Graham Vanstone, a successful businessman, was last seen alive in Akaroa on September 5, 1999. Photo / Supplied
Police investigating the unsolved death of Akaroa millionaire Graham Vanstone, last seen alive 23 years ago, have searched new areas of interest.
Vanstone, a successful businessman, was last seen alive in Akaroa on September 5, 1999.
In August 2020, Coroner Marcus Elliot declared him dead. The circumstances were “unascertained”.
On Friday, Detective Inspector Nicola Reeves said police Search and Rescue teams had on Thursday and Friday examined “previously unsearched areas” of Akaroa in relation to the disappearance.
“Mr Vanstone’s disappearance was out of character, and he was a much-loved family member and well-respected member of the community.
“Police have followed a number of lines of inquiry since Mr Vanstone’s disappearance but his whereabouts remains unknown.”
Police encouraged anyone to come forward with information.
“Even if you have previously spoken to police, to help Mr Vanstone’s family get the closure and resolution they deserve.
“We know there are still people who can help us finally solve this case. We are hoping with the passing of time these people now feel in a position to come forward and assist us.”
Vanstone’s brother, Murray Vanstone, told the Herald he had “come to terms” with the fact his brother was dead and that he might never find out what happened.
Over the years he’s battled with different views of what happened to his brother – whether he was murdered, or whether he had an accident and died.
“Now I haven’t got a clue. I go through stages of believing different things. I have no idea.”
He believed anyone who had information would have come forward by now.
“Maybe [the police] will turn something up… you don’t know until you look”.
Vanstone, who was 49 at the time of his disappearance, had various business interests, including property development and vineyards.
He was living in his home on Newton Pl, Akaroa, with his partner Maeve Allen. She had been living with him since July 1999.
Vanstone was described by those that knew him as a man who kept to himself. A relative said he was a “closed book” who “never said much, especially about his personal life”.
His general practitioner told the coroner Vanstone never raised any problems with drepression.
He was known to go away at times without telling anyone where he was going.
On September 5, 1999, Vanstone and his partner and her children left their home about midday to pick up some fish and chips. They then went to Vanstone’s father’s house to have lunch and celebrate Father’s Day.
Vanstone’s siblings, their partners and some of their children were present. Vanstone’s relatives noticed he appeared to be unwell, he told his father he had been unwell with the flu for 10 to 12 weeks.
After lunch, Vanstone’s siblings, as well as Allen and her children, walked to a nearby school. Vanstone drove his car there. The group spent some time at the school before returning to Allan Vanstone’s house.
Vanstone and Allen subsequently left the house as Allen needed to take her children to their father in Leeston. They arrived at Newton Pl about 3.50pm.
Allen then left with her children. She told police that as she left Vanstone leaned on the car and gave her a kiss.
“He also asked me whether I had my cell phone. I said yes, I’ll give you a ring later. He just said bye, have a safe trip.”
Vanstone went back to his father’s house. Some family were still there. He then left about 5.10pm.
About 6.20pm, after dropping her children off, Allen used her mobile phone to call Vanstone at Newton Pl.
She told police Vanstone was lying on his bed when he answered the phone.
He told her he was “really tired” and was having a rest.
She said she would be home by about 7.30pm and the call ended with Vanstone saying “bye Maeve”.
Allen told police she arrived home about 7.30pm. It was dark, the bedroom light was on and the curtains were drawn. Vanstone usually left the garage light on for her, but it was not on.
She then entered the house through the sliding door in the lounge area. She called out but there was no response. He was not in the bedroom and the light above the bed was open and there were some magazines lying open on the bed.
In the hallway she noticed the jandals he had been wearing that day. His clothes, bags, passport, licence and cheque books were still at the house. His cars were parked in the driveway. Everything appeared to be accounted for, other than the clothes he was last seen wearing.
She then checked the answering machine for messages. There were none from Vanstone.
Allen said she did not think there was anything sinister about his absence and watched a movie.
However, about 2am there was still no sign of him. Allen drove to the Grand Hotel, where they often had dinner, to see if he was there. It was closed. She went home, looked through the house again and went back to bed about 5am. She got up at 5.45am, checked the vineyards and vegetable patch. There was no sign of Vanstone.
About 7.30am she called some of Vanstone’s friends. None had seen him. Allan Vanstone reported him missing at 8.45am on September 6.
Police’s SAR group assisted in searching for him, as well as a helicopter. Shorelines were checked, empty buildings, nearby caves and gullies.
His bank accounts were also checked. The last activity was before he went missing. His credit card has not been used since.
Coroner Elliot said despite police investigations, there was no evidence about how or why he disappeared.
“It is possible to pose theories about what happened to Mr Vanstone, but in the absence of any evidence, these can only amount to speculation. Without any evidence, I am not in a position to reach any conclusion about what became of him.”
- Information can be shared via 105 https://www.police.govt.nz/use-105 ‘update my report’ quoting file number 990906/8117. Information can also be shared anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.