Homicide hunt leads to river

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 09:00 21/06/2014
Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ

Police search Wanganui River in relation to the Whetu Hansen case

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Whetu Teaola Hansen
Police search Wanganui River in relation to the Whetu Hansen case

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The mysterious case of the disappearance of Whetu Hansen has taken another turn, with police searching remote parts of the Whanganui River in relation to the homicide.

Manawatu police, members of the police's national dive squad and staff from the Navy started searching parts of the river yesterday morning.

Hansen, from Whanganui, has not been seen since November 24.

He was last seen driving his grey Ford ute towards Palmerston North after filling up at a Z service station in Whanganui.

His disappearance began as a missing person investigation and was upgraded to a homicide inquiry a month later.

A man, who has name suppression, is charged with his murder.

Detective Senior Sergeant Simon Harrison would not say what they were looking for or why they had decided to search the river, but said they were looking at multiple areas upriver from Whanganui.

There was no timeframe on how long the search could take, but police had already planned to review the search on Sunday. "It could end quickly, I'm not entirely sure."

Police and Navy officers were seen searching the river near a remote camping area yesterday, about 30 minutes drive along Whanganui River Rd north of Whanganui.

Two inflatable rescue boats were being used by police and navy officers to search the river.

One group of officers appeared to be using sonar equipment, but staff at the scene would not comment on what the equipment was.

While searching the river, a commercial jetboat operation drove through the search area. People on board the jetboat talked to the police and Navy staff, with one jokingly asking, "how's the eeling going".

The searchers were concentrating on the side of the river closest to Whanganui River Rd.

Police have called for more assistance from the public in relation to Hansen's disappearance, appealing for sightings of a 1996 white Ford Courier ute seen in the Palmerston North or Whanganui area around December 4, last year.

Harrison said it was the third vehicle linked to the case, and police were still asking for sightings of the other two - a mint-green 1981 Mitsubishi wooden flat-deck ute and Hansen's 1980s primer-grey coloured Ford.

"I would encourage anyone that has any information about this vehicle or the death of Whetu Hansen to contact their local police station."

THE STORY SO FAR

November 24, 2013: Whetu Hansen seen driving towards Palmerston North from Whanganui. He had filled up his ute with petrol at a Z station in Whanganui before making the trip.

December 2: Police are told Hansen is missing.

December 5: Detectives, police dogs and forensic experts comb a house at 121 Akers Rd, Linton. Police would not say what they were looking for at first, but later revealed they were seriously concerned for Hansen's safety.

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December 10: Missing person inquiry upgraded to a homicide, based on new information coming to light. Police do not divulge the nature of the information, but say a man talked to police soon before the change was made. That man is arrested and charged with various offences, but not murder. He is later given name suppression.

January 8, 2014: Police ask the public for sightings of Hansen's dog, Henry, which is believed to have been with him when he went missing.

May 14: A 56-year-old Manawatu man is charged with Hansen's murder, despite Hansen's body not yet being found. The man is given name suppression, and later pleads not guilty to the charge.

June 20: Police start searching the Whanganui River in relation to Hansen's death. 

- Manawatu Standard

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