Unsolved Mysteries of New Zealand
Part IV

Disappearances



Written by Lucy Mullinger

In a country as small as New Zealand, with a slowly burgeoning population (4,772,980 at last count), it might be a surprise to hear that mysterious disappearances and strange happenings still remain uncovered. Surely someone must have stumbled upon something by now? But often, sometimes centuries later, these mysteries still remain unsolved. eLocal unravels some of the most enduring whodunnits of the last century, with the hope that someone, one day might just solve the unsolveable.

John Cyprian Phipps Williams

‘A conspiracy theorist, with odd behaviour patterns’ was how many of the people who knew him would describe the cardiologist, who was responsible for discovering a genetic condition, which caused cardiovascular disease, developmental delays and learning challenges.

John Cyprian Phipps Williams studied a Bachelor of Science and Arts degree at Victoria University in Wellington and would go on to discover a genetic condition which would later on be named ‘Williams Syndrome.’ The cardiologist discovered the disease while he was working as a registrar in 1961, at Greenlane hospital.

In 1962, he would move on to become a postdoctoral fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and, perhaps surprisingly, according to his colleagues, remained quiet about his findings in relation to Williams Syndrome, preferring to discontinue any further research on the disease. From there he would move to London and work at the University College, where he would meet New Zealand poet and author, Janet Frame and even offer his home as a place for her to convalesce while recovering from viral meningitis. According to historian Michael King’s book Wrestling with the Angel: A Life of Janet Frame, Williams would later propose to the poet, in 1969. Sadly, she declined his offer and left the house quickly, only to return a week later to find that he had disappeared. Although there are reports that friends and colleagues saw him in Europe in the mid 1970s and he accepted and then later declined a post at the Latter Day Saints Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, it wasn’t until 1979, that he would renew his passport in Geneva, Switzerland and then never be heard of again. Whether it was a case of being broken hearted, or something more sinister, Williams has remained quiet every since and he would go on to be declared ‘missing, presumed dead,’ in 1988. Strangely, in January 2000, the aforementioned historian, Michael King would report that Williams contacted him asking not to be discussed in the biography of Janet Frame, a request that fell on deaf ears, as there was mention of the marriage proposal. King passed away four years later in a car crash, alongside his wife.

NIÑA DISAPPEARANCE

“Storm Sails shredded last night, now bare poles, going 4KT 310 DEG Will update course info @6pm,” was the last message to be sent out, from the Niña on the 3rd of June, 2013 at 11:50 pm, New Zealand time.

That message remained undelivered and was not located for many weeks later, once it was evident that the boat had gone missing

Only a month prior to that message being sent, seven crew members left Whangarei harbour on 29 May, 2013 bound for Newcastle, Australia.

The 85-year-old American schooner, had no long-range (SSB) radio and the emergency locator beacon (Epirb) was not switched on. According to experts, the hull had been warped due to long periods out at sea and would not have passed standard "Cat-1" inspection Maritime New Zealand imposes on all locally flagged vessels.

The boat left the harbour with a group of American crew members including skipper David Dyche III, 58, his wife, Rosemary, 60, son David Dyche IV, 17, Evi Nemeth, 73, Kyle Jackson, 27, and Danielle Wright, 18 years of age. British Green party leader, Matthew Wooton had also tagged along as he refused to fly on grounds of environmentalism.

Almost six years later, the boat has still not been located and criticism has been aimed at the skipper who refused to utilise modern equipment, in order to remain safe.

The skipper’s sister, Cherie Martinez would go on to say that her brother had insisted on keeping tradition alive but she urged other sailors to be proactive about safety.

While the crew were never found, the family of Danielle Wright still keep a facebook page called Bringing Home the Niña and Her Crew updated and the last post was dated June 2018.

HIMATANGI MYSTERY

Imagine the picturesque town of Himatangi, hidden away amongst the sand dunes of Manawatu Beach, where nothing much happens until Saturday, September 7th, 1929, when the remains of four adults and four children were found in a burnt-down farmhouse.

The remains included Rongotea farmer, Thomas Wright, aged 47, who had been shot in the back of the head with a shotgun. His wife Catherine, aged 36 and three children - Joyce (11), Bryan (eight), Annie (six) and Prudence (three), 23 year old farmhand Samuel Ewart Thompson and 62 year old John Brown Westlake, a wealthy farmer and Justice of the Peace from Pahiatua. According to information posted in the Horowhenua Chronicle on the 18th November, 1931, Westlake had threatened to murder his own family in the past and although a man was questioned, the murder was never solved and the Coroner stated, at the time, that the answer to the riddle would probably never be found. While this may have been a murder/suicide, the degradation of the bodies, due to arson, means that this case may never be solved.