A massive hunt for a missing Port Elizabeth policeman cyclist entered its second day yesterday – with still no sign of him being found.
Sergeant Michael van der Watt, 35, was last seen leaving his Rowallan Park home on his bicycle at 6am on Monday.
To streamline the search, police formed a joint command centre at the Kabega Park Police Station to deploy officials to specific areas.
The search resumed at first light yesterday, with police attempting to map Van der Watt’s route in the hope of narrowing down the search area.
They also collected surveillance footage from businesses in the Greenbushes area on Cape Road hoping to see him – but without luck.
At about 11.30am, police canvassing the bushes spoke to a resident living near the Lavendula complex in Bridgemeade who reported having heard about five gunshots on Monday morning.
The K9 unit deployed dogs and a helicopter started an aerial search near the complex, but nothing was found. At 2.30pm, the search was expanded to the Van Stadens and Maitlands areas.
Officials involved in the search said a major stumbling block was the vast size of the area they were looking in. “This means we cannot deploy tracking dogs until we know more or less where he was last seen,” one officer said.
“We are randomly searching bushes, but it is a long shot until we narrow down the area.”
The sections being searched include cycling routes in the Draaifontein, Seaview and Greenbushes areas.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu confirmed Van der Watt had left his house at about 6am with his state firearm and a magazine loaded with ammunition to go cycling. He left his wallet and cellphone at home.
Police believe he may have taken his firearm with him due to a recent spate of attacks on cyclists in Port Elizabeth.
By mid-morning, police had taken both Van der Watt and his wife’s cellphones to see if they could yield any clues. Naidu said it was standard procedure to assess the information on the cellphones of anyone who had recent contact with a missing person.
Van der Watt’s wife raised the alarm on Monday afternoon when he failed to return from his cycle.
Naidu said police had been inundated with offers of assistance from residents who, along with neighbourhood watch groups and security companies, had helped search for Van der Watt until the early hours of yesterday.
“It is always appreciated when the community works with the police,” Naidu said.
The second day of the search was called off at 5pm due to poor light and will resume today.