National | Stuff

Mystery over Joseph Ahuriri deepens after truck spotted day of disappearance

The mystery over Joseph Ahuriri’s disappearance is deepening after police revealed his truck was last seen heading south from Havelock North early the day Cyclone Gabrielle hit.

The 40-year-old has been missing for over a fortnight and was last seen leaving the Scenic Hotel Te Pania on Napier’s Marine Parade at 4.28am on February 14, as the cyclone ravaged Hawke’s Bay.

His white Toyota Hilux was later seen on a security camera in Havelock North at 5.15am. It’s not clear if he was in the truck at the time.

Police are now seeking help from the public to find the missing man.

Ahuriri’s brother Mike, who is searching in Napier, believed Ahuriri was desperate to get home to Gisborne to be with his partner Clarissa Poi and their nine children after visiting whānau in Hawke’s Bay.

He believed the brother he described as an "awesome father" took an inland road because the main highway was shut.

However, photos taken by searchers of the route whānau believe Ahuriri took show broken bridges, smashed roads, and a deluge of debris.

Extensive searches

And there’s been no sign of his truck, or its number plate, despite extensive searches.

Poi last heard from her partner the Monday night before Cyclone Gabrielle hit. He had been visiting whānau in Hawke’s Bay and planned to head back to Poi in Gisborne. As conditions deteriorated, causing roads to close, the couple decided he should stay in a motel in Napier.

His last text at 1am on Tuesday was to ask Poi if she was OK. It was sent not long before communications went down in the region.

Poi has heard nothing from him since.

His bank account had not been touched and calls to his phone do not connect – suggesting it is flat, Poi said.

Initially, she searched extensively, visiting welfare centres in Napier and scanning roads for his Hilux.

“He just can’t disappear like that. I don’t know what to do.”

Mike Ahuriri said his brother was not in any trouble with the law when he went missing, “to the best of my knowledge”, and was not suffering any mental health issues.

- Stuff.