Where are you Leo?
Of all the scenarios about the unsolved mystery of Leo Lipp-Neighbours' disappearance, his father Colin Neighbours believes an accident is the most likely.
He figures that Leo was probably driving a bit recklessly after leaving his Watson St flat.
"Because of his state of mind, because of what friends said - and he was a bit like that anyway. He pushed machines to the limit.
"And a lack of sleep, alcohol was involved, the time of day, darkness, the road conditions, he would have been on a wet road, it had been raining. He could have been on a gravel road, with poor traction.
"We have looked around searching, and we still don't know which direction he headed or how far he went. We could so easily have missed him."
Family, friends, and volunteers searched extensively for Leo after his disappearance.
"There must be a car somewhere. Always, we have to ask ourselves, why can't we find it?
"He was my only child, and I was very much involved in his upbringing. It's just a huge loss and a loss that never lessens to me."
Neighbours won't be searching today, however.
"I will be thinking all day, that's for sure. I just feel we have searched so much already it's almost futile.
"I just get ill when I start looking, to be honest, so I try to do something more productive. That's better for me, as much as I would love to find that car, to try to find what happened to him."
Neighbours has moved from his Monaco home, where Leo, an mechanical engineering student at Canterbury University, had been building a buggy in the garage. Now he has a block of land and keeps himself occupied working on it.
He would rather not think about the possibility of foul play.
"I see in the paper the police believe it is foul play, somebody knows something. They have not said why - they are not giving us details. I guess it could compromise their inquiries."
Though he finds it hard, he also raises the possibility of suicide.
"I can't see why Leo would do that, but young people can get themselves in a state of mind that's not rational if they are worked up about something."
Police have told him that generally, people who took their own lives did not conceal themselves, and a high percentage were found, he says.
Despite the anguish, he's not looking for attention.
"We are not alone in this. There are so many people who lose their child - it does not have to be a child, they lose their partners or friends. It's all loss of a loved one. I have seen other people suffering. We are not unique."
Nor does he want others to experience what Leo's family and friends have. "I think of others who can have this happen to them, and how it can be avoided.
"I think his friends are probably feeling they could have done more. They were with him that night and heard what he was saying. Young mates and friends like that should look out for each other a bit more."
Parents were always concerned for their children, Neighbours said.
"If they are not telling you all, how can you know? They may share their thoughts with other friends. That's what happened in this case."
His message is that when young people are feeling down, they need to share that with someone who will help them.
"Their parents will help them, and if they think they won't, they should share it with someone who is qualified, like a counsellor, and there is Youthline."
He believes it may have been Leo's frame of mind that led to his death.
"If someone could have helped him, then it may not have happened."
When someone tells his or her friends that they are expressing dissatisfaction with life or feeling down, the friends should call the parents, he says. "If that had happened that night, it could have been totally different."
He is also concerned about young people putting themselves in vulnerable situations.
"After Leo, there were quite a few nasty acts of violence in Nelson. Young people need to be aware not to be on their own in the early hours. Just stick with their mates, in a place where they are not going to get into difficulties."
Regardless of what happened, he hopes others will continue to look out for Leo's orange 1987 Toyota station wagon.
"I just like people to remember that if they are in the bush, or offroad, hunters and logging gangs, and if they ever do see a car and think it's just a dumped car, to think, ‘Hey this could be that car'.
"If people come across bodies of water, reservoirs or ponds, anywhere where there is public access, where a car could have been driven into, can they note where it is and let the police know."
- The Nelson Mail
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