Man missing for 40 years 'probably dead'

An Auckland academic who disappeared in 1974 is most likely dead after becoming disoriented in a diabetic episode, the coroner says.

An inquest by Coroner Deborah Marshall in Auckland today heard that 40-year-old father-of-two Peter Chaffe was last seen in July 1974 when he stopped for an after-work drink and something to eat at a friend's house in Avondale.

The friend reported Chaffe was seeing double and feeling unwell.

He left his friend's address in his red Simca car and was spotted heading towards the northwestern motorway, the quickest route to his home in the West Auckland suburb of Massey.

No one has seen him since.

Efforts to find out what happened to him, including an episode on the TV show The Missing, have failed to uncover clues to his disappearance.

Detective Sergeant Peter Litherland said the only possible sightings were of a confused man at the Red Fox Tavern, but police did not find enough evidence to confirm the man's identity.

Despite an extensive search and investigation, neither Chaffe nor his car were found.

There is some speculation the popular academic from Auckland University's chemistry department may have been disoriented by complications linked to his diabetes.

Some believe he lost his way on the trip home and veered off the road somewhere as his condition worsened. Searches around Auckland's west coast beaches and along the Scenic Drive revealed nothing.

Chaffe's wife believed her husband was unwell and disoriented at the time of his disappearance and everything else was a matter of speculation, Litherland said.

Police were satisfied he had died after becoming disoriented from his diabetes.

Coroner Marshall said she agreed Chaffe had died around the time of his disappearance based on the evidence. She would release her full written finding at a later date.