Grieving family and friends of a man who vanished more than 20 years ago believe he was murdered by his ex-girlfriend's father and his car disposed of at a wrecking yard, a coroner's inquest has heard.
Terence Charles Hendry set off from his parents' home in Christchurch with no cash and limited fuel in his car on the afternoon of June 20, 1991.
The 32-year-old told them he was going to the post office to withdraw some money. He and his car have never been found.
Police investigating the case have made many appeals to the public for information but have been unable to solve the mystery.
Hendry could have been murdered, committed suicide or died accidentally, investigators said.
Yesterday, a coroner's inquest in Christchurch heard that family and friends believed Hendry had been annoying his ex-girlfriend and her father had killed him.
Giving evidence, Detective Sergeant Al Lester said a family member had phoned the ex-girlfriend's father to question him about Hendry's disappearance and received an abusive response.
Hendry's late father, John, also visited a wrecking yard where the man worked because he "was concerned this may be how the car was disposed of".
He was refused entry to look for parts of his son's car.
The family had little evidence to support their claims, Lester said.
"One of those reasons was based on an alleged statement by [the man] on 30 April 1991 to John Hendry that Terence had been bothering his daughter, that Terence's behaviour had gotten out of hand and something had to be done."
After publicity about the case last year, the man walked into the Kaikoura Police Station "in a very excited state . . . and repeated over and over again that the police shouldn't be opening this case - it wasn't a murder, it was a suicide - and that was the end of it", Lester told the inquest. At the time, police had never spoken to the man.
However, Hendry's family had previously confronted him with their suspicions.
A week later, a team of investigators travelled to Kaikoura and the man and members of his family were formally interviewed.
The man said he had been at his daughter's home when Hendry turned up unannounced the weekend before he disappeared. Hendry walked through the house and said "I should be here" before he was asked to leave.
"Before leaving [the man] stated Terence said to him ‘I'm going, you'll never see me again - nobody will'."
The man's story conflicted with a statement provided to police by his daughter, who said her father was not there when Hendry turned up.
"We interviewed the [man's] current wife. She said that given his age he'd got it mixed up."
Hendry had visited the couple at their home about the same time, she said.
Lester recalled that the man, now aged in his 70s, was able to provide precise answers to police when he was questioned last year.
"He certainly believed or wanted me to believe that what he said was true.
"He was quite emphatic on a number of occasions throughout the interview that he was the last person to see Terence alive which, given he went missing a week later, has always stuck in my mind . . . as being an unusual comment to make."
The man denied having any involvement in Hendry's disappearance, Lester said.
"Although these matters caused suspicion they are hearsay and a lot of it isn't admissible evidence" in a criminal court.
In 2010, Lester reviewed the case after it emerged police had failed to report Hendry's disappearance and presumed death to the coroner.
Inquiries revealed Hendry had mental health issues and a long-time obsession with his ex-girlfriend.
Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean said it was "blindingly obvious" that Hendry was dead.
He adjourned the hearing and imposed an interim order for suppression of the names of those Hendry's family believed were involved in his disappearance. They would also have the chance to provide evidence, MacLean said.
After the hearing Lester said: "There are people who know what's happened to Terence Hendry and it would be very appropriate for those people to come forward and take all that uncertainty away from the family."
"If anybody has been involved in foul play that person or people need to to be brought to justice in the interest of fairness to society," he said.
Anyone with information is asked to call Lester on (03) 363 7400, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Terence Hendry left his parents' home in Tabart St, Woolston, about 4.30pm on June 20, 1991.
The 32-year-old was driving a dilapidated orange Datsun 120Y, registration HS359.
It was hand-painted and had no front passenger seat.
Police established he never made it to his destination, the post office about 2 kilometres from his parents' home.
Hendry suffered from mental illness.
He left behind his medication and all of his possessions, including a passport.
He was known to holiday on the West Coast and in Kaikoura.
- Fairfax Media
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