Jefferie Hill (2) was last seen on September 28, 1968, in Tokoroa, New Zealand. He was almost three years old when he vanished. Authorities assume that he drowned in the Matarawa Creek that ran behind his home. But, doubt remains.
This is the Case of the Month for July 2020.
On Saturday, September 28, 1968 Jefferie‘s mother, Jo Hill Reynolds, was doing laundry. Jefferie was going to play outside with his friend from across the street. That friend was Karen Stubbs, also two years old. She was waiting for him by the gate.
Around 1045am, Jo looked outside. She saw the two toddlers playing at the Stubbs’ home. About 10min later, Karen’s mother Colleen, ran over and cried “Jo, he’s in the creek.”
Searching for Jefferie
Jo sprinted towards the Matarawa Creek, jumped in, and frantically searched for her son. When she jumped in, she landed on a rusty car part and other discarded items. The creek was at that time used as a dump. This made the creek less fast streaming but treacherous nonetheless. That’s why people think that IF Jefferie fell in he would get stuck on something. Police and other neighborhood residents pulled Jo out.
Several parties were formed involving around 400 people. The team searched the creek from Arapuni to Kinleith, it was even drained, but no body was found. Police from surrounding communities joined in including dogs. The quote that I found in the papers was that “The dogs didn’t know which way they were going.” Does this mean that they didn’t pick up a scent quickly and were looking for it? They did find Jefferie’s plastic red toy spade floating in the creek.
Karen told her mom Colleen and Jefferie’s older brother Robert Hill, who was also playing outside on his tricycle, that Jefferie fell into the creek. That makes Karen the last person to see Jefferie alive. Robert was six years old at the time and he was besides himself. His mother thought that maybe his foot got stuck in his tricycle’s wheel. But his cries were for Jefferie.
So, was Jefferie kidnapped? Did he fell into the creek? Jefferie never met his younger sister, Laura, but she thinks a kidnapping is possible. IF he was kidnapped and raised elsewhere, it is very well possible that right now, he doesn’t even know his real identity.
This is an aged-progressed sketch of Jefferie made by an police artist.
I wonder if simulations were done with a object of Jefferie’s size and weight to see how it would move through the creek and where it might get stuck.
The authorities back then accepted the drowning theory. Detective Senior Sergeant Kevan Verry remembered that in March 1969 a coroner’s inquest took place. Based on the evidence, it was determined that Jefferie died September 28, 1968. Cause of death: drowning. However, that is a circumstantial judgement as there is no hard evidence that Jefferie indeed drowned in that creek.
His file is not closed, was misplaced for a while, but police do keep an open mind about theories especially as we have modern technology shining a light on other old cases.
Karen’s father, Tom Stubbs, was allegedly aggressive towards the neighborhood children. One neighbor even claimed they saw Tom “bury something in his yard around the time of Jefferie’s disappearance.” Tom Stubbs passed away in 1986. At the time that Jefferie vanished he was inside his house with Colleen. Moreover, in March 2012, the Stubbs yard was searched. Nothing was found. Karen remains adamant to this day that Jefferie fell into the creek. Jefferie’s father, Jeff, passed away in 2004.
In this clip you can see the creek in question as it is now. It seems small and narrow. In the clip some parts look fast-streaming and then a toddler could quickly get pulled under and drown. In the papers the creek is referred to as slow-moving. After seeing the clip, I wonder why he or a piece of his clothes, was never found as I can see his body getting stuck somewhere.
If you have any information about Jefferie Hill, please call Crimestoppers at 0800 555 111, or check their website, or call the Tokoroa Police at 07 885 0100.
In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight old cold cases. These posts are not an in-depth analysis and of course, more information can be found online and in newspaper archives.
We need to get these cases back in the mainstream media, to get people talking again, and if anything, to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are unsolved does not mean that we can forget about them.
I encourage you to share this post on your own social media platforms. By sharing these posts, the cases reach new networks, new connections, and new news feeds. Maybe one day these updates will pop up in the right person’s news feed. This may be someone who can actually help advance the case and that is my goal.