Grave fears for missing autistic man

Family and friends of an autistic man who vanished in Rotorua five days ago have stepped up their desperate search to find him.

Nigel Peterson ran away from his caregivers on Friday and hasn't been seen or heard from since.

His parents are helping plan where to focus the search for their son.

"He's never been overnight away from home. He gets 24-hour supervision so this is really unusual," said Nigel's father Chris Peterson.

The 33-year-old has been missing since Friday afternoon when plumbing problems in his flat meant he had to re-locate.

His caregiver had just picked him up and he fled from Old Taupo Rd near Springfield.

"He took off from the vehicle when the vehicle stopped and we haven't seen him since," Mr Peterson said.

There's a chance he's tried to reach family in Whakatane.

But his family believes he's more likely hiding under someone's back deck or in their garden, distressed, panicked and too scared to come out.

"He actually doesn't approach strangers very well and wouldn't talk or seek help," said Mr Peterson.

"He's a really nice boy, he has good manners he knows how to do everything right," said Nigel's mother Ilene Goldsmith.

Nigel takes regular medication and it's not known how long he can go without it.

"As a father, as a husband, as a brother, I can't imagine what this feels like for Nigel's family," said Rotorua police area commander Anaru Pewhairangi,

Police are calling on the community to help find him.

"Don't assume that Nigel is not in your backyard because we haven't found him yet so he's got to be somewhere," said Rotorua police inspector Kevin Taylor.

A quick check could save his life and help reunite him with his family.