'Serious concerns' for man's safety
Police say their armed investigation of a rural Manawatu property is to locate a missing Whanganui man, who they have grave concerns for.
Whetu Teaola Hansen, 48, has been missing since November 24.
Police became aware of his disappearance when they started looking for him on an unrelated matter on Monday, December 3.
A search warrant was executed on December 5 at a rural property on Akers Rd, Linton, where Hansen was known to visit.
Detective Senior Sergeant Simon Harrison, the officer in charge of the investigation, said: "Police have serious concerns for Mr Hansen's safety and we believe that there are unexplained reasons behind his disappearance, of which we cannot elaborate further on except to say that they are a cause for concern."
"The investigation team are working to trace Mr Hansen's movements leading up to his disappearance and the search warrant at this address forms part of our inquiries," he said. "Officers at the property are looking for any evidence that shows he has been at the property recently.
"We also want to speak to anyone that may have any information about his whereabouts, or any other information that could help us with our investigation and I encourage those people to contact Police."
A neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said she last saw the occupant of the house, a man she believed was in his 40s or 50s, on Tuesday.
She first saw detectives at the house on Wednesday, and police had been in and out of the property since then, with a scene guard on the gates at night.
When she asked if it was a homicide she said she was told: "We don't know yet."
Officers are also making inquires with Hansen's family and friends in an effort to research his daily routine and activities.
Approximately 25 staff are working on the investigation. A team of 15 officers are at the property today and their focus is on searching the main house, a self-contained flat on the property, as well as utility sheds and surrounding farm land.
Harrison said: "We want to thank the community for their patience and understanding as we carry out our search. I want to reassure residents that they need not fear for their safety."
"I also want to take this opportunity to address media reports that officers guarding the property with machine guns are totally incorrect; the New Zealand Police do not have machine guns," he said. "The deployment of armed officers is for staff security and to protect the integrity of the scene while the thorough examination is being carried out.
"The search is expected to be completed by mid-next week and we are also currently making inquiries both in the Manawatu and Whanganui."
Hansen is described as being of Maori descent, medium build, approximately 5'8 in height, with brown eyes and dark greying hair. It is unknown at this stage the specifics of his clothing when he was last seen.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Dave Wilson (06) 213 9595. Information can also be provided anonymously to the organisation Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.