June 4, 1989 (Sunday)
Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
Ko te Maori i roto i tenei tuhinga mai i te whakamaoritanga aipurangi. Ki te he ana, me whakapaha! Tena koa tohutohu mo te kupu tika. – The Maori in this article is from an online translation. If it’s wrong, we apologize! Please advise on the correct word.
Peter Dougals Coop
Alternative Name: Unknown
Ingoa Kārangaranga: Tautangata
Tetahi Ingoa: Tautangata
Disappearance – Te Ngaro
Missing from: Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
Date Missing: June 5, 1989 (Monday)
Te Ra o te Ngaro: Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
Te Wa o te Ngaro: Hune 5, 1989 (Mane)
Te Whakapae: Tautangata
Peter Coop grew up in Nelson, New Zealand, attending a boarding school while his parent (both reputable eye surgeons) worked out of Canberra, Australia. Peter would eventually follow his parent’s career path, attending medical school and working towards a specialization in ophthalmology. In June 1989, Peter had only been married for seven months when he decided to attend a month-long ophthalmology training course at Dunedin Hospital. The course was a difficult one, and few of its attendees would pass on to become eye surgeons. Peter had expressed some concerns about the course, a fact that would become relevant later.
According to records, he arrived at his hostel in Dunedin and called his wife back at home in Auckland on June 5. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary during the phone call, and he promised to phone her again the following day. It appears that he did sleep in the hostel, and the only things missing from his room the following morning were his tracksuit and running shoes. When Peter failed to attend the first class on June 6 and did not phone his family to check in, police issued a search of his room. They found his wallet, cash, various paperwork, his asthma inhaler, clothing, and other personal things remaining in the room; however, Peter was nowhere to be found.
Initial suspicions that he disappeared while exercising faded when a search of the nearby area, trails, and public areas did not turn up anything.
Police eventually uncovered the fact that Peter had previously demonstrated a behavioral pattern of disappearing when under pressure (e.g., he disappeared for a week during his first year of medical school; leaving for a two month biking trip without notice) and began to question whether he left voluntarily and simply walked away from the pressure of his career. The matter was further complicated when his wife, Galina, realized that various camping items had been taken from their house including:
- Blue Sleeping Bag
- Orange Tent
- Leather Hiking Boots
- Outdoor Items
- $500 Cash Advance on his Visa Card arranged Friday before his disappearance.
Police also found a piece of paper with the following written on it:
“Arrive, arrange 12.30, pack: $120. Matches, jeans $200, Stove, Jersey, Master Charge.”Link
There remain the question of why leave behind his wallet / money / inhaler as those would still prove useful were he leaving on his own. Furthermore, “arrange 12.30” may have suggested a meeting with someone at that time?
Other possibilities included that he disappeared while hiking or met some unknown accident. There are three key sightings by persons familiar with Peter that may be relevant.
On the day he disappeared (June 6), Josie Parker (his classmate for 8+ years) reported to police that she witnessed Peter sitting in the departures area of Invercargill Airport wearing outdoor wear.
In 1997, a witness (Elizabeth Hagen) claimed to have seen him at Emu Creek Camping Area in New South Wales, Australia. Hagen was also a doctor and had once been a classmate of Peter’s. According to her, Peter parked beside her and her husband in a yellow Lada Niva 4×4. He was accompanied by a woman and two children (descriptions not provided). Hagen went to speak with him the following day, but the family had already left.
Mysteriously, Peter’s mother reportedly saw him in 2003 for a brief moment in Nelson – the family’s hometown where Peter grew up. According to her, she saw Peter while she was crossing the Collingwood St Bridge. She glanced down and saw a man and young boy along the Maitai riverbank. She claimed that he looked much as he had when he disappeared, being tall, thin, and still having his hair.
This sighting might be related to the fact that some persons had reportedly seen lights on in the Coop home in Nelson when Peter disappeared. Some wondered if he had returned to the home while his parents were gone for a brief time before leaving again.
Peter’s sister does not agree that Peter ran away and has theorized instead that he became lost while on a hiking trip (Link). She describes Peter as being someone who enjoyed camping and hiking and believes he may have encountered an accident while on an excursion. There are a few hiking spots near Dunedin, particularly near the beaches. If this is true, it suggests that perhaps he never meant to attend the medical course as missing days to go camping would put him substantially behind in the class.
Peter’s family launched the Friends and Family of Missing persons Charitable Trust (fFoMPA) in 2008 offering support and training for the families of missing persons. Peter’s father, Douglas Coop, has also authored the book “Gone Missing: A Guide for Those Left Behind”.
Based on decades of fieldwork, Gone Missing discusses the role of police and search agencies, how to deal with the media and the many organizations available to give support and assistance.
The book gives a detailed account of the emotional trauma and grieving suffered by those left behind, the professional help available, and explains the role of counselling. It examines why people go missing, and deals with their return or the finding of remains. No other book offers the same comprehensive information and guidance.Book Description
Description – Whakaahuatanga
- Date of Birth: March 20, 1961
- Age at Disappearance: 28
- Ethnicity: Caucasian
- Nationality: New Zealand
- Gender at Birth: Male
- Hair: Dark Hair (Brown or Black)
- Eye Color: Blue
- Height: 6’3″ (191cm)
- Weight: Medium
- Ra whanau: Poutu-te-rangi 20, 1961
- Tau: 28
- Matawaka: Kaukasia
- Iwi tūturu: Aotarangi
- Ira Ira: Tane
- Tae Makawe: Makawe pouri
- Tae Karu: Karu kaur
- Teitei: 6’3″ (191 cm)
- Taumaha: Hanga Reo
*Discrepancies: Most sources state his Date of Birth as March 19; however, his sister’s post on Facebook says March 20. Most sources list his height as 185cm (6’1″); however, his sister’s post on Facebook says 191cm (6’3″).
Distinguishing Marks or Factors (Āhuatanga Motuhake)
Medical Concerns (Preocupaciones Médicas)
- Asthma – He left behind his Ventolin Inhaler
- Asthma – ia mahue i muri tona Ventolin ngongō
- Running Shoes or Leather Hiking Boots
- Tracksuit or Outdoor Clothing
- He hu oma, he huu hikoi hikoi ranei
- Ara hikoi
If You or Anyone You Know Has Information About The Disappearances, Please Contact:
Or use the Blue QR Code (right) to find contact information for the National Police.
- New Zealand Police. “Peter Douglas Coop”. Link.
- McNeilly, H. (2020) “Thirty-year mystery: Sightings of missing Kiwi Dr Peter Coop continued ‘like Elvis'”, Stuff.co.nz, 3 January. Link.
- McNeilly, H. (2020) ‘Dead or disappeared on purpose? The 30-year mystery of Dr Peter Coop’, Stuff.co.nz, 2 January. Link.
- Coop, D. (2012), R & R, Facebook. Link
- WebSleuths (2019) ‘NZ. Dr. Peter Douglas Coop,28, Invercargill Airport, 6 June 1989’, 7 March. Link.
- New Zealand Herald (2003) ‘Police investigate mother’s ‘sighting’ of missing son’, 14 October. Link
- New Zealand Missing, ‘Peter Douglas Coop’, Link.
- FMHS History, “Student Memorials”, Link.