'I'll do whatever I can to find my dad'
Ruth Talaleilei has been pacing up and down Petone's streets, praying as she searches for her father, who has been missing for two weeks from his home in the Lower Hutt suburb.
The daughter of Tupulaga "Peter" Talalelei - he was also known as Tala or Talafou - flew in from Brisbane on Thursday.
Yesterday afternoon she was tearful as she paused her exhaustive hunt for an update from the police.
"I'm overwhelmed, really, and I'm scared. I haven't stopped walking around the streets in Petone. I won't stop looking for him, not once, I will do whatever I can in my power to find him as long as it takes.
"I've left my family and my three kids at home back in Australia, I've taken time off my job. I'm praying - I just want to find him."
The missing man's family gathered at Lower Hutt Police Station, pleading for the public to come forward with any information that would help find him.
"I want people to know that he was loved and that we care about him and that if they have any compassion or information to contact the police," Ruth Talalelei said.
A search and rescue operation will begin in Petone today as the hunt continues for the 70-year-old who disappeared after being discharged from Hutt Hospital on July 12.
He was last seen in the communal kitchen at his boarding house at 2am on July 13 and police have fears for his safety as the pensioner went missing, along with his walking stick, amid a bitter turn in the weather.
Talalelei's disappearance was out of character. He led a "simple" life and his bank accounts had not been touched since he went missing, Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Ferguson said.
Search and rescue volunteers will search a 300-metre radius outdoors around his home from 8am.
Police had already thoroughly searched indoors and the focus would be on door-knocking residents and searching backyards and around industrial areas, Ferguson said.
The family painted a picture of Talalelei's daily life in the hope it would trigger Petone residents' memories.
His nephew, Lene Sopoaga, said Talalelei was a familiar figure in Jackson St, usually wearing a red woollen hat, cracking jokes with passers-by and keeping to a small area. He took his meals at the Mr Bun bakery and the Horse and Hound pub. He was also a regular punter at the upper Jackson St TAB, where he was known as "lucky Tala". His nephew is Wellingtonian rugby player and now Highlander Lima Sopoaga, and Talalelei would make bets on his games and then give his winnings to his family.
He frequently stopped at the bus stop outside the old police station to chat with locals.
The Dominion Post