Missing man's family hope for closure with inquest

23:57, May 26 2010

The family of a Northland man who vanished mysteriously in London seven years ago are to travel to England early next year for his inquest.

Lee Sheppard kissed his wife Juliet goodbye and left their London flat on January 31, 2003, for his job at a London recycling factory. He was never seen again.

His file was closed by London police after several years. They said there was no sign of foul play and he may have disappeared on purpose.

The family never accepted that and said he was so excited when he was told the day he vanished, that his wife was probably pregnant, that he had no reason to disappear.

After his family hired a private investigator, who went to London, the file was reopened and just over a year ago police said he probably died in an industrial accident when crushed to death at the recycling factory.

Auckland private investigator Ron McQuilter said the coroner's office had asked if the family was available in February, indicating that was when the coroner's hearing would be held, although the date had yet to be confirmed.

He said the indications were also that the inquest would be before a jury, not just the coroner.

Mr Sheppard's parents, Ken and Rose, his wife Juliet, and possibly all his four brothers were expected to travel to London for the hearing, but they would meet their own expenses.

Mr Sheppard's disappearance and the family's efforts to find out what had happened had cost them millions and had ruined the family, Mr McQuilter said.

He said the family would not have a funeral service, until after the coroner had ruled.

This year Mrs Sheppard said her husband's disappearance had consumed her life for seven years.