24 Jun 2009

Police defend handling of missing person case

7:00 pm on 24 June 2009

Police have defended their handling of a case of a missing person during an inquest on Wednesday.

John Garrety, 55, disappeared from a residential care home in Upper Hutt in August 2008 and his body was found just over a week later.

A post-mortem revealed Mr Garrety had died as a result of broncho-pneumonia, which had been preceded by hypothermia.

Staff from the trust which accommodated Mr Garrety raised questions about delays in members from Search and Rescue becoming involved in the hunt for him.

John McGregor from MASH sheltered housing told the inquest that, despite contacting police several times, it was at least two days before Search and Rescue became involved.

However, police officers told the inquest it was hard to define a search area, due to uncertainty about where Mr Garrety went missing.

Officers said while Search and Rescue were not initially involved, Upper Hutt police staff made inquiries from the time Mr Garrety disappeared.

Wellington Coroner Ian Smith reserved his decision.