Vanished without a trace: New cell phone evidence in hunt for missing man

Author
Thomas Day, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 28 May 2020, 4:07PM
Police have found evidence Michael Murdoch's phone connected to a cellphone tower two days after he was last seen. (Photo / Supplied)
Police have found evidence Michael Murdoch's phone connected to a cellphone tower two days after he was last seen. (Photo / Supplied)

Vanished without a trace: New cell phone evidence in hunt for missing man

Author
Thomas Day, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 28 May 2020, 4:07PM

New information has emerged in the case of a missing Ngāruawāhia man last seen seven months ago.

Police have found evidence Michael Murdoch's phone connected to a cellphone tower two days after he was last seen.

Murdoch was last seen on CCTV footage from Waitomo Wills Service Station in Ngāruawāhia at 7.41am on September 26 last year, Detective Jamie Woods said.

Detective Woods said Murdoch's phone last pinged off cell towers in the Horotiu area at 6.08am on September 28.

The phone also pinged off towers in the Te Puroa Rd area in Ngāruawāhia, between midnight and 5am that Saturday morning.

Murdoch's brother, Aaron Murdoch, said everyone in the family was very concerned.

"Obviously all of the family and relatives are worried about him and want some form of closure, whether he is found alive or otherwise," Aaron Murdoch said.

The phone analysis has led to police searches along the Te Awa Cycle Bridge connecting Horotiu and Ngāruawāhia.

Police deployed both a dive squad and the Eagle helicopter in the area, but neither have provided any answers.

Murdoch has not contacted any family members, accessed his bank account or used his cell phone since his disappearance.

His father, Blair Murdoch, said he had driven around and spoken to all Michael's associates, and had been to all the places Michael would usually go, but hasn't found anything.

His brother Aaron described Michael as a family man.

"He always liked going to see his dad and he really missed his mum. His mother died in 1997, so he missed her a lot," he said.

Police are keen to speak to anyone who may have seen Michael Murdoch's 2001 Red Nissan Skyline, which had an addition of 20-inch chrome wheels.

The number plate is FMF221.

Police said Murdoch's last known conversation was with an associate at 1.58pm on Wednesday, September 25.

He was reported missing by his landlord, Alex Parr, on Monday September 30.

Parr said Murdoch was a gentleman. "He wouldn't hurt anyone."

Murdoch lived in a house-bus on a section of Parr's property, where he would earn his keep doing jobs such as mowing the lawn.

In the CCTV images, Murdoch was wearing his red gumboots, a sign which family and friends believe meant he was heading out to do a job.

"He would usually come in at about 2.30pm to 3pm, so [coming in at 7.41am] was unusual," said gas station owner Helen Carter.

Carter searched through the CCTV tape, but could not find Murdoch attending the station earlier in the week.

He seemed like "such a lovely guy", Carter said.

Murdoch was unemployed at the time of his disappearance, having left his previous position due to a problem with his knee.

He was placed on ACC, but never received the first payment.

A former associate, who wished not to be named, described him as "super faithful, super honest and a really nice, genuine guy".

Friends and family say Murdoch is deeply into sport and Sky Sports was the only subscription he had.

Murdoch is an avid follower of the NRL, passionate about rugby, but also into stock cars.

Police are asking that anyone with information on the locality of Michael Murdoch contact Detective Jamie Woods of the Huntly CIB on 07 8287560.

Alternatively, information can be left anonymously with the Independent Crimestoppers line on 0800 555111 or by calling 105 and quoting file number 191001/9620.