Food and water left out for missing Nigel Peterson
As the hunt for missing Rotorua man Nigel Peterson enters it’s fourth week, residents in the area of his last possible sighting have been leaving out food and water and conducting their own searches.
Peterson’s father Chris said there was a credible sighting of his son around Lake Rerewhakaaitu on Sunday December 3.
Peterson, who has autism, vanished from his care facility on Friday November 17.
His father Chris last week revealed a ruptured boiler sparked his flight.
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“Unfortunately on that Friday morning the hot water cylinder ruptured and flooded the house and the boys had to shift out,” he said.
He said that Nigel got wind of the move and “he just panicked”.
“He thought this was the end of his world, he felt his world would crash around him.”
Peterson said his son took off with a carer in pursuit, though she was unable to keep up with him and in the confusion did not have a mobile phone with her.
He said she returned for her phone, came back “and he’d gone”.
Lake Rerewhakaaitu resident Rachelle Smith said she saw someone fitting Peterson’s description around the lake on Sunday between 4.30pm and 5.30pm on December 3..
“A gentleman walked past us and my little dog barked at him,” she said.
“He reacted to my dog in a way I thought was unusual.”
Smith, who has a nursing background, said she believed the man she encountered possibly had autism as she was familiar with the traits of the condition.
She said she tried to engage him in conversation but he only asked about fish in the lake.
“He said nothing more to me and wandered off,” she said.
“The person I saw I don’t believe should have been out without a carer.”
Smith was eager to stress that she couldn’t be certain the man was Peterson, though the police had deemed her sighting credible.
She described the man as having a slight beard, but said he was not unkempt.
Smith also said members of the local community had been leaving food and water out in case Peterson was still in the area, as well as conducting their own searches.
“People gave up their weekends with boats, hunters have been out looking. Saturday and Sunday they were searching.”
Smith said she feared Peterson could be spotted by tourists in the area who would be unaware he was being sought.
She was also concerned Peterson may have accepted a lift and be out of the immediate area.
“What we want is his face to get out there further.”
Smith said it was great to see the community come together in the search, and she hoped he would be found soon.
Anyone who believes they may have seen Peterson is asked to contact Rotorua Police on 07 349 9554, or 111 for an immediate sighting.