Missing teen mystery endures, three years on

STILL WAITING: Leo Lipp-Neighbours went missing three years ago today.
STILL WAITING: Leo Lipp-Neighbours went missing three years ago today.

The case of a missing Nelson teen last seen driving into the night three years ago today still has police perplexed.

Leo Lipp-Neighbours has not been seen or heard from since.

His 22nd birthday was this month and he possibly would have finished university last year.

Nelson police are still actively working on Leo's missing person file and started reviewing it two months ago.

Foul play hasn't been ruled out in his disappearance.

Detective Sergeant Mark Kaveney said the review involved going through the file from start to finish and clearing up a few inquiries that were open.

"Basically we are renewing the file and seeing what we find."

A $50,000 reward for information on Leo's disappearance is still on offer through Crimestoppers. The police had received drips and drabs of information over the past year including information on possible sightings of Leo's distinctive orange Toyota Corolla from Invercargill to Auckland.

Police had also received information from psychics, he said.

Police had followed up the sightings but nothing had come from the information.

However, he said police still welcomed any information even if it turned out it to be a false sighting.

Kaveney said police believed someone in the community had information about what happened to Leo.

"I believe there are people or persons out in the community that will be able to assist us with our inquiries who know more than they are saying," he said. "I would encourage them to come forward."

Kaveney said Leo's family was desperate for answers.

He believed there were two scenarios about what had happened to Leo. One was that he had crashed his car and had died in the car, which had not been found. The car could be hidden if he had driven it over a bank, and it could be under water.

Another possible scenario was foul play and Leo had been murdered. Police had an open mind on that scenario. "At this stage all we are saying is he has disappeared off the face of the Earth as far as we can see at this stage and we do not know the reason why."

Leo disappeared from his Washington Valley flat at 4am on January 24, 2010.

The Canterbury University student had been drinking with friends at a Nelson club earlier in the evening. Before driving off into the darkness he told a friend he was going to be at one with nature.

A painstaking and extensive search of roads and roadsides in the top of the south uncovered no sign of Leo or his car.

Kaveney said he did not accept the other possible scenarios that Leo had committed suicide or had run off, had changed his identity and was living somewhere else.

"He has either crashed his car or we are looking at foul play.

"We are treating him as a missing person, not a homicide investigation, until information comes through to change that scenario."

Kaveney said anyone with information should contact police and if it was sensitive information and they did not want to be identified they could talk anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

He said it was "somewhat unusual" but "not impossible" that Leo's distinctive orange Corolla had not been found.

However, a motorcycle was found in the Buller Gorge some years after its driver crashed. The driver's body was found nearby.

"It's a very distinctive vehicle. I would have thought someone would have seen that vehicle or know about that unless it's down a bank somewhere, under trees, under bush or under water. That's the only reason it couldn't be found I would think."

Leo's mother Charlotte Lipp said three years later the family still did not know anything.

"We think that we've lost Leo, and that we may not find him, and we have to accept that. That doesn't mean we will ever stop wanting to know what has happened to him. Until we know, we have to have an open mind, and we'll keep on trying to find out."

The Nelson Mail