Aussie tennis coach vanishes

Paul Arber last seen in Ham East

JESSICA WRIGHT, ANGELA CUMING AND JONATHAN CARSON
Last updated 21:03 09/12/2013

NZ search for missing Australian

Paul Arber
MISSING: Australian tennis coach Paul Arber.

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Police hold grave fears for the safety of a well known Australian tennis coach who is missing in Hamilton East.

Melbourne tennis identity Paul Arber - a former Kooyong Tennis Club captain and the 2012 Victorian Jewish Tennis Champion - was last seen on Grey St near Steele Park about 9pm on Saturday  night.

Mr Arber was in Hamilton with eight of his charges for a junior tennis tournament hosted by Tennis Waikato-Bays.

The tournament was held at courts near where Mr Arber was last seen alive.

Hamilton police were sighted searching the nearby Waikato River about 5pm on Sunday but authorities did not disclose whether they had found anything relating to Mr Arber's disappearance.

Desperate for clues to Mr Arber's whereabouts, Hamilton Police set up a mobile police van on Grey St, near Steel Park, the last known sighting of the tennis champ.

A dummy was placed on the roadside dressed in a grey tracksuit top with a tennis logo, the same type Mr Arber was wearing when he went missing.

The last sighting of Mr Arber was him walking south on Grey St towards Cook St and Steel Park.

His wallet and keys were later found about 400 metres down Cook St.

Immediately before his last sighting Mr Arber was seen to stop and pat the dog of a couple who were out walking their pet, Detective Inspector Karl Thornton of the Hamilton CIB said.

That couple is urged to make contact with police, Mr Thorton said.

"We are becoming increasingly concerned that we have not heard from Mr Arber," he said.

"He is not familiar with the area and does not know anyone in Hamilton."

Mr Arber's family flew to New Zealand at the weekend to assist with the search for the tennis player. 

A friend posted on Facebook for help in finding Mr Arber, saying it was "not in his character at all" to miss meetings and lose contact with people.

"He is a responsible, clean living, successful and happy person and this disappearance is inexplicable and very distressing to his family and friends," Janine Ward wrote on her post.

The news of Mr Arber's disappearance has quickly spread through the Melbourne tennis community with a close friend telling Fairfax Media a Facebook page had been set up to share information between family and friends as the situation unfolded. 

There the last time the Melbourne man was seen alive he had told the people he was travelling with he was going to an ATM machine to withdraw $20 to give to a homeless person. 

Fairfax Media also understands Mr Arber and the eight junior Australian representatives were out on Saturday evening with another tour group of about 50 young players. 

It was agreed the smaller group would meet at 9.30pm at their mini-bus. 

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Mr Arber never made it back. 

Australian tennis coach and player Mark Sheppard said four coaches searched the streets until about 11pm when they reported him missing to police.

''Obviously it's 12 hours before they take these things seriously but we knew there was a problem so we're just really concerned," he said.

"We just hope he comes back, but we just can't be sure.''

Mr Sheppard, who has known Mr Arber for about seven years, said his disappearance was out of character.

''We just had this huge concern because he's normally a really reliable guy,'' he said. 

''There's no way he'd ever leave his eight kids unattended at the bus.

''If anyone knows where he is, just let us know. Just let him come back to us. We just want him back with us.'' 

Mr Arber currently runs the coaching facility, Trademark Tennis,  at the Leon Haskin Tennis Centre, previously the Maccabi Tennis Club, in Bentleigh East.  

Mr Arber has previously worked with the Australian Institute of Sport and the National HighPerformance Academy and his website states he has worked in a coaching capacity with several elite juniors and professionals including Bernard Tomic, Justine Henin, Monica Seles and Caroline Wozniacki.

Mr Arber blitzed the field at the 2012 Victorian Jewish Tennis Championships, cruising to victory in the final 6-1, 6-3. 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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