Home' Greymouth Star : March 14th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
6 - Saturday, March 14, 2015
f he was pottering around the bush,
looking for a location to grow dope,
it’s not beyond the realms of possibility
he fell into a shaft, and that ’s where he
Rob Nicholl, a former detective, was involved
in the Glen Ufton case 19 years ago.
The disappearance was never classified as a
homicide, just a missing person’s case.
Ufton was a transient who appeared in
Kumara one day, living in an old grey Commer
van. He also used the name Hayward. He was
just 28 at the time of his disappearance.
Then one day the beneficiary walked into the
bush — police reports at the time said he was
carrying a bag of fertiliser — and was never
Despite the intrigue, “there was never
anything that pointed to foul play”, Mr
People who remember the case talk of
cannabis plots and drug deals. Police even
drained a well in Kumara, but turned up
“There were accusations about his behaviour,
rumours of cannabis that were probably true,”
Mr Nicholl said.
But, he says, if Ufton was involved in
cannabis, the police search teams never found
By the time he was reported missing, a week
had already passed. He could even have left
the Coast, though Mr Nicholl says that was
not very likely.
“ He could have met misadventure ... he could
have fallen into a shaft.”
The case bears some similarities to that of
missing goldminer Hugh McAllister, who also
disappeared into the Kumara bush, leaving
behind just his wallet and a whole lot of
“ McAllister and (Ufton) — anything could
have happened,” Mr Nicholl says.
According to newspaper reports at the
time, Ufton was last seen on May 13 when
his friend dropped him off for a walk at
Bell Creek, in the Okuku Reser ve, east of
It was initially reported that he had walked
into the bush wearing white gumboots and
overalls, with a small pack. Later, police
revealed he was carrying fertiliser.
The Greymouth Star spoke to many long-
time Kumara residents about the case. All
talked of the rumours that swirled around at
the time, but few remembered Ufton with any
“ He didn’t take his dog with him, which was
unusual,” suggests one.
He was described by some as a loner, while
others believed he had a drug problem.
One said that Ufton once checked behind
the curtains in the pub, looking for people.
Another talks of a psychic who saw water, and
a hat floating.
Some are convinced he was murdered, but
many others think he simply fell down an
abandoned mine shaft.
“The area’s littered with them, and they ’re full
His disappearance was not reported until
May 21, 1996 and initially it was more of a
search and rescue operation, police saying at
the time there was nothing suspicious.
On the 23rd, police revealed his bank
account had not been touched, and his dog
had been found tied up and extremely hungry.
It was out of character for him not to make
arrangements for its care.
On the 24th there was talk of an overheard
argument, and police threw more fuel on the
fire when they also claimed there were no
mining shafts in the area Ufton was last seen.
On June 7 it was reported that three
Christchurch detectives had joined the case.
There was a twist on June 11 when police had
reports that a traveller at the Jacksons
Hotel had spotted someone throwing a long
narrow object off the Stanley Gooseman
Bridge, on May 29, the inference being it was
About the same time, three teens stole a car
from Kumara from “a known associate
of Christchurch’s Epitaph Riders motorcycle
gang”. Police were unsure if the possible
firearm dumping was connected to either
By June 12, they had searched on shafts in
the Donegals area. And then, slowly, the news
began to slip from the front page. Nineteen
years later, Ufton’s resting place remains a
Long-time Kumara resident Les Neame
lived over the back of Ufton’s place.
“ He was very unusual,” he recalls.
Ufton’s old van was parked up on what is
now Forth Street. What was then a paddock,
has now been developed and a new home
stands on the section.
Mr Neame says the area where Ufton went
missing is littered with mine shafts.
“There are hundreds of them, and they’re
covered in bracken.”
Just before Christmas last year, Hugh
McAllister was declared dead by the coroner.
However, there has been no such declaration
Most probably he remains close to Kumara,
somewhere in the bush, his story waiting to
On May 13, 1996, Glen Ufton walked into the lush green Okuku scenic reserve that welcomes
visitors to the West Coast, just east of Kumara. He was never seen again. Did he fall down a mine
shaft, and was he really carrying a bag of fertiliser at the time? LAURA MILLS lifts the lid on
another Kumara mystery.
Glen Ufton was last seen east of Kumara. This Google view shows Kumara township looking towards the Okuku scenic reser ve, at
The area around Kumara and Dillmanstown is riddled with old mine shafts after being
extensively mined for close to 150 years.
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