Missing person case now homicide
A homicide investigation has been launched into the disappearance of Whanganui man Whetu Teaola Hansen.
PoliceDetective Senior Sergeant Simon Harrison said today the decision to upgrade the case was based on information received in the past 12 hours.
"While I am not prepared to divulge the nature of the information for investigative reasons, this is a significant turning point for our investigation and this information has further confirmed our serious concerns around Mr Hansen's disappearance," he said.
Yesterday afternoon, the 56-year-old occupant of the Linton property where Hansen's car was found, spoke to police for the first time and was subsequently charged with possession of explosives, Harrison said.
The man will appear in the Palmerston North District Court today.
Harrison said the explosives were found in one of the buildings of the property, but would not elaborate on what the explosives were.
Harrison would not comment whether the man was also helping with enquiries into Hansen's death.
"We're keeping an open mind with regard to that and we're not going to comment on any individuals and what role they're playing," he said.
Police became aware of 48-year-old Hansen's disappearance on December 2.
He was last seen November 24, driving his 1980 grey Ford ute, travelling toward Palmerston North.
The vehicle was recovered from an Akers Rd near Linton property on December 5.
Harrison said he had "no knowledge" of why Hansen was at the Akers Rd property, or when he arrived.
Police would be checking in with petrol stations and looking at CCTV footage, in an effort to piece together his movements.
There was no indication drugs or gang involvement played a role in his death, and Harrison would not comment on Hansen's criminal history.
"While we do not know why, at this stage, and who is responsible, every effort is being made to obtain answers to these questions," he said.
"We are continuing to make enquiries and one of our main focuses is on locating Mr Hansen so we can return him to his family."
No one had been arrested in relation to Hansen's death.
"To protect the integrity of our enquiries, I will not be making any comment on individuals of interest to this investigation," he said.
"There is no explanation for [his death], but we're keeping an open mind with regard to that and we're hoping we'll get an answer in the next couple of weeks."
A team of 10 police supported by ESR staff would continue with to examine the Linton property.
Harrison said he expected the investigation there would continue until at least tomorrow and perhaps Thursday.
He said police had been encouraged by support from the public and still wanted to know of sightings of the Hansen's ute or any other information.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Detective Dave Wilson on 06 213 9595. Information could also be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
- Manawatu Standard