Leo Lipp Neighbours before his disappearance. Photo: Supplied.

Mum hopes drone might help find son


The mother of missing student Leo Lipp-Neighbours hopes new drone technology will end the near-seven year wait to find out what happened to her only child.

Leo was 19 when he went missing from his flat in Nelson at 4am on Sunday, January 24, 2010.

Leo Lipp Neighbours’ distinctive car that went missing the night he did.
Leo Lipp Neighbours’ distinctive car that went missing the night he did.

Neither he nor his distinctive orange station-wagon have been seen since.

Charlotte Lipp said drone technology gave her hope that Leo’s car might be spotted in steep areas around the upper South Island.

She doesn’t have access to a drone, or the expertise to use one, but hopes a hobbiest might be willing to help.

“We searched but there are areas you just can’t get to. Someone who is really experienced with a drone could spot something though,” Lipp said. “That is hopeful.”

Lipp said she wanted to remind people that her son was still missing.

“It was seven years ago now so there are people who just might not know.”

“For us, though, nothing has changed, so it is just a matter of living with it.”

Theories on what happened to Leo include his car going off a steep bank, suicide, and, in more recent years, that he was the victim of foul play.

Lipp said she and Leo’s father Colin Neighbours had considered every scenario and had “been around in circles”.

Leo’s friends said he was “in a dark mood” the night he disappeared and left his flat after a night clubbing, saying he was going “to be at one with nature”.

The last person to see Leo was good friend Ben Clarke. This week Clarke said he thought of Leo often and had searched for him extensively after he went missing.

“We looked for him for a long time, walking and driving the whole top of the South Island,” Clarke said.

“We searched every track, all the places he used to go, but nothing.”

Ben said a drone might be the only way Leo was found.

“My gut feeling is that he drove off the road somewhere, but with all the roadworks that have been done over the years we would have though he would have been found.

“A drone would give access to areas we couldn’t get to by foot, car or helicopter.”

In the years after Leo’s disappearance, police received information which led them to believe someone unknown to Leo was responsible for his death.

In 2014 police raided properties in Blenheim looking for Leo’s watch. They also searched for car parts from his Toyota.

Police believed the items could lead to charges of murder, manslaughter or grievous bodily harm.

Police this week said there were no new leads in Leo’s disappearance but the case was still active and a $50,000 reward was still in place.

Lipp said her biggest hope is that her son his still alive but just hasn’t made contact for some reason.

“I am always hoping he is alive and he knows we want him to come back,” Lipp said. “That he can come back and not be too scared or overwhelmed.”

“It doesn’t seem like he is alive, but until we know otherwise we always have that hope.”

She said her son was a good boy with a kind heart.

“If it was foul play he would have been the victim of an opportunistic criminal and he has been in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

She urged anyone with even the smallest amount of information to go to police.

“If anything knows anything they need to come forward to the police.”

Anyone who has information that may assist this investigation can call Nelson Police, Ph 546 3840. Anonymous information can be given by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.