David Lomas reunites regretful dad with the son he ignored for more than 40 years

A New Plymouth man has shared an emotional reunion with his son, having made a decision more than four decades ago to have nothing to do with him.

Walter Smith, a 60-year-old former truck driver from Hawera, met his son for the first time during filming for the latest episode of David Lomas Investigates, which aired on Tuesday night on Three.

Adrian Fletcher, who is now 42 and has three kids of his own, met Smith having never heard anything about him, other than that he'd left him alone with his mother many years prior.

That decision - to leave Fletcher to be raised by a single mother - haunted Smith and left him with deep regrets. The feelings only became more palpable when he had children with his new partner.

While he's a family man now, his younger years weren't such smooth sailing. He was arrested multiple times on charges of assault, burglary and theft.

"People would say I was bad, I'd probably say that too. I wasn't just a little ratbag, I was a big ratbag," he told Lomas. "I got in trouble with the police [and] I did a bit of time in jail."

Walter Smith made a decision more than four decades ago to have nothing to do with his son.
Walter Smith made a decision more than four decades ago to have nothing to do with his son. Photo credit: Three / David Lomas Investigates

It was around this time that his partner at the time - Fletcher's mother, with whom he shared a "rocky" relationship - became pregnant. Smith saw his infant son briefly when he and the mother first came out of hospital, but had no intention of being a father, so left.

"I thought I better get out of there. I know I shouldn't have, but I did."

More than 40 years on, he asked investigative journalist David Lomas to track his son down to "try and mend some fences" - not an easy task, given he didn't even know his name.

After tracing a friend of Smith's former partner to an address in Feilding, Lomas received her contact details and eventually got in touch with their son, who now lives on a dairy farm in Otautau, Southland.

Lomas organised for Smith to travel to Fletcher's home, where the pair shared a tearful reunion.

Walter Smith and Adrian Fletcher were both in tears during their first meeting.
Walter Smith and Adrian Fletcher were both in tears during their first meeting. Photo credit: Three / David Lomas Investigates

Smith got to know his son's family, completing a tour of Invercargill and Bluff - and both remarked on how easily they'd hit it off and how much they had in common.

Fletcher said meeting his father represented the chance to "fill a spot that's missing inside me and see where I came from".

Watch the full episode of David Lomas Investigates at ThreeNow. The next episode airs at 7:30pm next Tuesday on Three.