Vanished: The missing people of New Zealand

Tim Wallis’ family have spent more than 10 years wondering what happened to him.

Wallis — born Timothy Lees — was last seen by his family in Dunedin on August 6, 2010.
He’d been in a
bit of trouble with police and was doing community work. His brother saw him there that morning but Wallis skipped out on the afternoon work and was never seen again.

In the years that followed, Wallis’ two sisters died — both took their own lives — and his father passed away.

Each time there was a death the family tried to locate Wallis but had no luck.
In 2015 they reported him as missing. Police investigated but in 2016 they referred the case to the Coroner saying “all lines of enquiries have been exhausted”.

More than a decade later his brother Christopher Lees says the family are “devastated” and desperately want answers.

Chasing Ghosts – the disappearance of Amber-Lee
Help bring Amber-Lee home – Herald podcast series delves into 25-year-old cold case
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“Ten years is a long time — it’s been hard, there’s been absolutely nothing from him,” Lees told the Herald on Sunday.

“His kids really miss him, he’s got a 9-year-old and a 17-year-old and they just want their dad back.

“Someone out there definitely knows something.”

Lees is not alone. More than 450 men, women and children are listed as missing in New Zealand — with some people reported by their families up to almost 90 years ago with no sign of them since.

In the past five years, more than 66,000 New Zealanders have been reported missing and while most are found within a few days, some have simply vanished.

From 2015 to November 17, 2020, police received 66,442 missing person reports. Of those 66,329 were located, figures obtained under the Official Information Act reveal.
The rest remain on an elusive missing-person list which stretches back to 1932.

In 2020 alone there were 8303 people reported missing to police and while most have been located there are still some whose families and friends are still searching and desperate for information, sightings and answers.

Lees said his brother had been in a bit of trouble and was known to abuse solvents, usually in the Cargill’s Castle area.

The ruins overlook the Pacific Ocean and Lees said there was a chance his brother could have been sniffing glue up there and fallen into the water.

He said the family were realistic that Wallis may not be alive. Either way they just wanted to know.

“We want Timmy back, we want him returned to us – if someone ends up going to court over what happened, then so be it,” said Lees.

“But the main thing is for our family is getting Timmy home.”

While Wallis had problems in his life, his brother said he was a good person.

“Everyone that knew Timmy said he had a kind and generous soul and that was Tim to a tee,” Lees said.

“Timmy should be 36 years old now … he’s missed so, so much of his family and we all want to see him come home.

“I think about it every day – he’s the last person I say goodnight to … it would mean everything to us to know what happened.

“It’s indescribable what it would mean to our family … it will hurt having him come home if he has passed away, but at least we will know. It’s the not knowing that hurts more, it’s the worst thing.”

If you have information on the disappearance of Timothy Wallis email [email protected]

Little girl lost – still no answers for Amber-Lee's family

One of the most enduring cold cases on New Zealand’s list of missing people is that of toddler Amber-Lee Cruickshank.

The 2-year-old vanished on October 17, 1992, at Kingston, a small town at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu.

She was there with her mother Nicola Cruickshank, stepfather James Gill and baby brother Danny.

Despite exhaustive searches of the lake, town and surrounding bush, there has never been any sign of Amber-Lee.

The case remains open and police still follow up calls that come in about the toddler, but to date there has been no resolution for her family.

Amber-Lee would have turned 30 in May last year.

On the milestone day, her mother posted on Facebook.

“It still saddens me to this day not knowing where you are but just want you to know my love for you will never die and I will never give up hope on finding you Amber-Lee Rose Cruickshank,” she wrote.

“Happy birthday my darling girl.”

The Herald produced Chasing Ghosts, a six-part podcast series, about Amber-Lee’s disappearance and her mother’s agonising journey that followed.

Episode one has been re-released this weekend as part of the monthly Herald podcast A Moment In Crime.

You can listen to the episode here, or on your usual podcast app.

The Missing: New Zealand's vanished people


Name: Julian Varley, 31
Missing since: January 23
Last seen: Tauranga
CCTV cameras captured his 1998 Nissan Pulsar at a roundabout. His car was found several hours later but he’s not been seen since.

Eloi Rolland, 18
March 6
The French student was captured on security footage at a train station in New Lynn. His phone was later tracked to Piha but there has been no sign of him.

Adrianus Berkhout, 61
July 8
Last seen near the Tangiteroria River bridge, where his vehicle was later found.

Melissa Ewings, 31
September 20
Last seen just before dusk as she went for a walk. She failed to show up at work at a beekeeping business just 400m from her house the following morning.


Theresa Urlich, 28
February 4
Hitchhiked to her cousin’s house in Kaeo, showered, changed her clothes, had something to eat and left. That was the last her family saw or heard from her.

Guoquan Wu, aka Laurence, 22
March 12
Last seen in the suburb of St Lukes. His Hyundai Santa Fe was found at Piha Beach car park two days later.

Jessica Boyce, 27
March 19
Last seen in Renwick driving a red Holden Rodeo ute that was found a few days later in the Richmond Ranges. Police believe she has been killed.

Joseph Webb, 24
July 23
Last seen walking around the Whakatāne coastline at Kohi Point.

Michael Murdoch, 44
September 26
Recorded on CCTV at a service station but his phone pinged off cell towers in the area on September 28.


Leonie Emery, 26
January 1
Has not been in contact with family since January 2018. Last seen in Paeroa.


Athol Turner, 62
July 11
Lived a transient life, often sleeping rough and staying at backpackers. Family have not heard from him since late 2017.

Maree Wilkins, 85
November 7
Disappeared from Leigh Road Cottage on November 7 where she had been receiving care for dementia. She has never been found despite extensive land and aerial searches of bush and the estuary by police and community members


John, 68, and Mike Beckenridge, 15
March 13
John Beckenridge picked up his stepson from an Invercargill school – in the process breaking a court order – and vanished. Their car was later found in the surf off the Southland coast, but there was no sign of their bodies in the 4WD, and speculation has been rife that the pair managed to evade capture in New Zealand and were in hiding overseas.

Richard Hinkley, 49
December 12
Last seen at Kiwibank in Edgeware. In 2018 it was reported that police believe it’s likely he has been killed but his body has not been found.


Christian Ulf Prehn, 19
February 25
Nelson Lakes
German tourist disappeared while tramping. His pack was found by a Department of Conservation worker, but an extensive Search and Rescue operation found no sign of him.

William Kerry Blair, 55
March 8
Marlborough Sounds
Last seen at Christchurch businessman Alasadair Cassels’ idyllic, remote 169-hectare Erie Bay property in the Marlborough Sounds – where he worked as an engineer and skipper. He set off on a 9m aluminium boat to get food. The boat was found drifting nine days later but Blair has never been seen again.

Tupulaga Talalelei, aka Peter, 70
July 12
Hutt Valley
Last seen in the kitchen of the boarding house where he lived, the day after a taxi camera recorded him coming back from Hutt Hospital.


Rene Weisswange, 25
August 28
Lake Hawea
Did not return from a kayak journey. His borrowed kayak and broken paddle were found washed up on the shore. He is presumed drowned.


Troy Liddington, 37
October 13
Went for a walk in a forest and has not been seen since.

Tim Wallis, aka Lees, 26
August 6
Last seen at Dunedin fish and chip shop. Possible sighting in Rotorua in September.


Matthew Alexander Hamill, 59
October 29
Went missing and later a Coroner ruled he had taken his own life. It was revealed after he disappeared that Hamill had another family.


Darrell Crawford, 35
August 16
Last seen at home, his car was later found with the keys still in the ignition. Police upgraded the case to a homicide inquiry in 2008, linking his disappearance to that of William Taikato, who was believed to have been murdered around the same time.

William Taikato, 41
December 19
Allegedly murdered but his body has never been found. A court heard Taikato was shot dead and his body put”where they will never find him”.


Francesca Martin, 42
April 20
Left her home and drove to a petrol station to buy cigarettes but was never seen again. Her car was found abandoned the following evening.

Kaye Stewart, 62
Disappeared during a short bush walk in Rimutaka Forest Park. She was reported missing after failing to pick up her daughter that day.


Trevor Henderson, aka Wayne, 50
August 31
Last seen at home by his boarders watching TV. Police believe his disappearance was due to criminal activity, he has never been found and no arrests have been made.


Quentin Godwin, 18
May 20
West Auckland
Walked out of his house in Titirangi, West Auckland. He was heading to his after-school job at a local supermarket. He never showed up, and hasn’t been seen since.

Amber-Lee Cruickshank, 2
October 17
Vanished at Kingston at the foot of Lake Wakatipu while staying with her mother, stepfather and infant brother. Despite exhaustive searches of the lake, town and surrounding bush, there has never been any sign of Amber-Lee.

Judith Yorke, aka Judy, 25
October 21
Last seen at an orchard shed, where she was partying with about 30 others. Police believe she has been killed.


Peter Douglas Coop, 28
June 4
Vanished in Dunedin as he was about to attend an ophthalmology course. Police believed he staged the disappearance because he felt under intense pressure to follow his high-performing parents into their speciality.


Joanne Chatfield, 17
November 19
Went missing after a gig at Auckland University.


Michael Luton, 46
March 6
Last seen leaving his home address in Henderson.


Luana Williams, 25
June 5
Last seen at her Gate Pa home. She was declared legally dead in 1998. The case remains unsolved and a body has never been found.


Kirsa Jensen, 14
September 1
Disappeared on September 1, 1983, while riding her horse, Commodore.

Michael John Dudley, 20
April 3
Had some after-work drinks with colleagues and then left in the work van to head home. He never arrived home and he has never been seen since and neither has the van.


If you have information about the disappearance of a person, or know where someone on this list is – you can pass on information to the authorities.

You can also email [email protected]

To contact your local police click here for a list of phone numbers – or dial the non-emergency number 105 to speak to an officer.

If you want to pass on information anonymously you can also contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or submit information online.

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