Missing man’s overseas mates help cops

Picking over wreck: Police recover John Beckenridge's wrecked car near Curio Bay

Overseas associates of missing Queenstowner John Beckenridge, who abducted his 11-year-old stepson last year, are working with New Zealand police to track the pair down.

Swedish-born helicopter pilot Beckenridge broke a court order on March 13 last year by picking up Mike Zhao-Beckenridge from his new Invercargill school.

The pair, who by all reports enjoyed a close relationship, camped at various places in the Catlins before Beckenridge’s dark-blue 4WD Volkswagen Touareg went off a 90m cliff near Curio Bay a week later.

It took police six weeks to recover the battered wreck from the treacherous waters and there was no sign of any bodies.

On the one year anniversary of their disappearance, police said there was no evidence of the pair leaving the Catlins area.

Top chopper pilot: John Beckenridge

Many locals, and friends and neighbours of Beckenridge, believe he staged their deaths and they are now hiding either in NZ or overseas.

But there have been no reported sightings since they were seen at the Tokanui garage on March 17.

Detective Senior Sergeant Stu Harvey has told the Herald the police inquiry is still live.

He confirmed that “associates of Beckenridge who live overseas” were now helping police with the case.

But he refuses to say who they are or how they are helping.

Border alerts remain in place at NZ ports, while Interpol is still helping NZ investigators.

In March, Harvey said there had been a “major time lapse” in getting information back from overseas agencies.

Nine months on, police are still waiting.

“We are still waiting for some overseas enquiries to come back,” Harvey says.

Police are treating it as a missing persons case.

Mike’s mother, Fiona Lu, has repeatedly declined to comment publicly.

Harvey said earlier this year she had been frustrated at the lack of concrete leads for police.

Over the past year, police have received multiple sightings of the pair reported to them by members of the public across NZ, including Southland and Canterbury.

However, the potential leads never amounted to anything.

Missing: Mike Zhao-Beckenrdige
Missing: Mike Zhao-Beckenridge

The police file has not yet been passed over to the coroner.

“Once all enquiries are concluded, the file will be reviewed and a decision will be made on the next step in the process,” Harvey says.

He earlier said police were “keeping an open mind to what’s actually happened to them”.

“We’ve spoken to a lot of people, and a lot of friends, associates of John Beckenridge,” Harvey said in March.

“There has been no information at this stage that we have that would suggest that … somebody is helping them.”

Beckenridge, who was living in an upmarket Queenstown estate before disappearing, was well-known in Papua New Guinea flying circles.

Pilots recall an experienced, talented and popular commercial pilot, who also flew in Afghanistan and is believed to have several aliases, including John Locke, John Robert Lundh, Knut Goran Roland Lundh and John Bradford.

Pacific Helicopters PNG head Mal Smith, his former boss who has been interviewed by NZ police, says he knew Beckenridge had been having “problems getting access to his kid but we didn’t know it was to that extreme”.

Aviation expert Peter Clark has said it would be “improbable but not impossible” to flee NZ by helicopter.