where we just can't figure out what he has done. We can't understand why there's been no sightings."

Chris said staff at Geneva Healthcare, who looked after Nigel, were "heartbroken".

"They just loved him. There is no blame there, it's just one of those things. We can't make head nor tail about it."

Nigel's sister, Michelle Peterson, has made a plea for people further afield to keep their eyes open for Nigel.

She said Nigel might have misunderstood the situation with his flat and thought he was not able to return to the home he loved.

Michelle said the family had relatives in Whakatane and Nigel might have been trying to get to them.

"He might be trying to head there and might have got it completely wrong," Michelle said.

"He's very unsure about people. He might not approach people but he will be very noticeable, he will be very distressed.

"He will look like someone whose life has come crashing down and they don't know how to deal with it."

Michelle described her brother as slim and of medium height. On the day he went missing, he was believed to have been wearing a green T-shirt, light brown pants, brown sneakers, and possibly a denim jacket.

Nigel would likely be wringing his hands and could be talking to himself. Michelle said Nigel walked with quite an unusual gait and leaned to the side a bit as he moved.

If you have not yet spoken to police but think you may have seen Nigel since Friday, please get in touch with Rotorua police on (07) 348 0099 and quote file number 171117/2007.