Family of missing French teen Eloi Rolland ‘waiting for a miracle’ as search ends


The family of missing French teenager Eloi Rolland say they will never stop looking for him despite police calling off the physical search for him.

Police say they have exhausted all leads for finding Rolland, who has been missing from Auckland for almost four months.

The exchange student, 18, had been living with a host family in Birkenhead on the North Shore since arriving in New Zealand in September.

On March 7, Rolland caught a train from Britomart Station in the CBD about 6.30am and exited at New Lynn’s Fruitvale Rd station about 7.26am.

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Police believe he may have walked from there to Piha, on Auckland’s rugged west coast, as mobile phone data indicated he was in the vicinity of Piha Rd at 9.18am.

The teen, who has limited English, has not been seen since he was captured on CCTV at Britomart.

In April, police focused in on a bush area in Karekare after a local resident found a t-shirt hanging in a tree “in the middle of nowhere”. However, the t-shirt was later claimed by another local.

Eloi Jean Rolland, 18, has been missing since early March.

Supplied/Aurore Rolland

Eloi Jean Rolland, 18, has been missing since early March.

Detective Senior Sergeant Callum McNeill told Stuff the physical search for Rolland ended in May, pending reports of new information or evidence.

Officers have spent more than 1600 hours looking for him, covering West Auckland and the Waitākere Ranges’ tracks and roadways, but nothing connected to Rolland has been found.

“Every missing persons case is treated individually on a case-by-case basis and decisions on when to end a search involve any number of factors, including the areas being searched, any evidence located or other lines of enquiry being exhausted.”

Rolland’s sister, Aurore Rolland, told Stuff the family were “really sad” the search had been suspended.

“We [are at] the point where we are waiting for a miracle.”

Rolland briefly worked at Headquarters Viaduct. His former boss Leo Molloy described his state of mind as "troubled".

Supplied/Leo Molloy

Rolland briefly worked at Headquarters Viaduct. His former boss Leo Molloy described his state of mind as “troubled”.

The family found hope in a reported sighting of Eloi at a campsite in Te Anau, in the South Island.

“The person insisted and said some details about the guy she believes was Eloi. That makes us think it was him,” she said.

Senior Sergeant McNeill said police looked into the Te Anau report but found nothing to support the sighting.

“Police are continuing to look into this report as well as a number of other sightings of young males with French accents sighted throughout New Zealand in the weeks after Eloi’s disappearance.”

Rolland was last seen on CCTV at the Britomart train station early on March 7.

NZ Police

Rolland was last seen on CCTV at the Britomart train station early on March 7.

The Rolland family planned to travel to New Zealand from Montpellier in France, but are currently unable due to borders being closed to non-residents because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We believe [he] is not dead in the sea at Piha Beach,” Aurore said.

“Things need to be done, even if we have to search during our entire life.”

The case will remain active and police will stay in touch with Rolland’s family, but the chance of finding him alive are slim due to the length of time he’s been missing, Senior Sergeant McNeill said.

“Eventually, if Eloi is not found and all lines of enquiry have been exhausted, the matter will ultimately be referred to the coroner.”

Rolland’s family previously said his disappearance was “very out of character”.

Rolland was due to return to France on March 8 due to feeling homesick.

NZ Police

Rolland was due to return to France on March 8 due to feeling homesick.

They described Rolland as a “calm, kind and curious teenager who loves adventures” in a statement.

“He loves the sea, surf and catamarans. He also enjoys the beauty of the wilderness.

“We are extremely worried. He has never run away from home and always stayed in contact with his family.

“We are forever grateful to the New Zealand public for your support and assistance at this very difficult time for our family.”

Anyone who knows of Rolland’s whereabouts should contact Waitematā Police on 09 488 9764, anonymously on Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or phone 105, quoting file number 200310/8987.

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