An Australian tennis coach who has taught some of the world’s leading players, including Bernard Tomic and Caroline Wozniacki, is missing in New Zealand after being seen wandering into the Waikato River in Hamilton.
Melbourne man Paul Arber, 38, had been in the North Island city with a large group of children for a tennis tournament.
Detective Inspector Karl Thornton revealed on Tuesday that two people who saw a man in the Waikato River as they walked over the Victoria Bridge in the early hours of Sunday have contacted police.
“Walking down from the bridge to the river bank, the pair have talked a man in shorts out of the water who told them his name was Paul and he was in Hamilton for a tennis tournament,” Det Insp Thornton said.
“The pair offered to take him back to his accommodation but after he has gone with them up to the bridge he has changed his mind and walked off, back to the river.”
As a result of this information, police are looking at combing the Waikato River and its bank again, while the police Eagle helicopter is also expected to join the search.
Det Insp Thornton said one of the biggest challenges for police and Mr Arber’s family, who have flown to Hamilton from Australia, is that he had been exhibiting behaviours best described as being out of character shortly before he disappeared.
“There was not any one thing that caused specific concerns but such behaviours present a challenge for searchers trying to map out possible behavioural patterns which could assist us in finding Paul.”
Mr Arber’s parents, Sam and Richelle, have said the most worrying thing for them is that their son, alone in a city he’s not familiar with, may need their help.
“Paul is described by his parents as a gentle, spiritual person who is harmless towards other people. That’s why, like any mother, Richelle is imploring anyone who may have information on Paul’s whereabouts, even if it’s just something that seemed out of place, to get in contact with police,” Det Insp Thornton said.
Mr Arber is described as a male Caucasian, of slight build, about 179cm tall with short dark hair.
At the time he disappeared, Mr Arber was wearing a grey tracksuit with a tennis logo on the left breast of the top and the Wilson tennis logo on the left shoulder.
However, he was only wearing shorts when he was seen in the river.
Mr Arber has worked with the Australian Institute of Sport and the National High Performance Academy and his website states he has coached elite juniors and professionals including Bernard Tomic, Justine Henin, Monica Seles and Caroline Wozniacki.