In the second of a three-part series on Taranaki cold cases, Deena Coster looks at the disappearance of Waitara mother-of-one Doreen Meggitt, who was last seen alive in August 1983.
Some days, it’s easier for Lyell Meggitt to try and forget about what happened to his mother.
On August 2, 1983, Taranaki woman Doreen Meggitt disappeared without a trace at the age of 30.
At the time, Lyell – her only child – was just three years old.
He admits it is not easy dealing with the emotions which surface whenever his missing mother’s name is mentioned.
“When it is brought up again, and the cops don’t do anything, that really does stir me up,” he says.
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In October 2014, he held a memorial service for his mother.
As he has no place to go to remember her, he put a flower pot on top of the grave of his grandfather, which lies in the Waitara cemetery.
“I’ve got that now. That’s made a difference,” he says.
But the unanswered questions which swirl regarding his mother’s fate still eat away at him.
In a bid to fill the void, Lyell has sought advice from the spiritual realm, including talking to psychics.
Lyell says there has been absolutely no finality for him regarding his mother’s disappearance – even her bank account is still open, despite having not been touched for more than three decades.
“There’s no closure there. There’s no closure anywhere.”
About 8000 people are reported as being missing in New Zealand each year.
Fifty per cent usually return within two days and 95 per cent are found within a fortnight.
Sometimes it takes a little longer.
Earlier this month Leo Lipp-Neighbours’ orange Toyota Corolla station wagon was pulled from the water beneath the Port Nelson wharf, ending a seven-year search for the 19-year-old which spanned the top of the South Island.
He was last seen leaving his Nelson flat in his car about 4am on January 24, 2010. Police have since confirmed the skeletal remains found in the car were those of the teen.
But a handful of people reported missing are never seen again and Doreen Meggitt remains one of them.
After a night out socialising with friends at Waitara’s Bridge Tavern, the last sighting of the mother-of-one had her sitting on a park bench alongside the river, near the corner of McLean St and West Quay.
Before leaving the pub, Doreen handed two rings she had been wearing to her sister-in-law for safe keeping.
Dressed in a denim jacket, mauve coloured long sleeve sweatshirt, pink denim mini skirt and sporting black stockings and shoes, she turned and walked out the door.
Newspaper reports published in the months after her disappearance presented a conflicted picture of Doreen’s state of mind on the day she went missing.
She was described as being in a jovial mood at the tavern, enjoying a drink and a laugh with friends but it also suggested she had dark moments too. Reports said she had been depressed in the fortnight before her disappearance following the death of a relative from a gunshot wound.
Three theories have been put forward by people to explain what might have happened to Doreen – that she either planned to leave and never come back, committed suicide or was murdered.
But without any proof, it’s just speculation and she remains officially listed as a missing person by police. The case is currently assigned to the Taranaki CIB.
A police investigation was launched in the weeks following Doreen’s disappearance. A four hour search of the Waitara river was also conducted in April 1984, eight months after she was last seen alive.
Four divers covered an area 91 metres downstream from the bridge and 61m upstream but nothing was found.
The 2014 memorial service, held at Waitara West Beach, provided a chance for family members and friends of Doreen to pay their respects, and for some to say goodbye.
While it’s undoubtedly painful for Lyell, he’s not quite ready to let go completely.
He says he has asked police to re-consider another search of the Waitara river in the hope it might give up any clues about his mother.
“Something might be there,” he says.
But Lyell says unless there is action on any leads which might arise, he feels having a chance to find any peace about his mother’s case will slip away.
He says if nothing new comes to light, he will be calling on the police to make a decision to close the case once and for all.
“I don’t want it to be just a file which sits there for another 34 years.”
Do you know what happened to Doreen Meggitt? If you do, ring the New Plymouth police station on 06 7595500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
What happens with the missing?
Police have a dedicated unit who look for missing persons at a national level, however files are held by each district.
Detective Senior Sergeant Brent Matuku says police conduct periodic reviews of unsolved missing persons cases and direct further investigations when new information comes to hand.
“People go missing for different reasons, sometimes by their own choice and other times not by choice, for example if they are a victim of foul play, mishap or misadventure. The files are never closed. Any new information which becomes available is always carefully assessed to determine if it will be of any assistance in advancing the case,” he says.
Matuku says it is important for the public to know that if a family member or friend is missing and there are serious fears for their safety, contact should be made immediately with police.
“You do not have to wait 24 hours to report someone as missing,” he says.