Belfast Telegraph

Eight years after 'suicide' of NI ex-pat, New Zealand cops unconvinced by his demise reopen probe

By Adrian Rutherford

An eight-year mystery over the disappearance of a Northern Ireland man in New Zealand has taken a fresh twist.

Police have reopened their investigation into the case of Matthew Alexander Hamill.

Mr Hamill, originally from Northern Ireland, went missing in October 2008.

He was last seen near Queenstown, a resort town in Otago in the south-west of New Zealand's South Island. At the time it was thought he had killed himself, after his car was discovered with a suicide note inside.

But the case took a bizarre twist a year later when police said they were not convinced that Mr Hamill was dead.

Now it can be revealed that Queenstown Police have reopened their investigation. Officers have appealed for anyone who has seen Mr Hamill since October 2008 to contact them.

Mr Hamill was 59 when he went missing, and was married with a family.

It is understood he left Northern Ireland at a young age and was well-travelled.

He was a manager at one of the country's most exclusive resorts. When he disappeared on October 29, 2008, he left a suicide note in his unlocked car.

Extensive land and river searches took place, but his body was never found.

On the morning of his disappearance, Mr Hamill had gone to work at the exclusive Millbrook resort, where he was food and beverage controller.

The last confirmed sighting of him was that afternoon, purchasing weed killer from a local store.

His silver Mitsubishi Diamante was found unlocked at the Roaring Meg power station lookout.

"Inside was a note indicating he was going to take his own life and some personal items were found by the bank of the river," Detective Matt Jones of Queenstown police said at the time.

It is believed the weed killer was also found at the river bank.

Staff at Millbrook said there was no hint of what was going to happen in the days leading up to his disappearance.

In December 2009, police reopened investigations into his death amid suspicions that he could still be alive. There had been no sightings of Mr Hamill and no activity in his bank accounts since his disappearance.

However, this week Detective Jones, of Queenstown police CIB, released a statement appealing for help in tracing him.

"Indications from the area where he went missing are that Mr Hamill took his own life, however his body has not been recovered," the release said. "Enquiries revealed Mr Hamill appeared to travel on a regular basis to Oamaru. He also has ties in Auckland and in Vietnam.

"Queenstown Police are interested to hear from anyone with information on Mr Hamill's disappearance and anyone who believes they may have sighted him after October 30, 2008."

The case has echoes of the 'canoeist' case in England.

Former teacher and prison officer John Darwin turned up alive in December 2007, five years after he was believed to have died in a canoeing accident. He faked his death to claim life insurance money and planned to move with his wife to Panama.

Belfast Telegraph


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