Belfast Telegraph

Mystery remains over Northern Ireland man with double life who vanished in New Zealand in 2008

The Roaring Meg lookout in Otago
The Roaring Meg lookout in Otago
Matthew Alexander Hamill
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Two different families still have no idea what happened to a Northern Ireland man who vanished without trace in New Zealand more than a decade ago.

Matthew Alexander Hamill was leading a double life when he suddenly disappeared near Queenstown, a resort town in Otago in the south-west of the country's South Island.

The 59-year-old cost controller was reported missing on October 29, 2008 when he failed to return home from work. It was thought he had taken his own life after his car was discovered with a suicide note inside.

Despite multiple searches, Mr Hamill's body has never been found and in 2016 police concluded that he had died.

This week a coroner reserved her decision following an inquest in Queenstown into his mystery disappearance.

The day after he was reported missing, Mr Hamill's unlocked car was found with his wallet and a handwritten note addressed to his Vietnamese wife, Tuyet Nguyen.

Ms Nguyen told the inquest that her husband was "normal" on the last morning she saw him, when he said goodbye to her, their 10-year-old son Adam and her 15-year-old son Micky from a previous relationship.

She said that at 10.25am she received a text from him that read "You OK?", noting that it was not out of the ordinary as he got worried about her being at home by herself during the day. She added: "That is the last time I had any contact with Matthew."

Mr Hamill's daughter Ruth - one of five children from his first marriage to Ateca Hamill, who lives in Auckland - told the inquest that she didn't "remember hearing about the other family until October 2008".

Mr Hamill, who left Northern Ireland at a young age, met his first wife in Fiji in the 1960s, married her in the 1970s and moved to New Zealand where they raised their children.

Ateca Hamill told the inquest that her husband "announced" he was going to Vietnam in 1995 for a two-year contract, adding: "He made the decision and told me he was going... I didn't have any doubts about his motives."

After the contract ended, she said he announced he was returning to Vietnam to recoup money lost through bad investments. "I never saw or spoke to him again," she added.

In Vietnam, Mr Hamill was pursuing a relationship with Tuyet Nguyen, who he met in 1995 at a bar in Saigon where she worked. Mr Hamill told her he had a wife and daughter in Auckland and that he was separated but not divorced.

Hamill and Nguyen had a son together in 1998, moved to New Zealand in 2005 where he was trying to get residency, and married in May 2008.

Nguyen said Hamill did not have many friends and spent most of his time with his family. She also said he had been worried about getting New Zealand residency, his job and money.

Police said a border alert was placed on Mr Hamill, but there had been no signs of him trying to leave the country or apply for a passport in a different name since his disappearance.

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