New Zealand police believe that a British solo sailor whose wrecked yacht was discovered in a bay at the north of the North Island of New Zealand was drowned at sea before his boat washed ashore.
Divers involved in the search did not find the body of 77-year-old solo sailor Malcolm Widdilove on the yacht, but police believed he is missing and presumed drowned.
The yacht, Boadicea, an 8 metre wooden sloop, washed into rocks on the shore, and the alarm was raised by the crew of another boat who noticed a mast sticking out of the water. The boat was upright and hard up against cliffs, in an isolated area of rugged coast, south of Tauputoputo Bay, east of Cape Reinga.
Divers identified Mr Widdilove from personal property found on the boat and police have notified his next of kin in the United Kingdom.
Police believed Mr Widdilove was solo sailing and may have encountered difficulties, the small yacht sinking off the coast then drifting onto the rocks.
A police search of the small bays and inlets in the area found no trace of the solo sailor.
He had been a frequent sailing visitor to New Zealand, and it is believed that he was sailing for Norfolk Island when some incident occurred. A relative in the UK had said that he had phoned on January 4, saying he was in Opua and heading for Norfolk.
In spite of appealing to locals in Opua, police had not yet had any confirmed sightings of Mr Widdilove prior to his departure and wanted to hear from anyone who had seen him in order to establish when he left.