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Items on-board may hold clues

Friday 17 August 2012 | Published in National

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The police officer in charge of the Bonny crime scene investigation says he has ”no idea“ what really happened to suspected paedophile David Peppiatt.

Bonny was found by adrift 20 nautical miles from Rarotonga, after police were alerted by an emergency call.

The was no sign of the sailor, David Peppiatt, who fled New Zealand on the stolen yacht while on bail.

Police concluded he had drowned after suffering a heart attack, as he had sailed a few days earlier into Rarotonga unnannounced during cyclone season complaining of heart problems.

But head of the investigation Inspector John Strickland now says while there is no evidence to prove he is dead or alive, the 62-year-old is presumed missing. The man will have ‘missing’ status for seven years until an inquest is legally required to be carried out.

”What really happened to him I have no idea,“ says Strickland. ”He couldn’t swim that far back to Rarotonga and although it’s possible he was picked up by another boat, we checked there were none in the area.“

New Zealand police recently listed Peppiatt on Interpol’s wanted fugitive list, hinting all is not over with the case.

A list of what was found aboard Bonny may hold clues to Peppiatt’s disappearance.

But Strickland says he cannot reveal to media the full list of items found on Bonny until yacht owner Nick Diggle is notified this week.

He does reveal food, radio and safety equipment and a rubber dinghy – as well as around $9000 later stolen by a crime scene officer – were on-board when police carried out their search on January 4.

Meanwhile, the Bonny is still stuck in dry-docks at Avatiu Harbour.

Strickland says he has been in contact with the yacht’s owner to decide whether the boat will be sold here or whether a team will carry out repairs then sail it back to New Zealand.

Bonny’s enforced Rarotongan stay is not without cost.

Wharfage fees have been piling up while the boat has been here, which the owner must pay before the boat is released back to him.