Police searching for Michael McGrath’s body, no longer a missing person case

Michael McGrath, 49, was last seen at his Checketts Ave home in Halswell on May 21. PHOTO: Supplied

Police have said for the first time they believe missing man Michael McGrath is dead.

In a statement released today, Detective Inspector Darryl Sweeney said aspects and factors surrounding the 49-year-old’s disappearance concerned police.

“We have also engaged an international expert who has provided a strong evidence-based geographical profile to help locate Michael’s body,” he said.

“Detectives are assessing this information and are overlaying it with evidence gathered to date.”

It is the first time police have not referred Mr McGrath’s disappearance to a missing person’s case.

Police inquiries have centred on Mr McGrath’s school friend David Benbow, who has been a person of interest.

Stuff is reporting a firearm belonging to Mr Benbow appears to be missing.

Today marks 200 days since Mr McGrath was last seen at his Checketts Ave home in Halswell.

The builder was reported missing in May.

Detective Inspector Sweeney said this week they had met with Mr McGrath’s family and reassured them police would do their utmost to solve his disappearance.

He said the family had been very patient.

“The investigation team are now assessing every strand of evidence collected so far in this extensive investigation.

“In recent weeks Michael’s house has been re-examined and we are now working with ESR, using the latest forensic techniques, to assess the exhibits and evidence gathered at the scene examinations.”

Police had conducted a search of North Canterbury’s Kate Valley Landfill, which took about 6000 police hours.

About 300 items were seized from the area and were being formally assessed for forensics.

“We have completed area inquiries at hundreds of homes around the suburb of Halswell and wider Christchurch, and have reviewed CCTV footage from all major businesses and areas in and around the suburb,” Detective Inspector Sweeney said.

Thousands of leaflets had been distributed across the Lincoln, Selwyn and Banks Peninsula in one of the largest geographical investigation phases police had undertaken in some years, he said.

“This has helped us gain valuable information from the public, in particular, we have good information and sightings from Sunday evening through to Monday 21 and 22 May.

“A considerable number of people have been interviewed, and they continue to provide information to the investigation team. Key interviews with people connected to this investigation will occur again in the next fortnight.

“I am confident that this investigation is advancing and our team remains dedicated to locating Michael and providing answers for his family,” Detective Inspector Sweeney said.