26 May 2015

Son's 'relief' after 30-year wait for answers

8:25 am on 26 May 2015

The son of a Wellington man whose remains have been found 30 years after he went missing says he is relieved, but still has unanswered questions.

John Holmes Smith

John Holmes Smith Photo: Supplied/ NZ Police

John Smith went missing after going for a short walk in 1986 and was never seen again, despite an extensive search of the area near his Ngaio home.

Human remains were found in a bush-covered gully in February, less than a kilometre from his home, and this week DNA testing confirmed it was Mr Smith.

When police notified his family, Mr Smith's son Stafford Smith was in shock.

He told Morning Report he didn't know whether to cry or be excited when police knocked on his door with the news.

"It was a huge relief," he said. "It's just wonderful news really. It's a sense of high excitement on the one hand and a sense of great relief on the other.

"We thought he was somewhere around there, but it took a long time to prove it."

But Mr Smith was not critical of the police search, saying his father was "well hidden" in dense bush, and "it was always going to be difficult to find him".

He said the family had never given up hope.

"We made sure our children knew what happened, and even our grandchildren, because we were saying 'he'll be found one day, but may not be in our lifetimes and you guys might be the ones that have to deal with it'.

"In that sense we're quite pleased that it happened now before the others had to become involved."

Despite finding his father, Mr Smith said he still has unanswered questions about his death and disappearance.

"Did he fall? Was he trying to be a bit smart and going up a bank away from the track? We just hope that he didn't suffer."

The family of Mr Smith already held a private cremation, and over the next couple weeks plan to have a service for family members.