'I've hit him': Body found in Waikato River

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 12:12 12/12/2013
Paul Arber
MISSING: Australian tennis coach Paul Arber.

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A schoolgirl rowing crew discovered a body in the Waikato River, downstream from where Australian tennis coach Paul Arber disappeared.

Police searching for Arber, 38, say a member of the public called at 7am today with the news a body had been found.

Arber was last seen on Sunday morning, walking in and out of the water near Hamilton East, upstream from where the body was found near Fairfield Bridge.

Hamilton woman Beth Lynch said she was walking her dog down the west side of the river when she heard the girls in the boat screaming.

"I thought one of them had fallen out of the boat but then I heard one of them yell out 'Oh my god I've hit him, I've hit him"," she said.

Lynch said she then saw a body floating swiftly down the river.

"I just feel so sorry for the girls in that boat, it's just horrible."

The body has been recovered and police were going through the formal process of identifying it.

Senior sergeant Peter van de Wetering said it had not been officially confirmed whether the body is Arber's.

PARENTS: HE WAS ACTING DIFFERENTLY

Arber's parents Richelle and Sam Arber flew in from Melbourne on Sunday to join the search.

Arber was in Hamilton coaching eight young tennis players who competed in the Waikato Christmas Junior Tournament at the tennis centre in Dey St.

He was part of a wider group of about 50 Australian coaches and players.

He is a former Kooyong Tennis Club captain and the 2012 Victorian Jewish Tennis Champion.

As police ramped up search efforts yesterday, Arber's parents spoke of the kind, positive son who they wanted to cuddle again.

"He's a terrific kid, there's not a bad word to say about him," Richelle Arber said.

"We love him so much. We just want to hold him and hug him and help him in any way that we can."

Both the Arbers and police were adamant that he did not seem to be exhibiting any behaviour that would point to self harm, or to him harming anyone else.

Six months ago, Arber split up with his partner, however close friend Mark Sheppard said to connect his disappearance with this was "drawing a long bow".

"I spoke to him about it quite a lot and he was fairly accepting of what happened there, and he'd moved on and said he was quite happy."

But Sam Arber said he noticed his son was acting differently just before his trip, with a newfound love of nature, animals and love.

"He came to see us the night before he left and he seemed very insightful, and was talking about love.

"He wanted us to love ourselves.

"He said he had never felt better in his life, he suddenly felt this warmth.

"He wanted us to experience the warmth. I was a bit concerned because he just seemed a bit too passionate about it."

But although Sam Arber said it "slightly disturbed" him, he decided to wait until his son returned from his trip to talk to him about it.

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- Waikato

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