Searchers determined to find Trevor

AIMIE CRONIN
Last updated 09:17 27/03/2014
MIKE SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

With no success in more than a week, Hamilton police and Trevor Smith's family are appealing to the public to help in the search for the 70-year-old man who went missing from Waikato Hospital.

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There is a giant map Trevor Smith's whanau use when they decide where to search. At the end of each day, they wipe it clean and start again.

He could be anywhere.

It is day 10. Dozens of family and friends and strangers are on shifts around the clock. If you knew the man, chances are you would be searching too.

By all accounts, he is one of the good ones. If you were the one that was lost, chances are, he would be out looking for you.

It is day 10 but time means little when you know you are not stopping till he is found. The terrain is wild but Trevor Smith's mind is wilder than it has ever been and searchers are predicting the movements of a man whose departure from his life makes no sense at all.

Imagine the person you love most in the world has disappeared when you turn your head.

The search crew for Trevor Smith is tired but every piece of land is a suspect and they plan to search it and search it over again, until their man is found.

You would do it for your man too.

It is day 10. Pete Low stands at the entrance to the Bader St reserve, next to a blue Honda that is plastered with missing person flyers.

Mr Low looks like a wizard from the street. He is built like a bulldog, missing teeth, equal parts tattoo and skin, stubbies, jandals, in his hand a solid stick that flies a tired old flag.

He stakes it into the grass and looks me up and down.

"If you're gonna shadow me, mate, that is not the footwear."

He is not well heeled but he is a bushman. I am in flats but I am a girl.

"You got five minutes."

The Bader St shops sell $16 gumboots and I catch Pete Low with less than a moment to spare. He speaks over his shoulder while on the move, like Trevor Smith could be just round that corner and everything else is in his way.

"I'm in the undergrowth today.

"I'm goin' through all that bush, and it might get harder and there might be no pathways and I don't know what I'm gonna come across.

"If there is some swampy land to tramp around down there, I'm sorry, but I'm not waiting for anyone, I'm gonna be tramping through it."

And he is off. I spot him about 30 minutes in, when he pushes himself down a bank on his backside, one jandal stuffed into the back of his shorts.

Carla Barrell has never met Trevor Smith but she has been looking for him since last Thursday night. Her search is a thorough one. She moves quickly, picks up possible clues and discards them, moving, always moving.

She stops to tell Pete Low she is willing to head back to her car to go and buy him some footwear.

"Don't worry about that," he says.

"When I see Old Pop, I'm gonna tell him he owes me some shoes."

The general buzz is that their man is still alive. Every day darkens but they are not operating on time.

Aubrey Stothers is Smith's nephew.

He is on no sleep.

"Every time we go home and have a rest, Trevor Smith is out here somewhere needing our help."

A few years back Stothers' dad died and Trevor Smith lifted his nephew out from the dark.

Today, and every search day, he has tried to do what his uncle would do, which is not give up. Last Friday was one of the lowest days. The search team had to shift base and they got hot leads to say they might have only been 30 minutes away from their man.

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They all started to wonder what if.

What if we had stayed an hour longer, what if he is on his way and we miss him, what if he has already been.

What if is a score that keeps them all awake at night and the next day they set out to settle it. Peter Low shoots up the bank on the back of a what if - he has to eliminate every area. He gets back and sits on the grass, a moment's pause.

He holds his stake up, the country's flag shakes awake at the top. I want to know why it is there. "All the New Zealand hearts fly with us today," he says. And he gets up before his sweat has had time to settle. I ask him what he likes most about Trevor Smith.

"Oooo," he says. "Big smiles, all the time." His eyes glow with tears. "I gotta go, bro. Emotions are falling." His bare feet slap down the stairs and within seconds, he has disappeared into the bush. He is hunting for Trevor Smith who could be just around that corner, who could be anywhere at all.

■ Hamilton Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Patterson fronted a media conference yesterday and said all avenues of inquiry had been exhausted and pleaded for the public to help find Trevor Smith.

Mr Smith's wife, Mary Smith, was there and family friends Bernard Hutchison and Grant Hawkes, who have been in Hamilton since Mr Smith's disappearance. They said the search weighed heavily on the family.

"This is really tough for them. Just the unknown. Mary is a very strong lady and she's the forefront there and she's got a lot of support around her but it is tough," said Mr Hawkes.

- Waikato Times

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