Five years after a retired Wellington taxi driver went missing, police now believe he may have been murdered - and are digging up yards and tearing up floorboards in their search for his body.
Vietnamese refugee Do Trieu, 68, disappeared from his Mt Cook home on or soon after August 20, 2008.
Yesterday, police said his disappearance was now officially considered a homicide, as they closed in on his killer or killers.
Mr Trieu's disappearance received little attention at the time, because police treated it as a missing person case.
Now they believe he is dead, and that his death was "very suspicious".
"Initially it was treated as a missing person case, but further inquiries have now established the matter as a homicide investigation," said Detective Senior Sergeant Warwick McKee, in charge of the inquiry.
"We've completed a pretty thorough review this year."
A team of six detectives assigned to the file since May have been turning over Mr Trieu's former life, hunting for his body and details of his death.
"We're reinvestigating the disappearance of Do Trieu. I don't believe he is alive," Mr McKee said. "We believe somebody has been responsible for [his] death. We are doing our best to get some resolution."
Last month police tracked down Mr Trieu's old car and checked it for DNA.
They also returned to the Housing New Zealand apartment he shared with his second wife, Chi Thi Nguyen, in Rolleston St, Mt Cook, where they dug up sections of the yard, scoured the basement of the complex, and tore up the flat's floorboards searching for his body.
Several "items of interest" were found, Mr McKee said, though he would not elaborate on what they were.
Recent inquiries have determined that Mr Trieu went on a three-day holiday to Rotorua on August 17, 2008, with his wife and two friends.
They returned to Wellington on August 20, police say. Mr Trieu was not reported missing until September 14.
When questioned in 2008, Mrs Nguyen told police her husband left again on August 21, bound for Auckland. Interviewed by police again this week, she repeated that, Mr McKee said.
"But we don't believe he's gone to Auckland. We believe he hasn't left Wellington. We will be speaking to her and getting another account from her.
"She is a person we will be contacting and speaking to in depth, as with . . . a whole lot of other people."
Mr Trieu's daughter, Hanh, who lives in Lower Hutt, said this week that, even before the road trip, she had concerns for her father's safety.
He told her he was going to Taupo, not Rotorua. And she believes he never came home.
"They were always fighting, not happy," she said of his relationship with Mrs Nguyen, who was 28 years younger than him. "Maybe something happened, something bad. Maybe he said something that made her angry or upset.
"I think my dad went to Taupo on a trip and maybe they killed my dad. I don't think he came back."
Police urge anyone with information about Do Trieu to contact them on 0800 387846.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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