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Possible sighting of missing man gives hope

Published: 5:29AM Thursday March 20, 2014 Source: Fairfax

A possible sighting of missing Kawhia man Trevor Smith has provided some hope for his whanau who are feeling the pressure as the search for their loved one enters its fifth day.

Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Patterson of the Hamilton CIB said the last confirmed sighting of Smith was near the Hamilton Gardens about 5.30pm on Sunday.

"A member of the public sighted Mr Smith walking beside the median strip on the wrong side of the road on Cobham Dr, heading towards Normandy Ave," said Mr Patterson.

"We don't know if anyone stopped to talk to him or picked him up but if you did, police would like to speak to you."

Patterson said about 40 police and Land Search and Rescue volunteers had searched the Waikato Hospital campus, bush and properties in the area.

The search area included boats on the Waikato River and helicopters over Lake Rotoroa and areas inaccessible by land.

It had been four days since Smith, known to many as Cuz, wandered off from the top of the ramp at Waikato Hospital's Pembroke St entrance and his whanau, who have conducted their own search alongside police, have left no stone unturned.

Waikato Hospital's newly built atrium became their search headquarters and Mr Smith's nephew Aubrey Stothers said the whanau was determined to get their "cuz" home.

"I think my family is really starting to get worried now and are really concerned," said Mr Stothers.

"We have strong faith, we believe that he will come back to us, it's just a matter of when."

The flight of stairs to the atrium was busy as whanau and friends came and went. Small teams, aunties, nephews, grandchildren and friends hit the streets.

They knocked on doors, spoke with church congregations, dropped flyers and did everything they could to find him.

Boxes of food, enough to go around, lined a wall, coffee and tea sat on a corner table and a stage in the middle of the room was littered with maps, notes and plans as roads and suburbs were ticked off the list.

It was like a military operation and Mr Stothers, who came from Tokoroa to co-ordinate the whanau effort, said every possibility would be explored.

"We're just trying to turn over every rock, we're trying to go to every house making sure that these flyers are going out and that they are familiar with his face."

More than 20 had come from Kawhia, some from Tokoroa, a crew from Auckland and more from Taharoa and the more they worked, the more responses they got.

Smith's wife Mary Smith, not content to sit around and wait, went into the CBD herself to follow up a sighting.

"It's still suggesting that he is near and is still within the CBD. We've heard some really positive things in the early hours of Monday morning suggesting that they've had conversations and sat with him."

A mannequin wearing the same distinctive lime green Warriors league jersey was set up at a police information kiosk at the hospital and Mr Stothers hoped it would jog someone's memory.

He asked that anyone who had seen Smith "reach out" and help.

"He is currently hiding - one of the kaumatua has suggested to us - that he is hiding and being a kid and having a few games but I think after the fourth day now [Wednesday], Cuz, it's time to come back," said Mr Stothers.

"Come out of hiding and come back and share some of those fantastic stories of his journeys and put a lot of his family and his wife at ease."

Police and Land SAR volunteers scoured thick unforgiving bush in the gully next to Normandy Ave and a Westpac rescue helicopter was seen hovering over Lake Rotoroa and near Hamilton Gardens.

Detective Senior Sergeant Patterson said a "large team of detectives" followed up each reported sighting and asked the public to check their gardens, sheds and any building they could think of to find Smith.

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