A 34-YEAR-OLD gardener went missing in the sea near Tuen Mun yesterday and is believed to have drowned, but it is unclear whether he went into the water for a swim or to save his master's dog. ''James'' Genaro Valdez, who had worked since March 16 for the Yeung family at their picturesque, waterfront villa near Siu Lam, vanished at about 9 am. Two stories emerged: a police version gathered from an interview with the family's domestic helper and the other told by the Yeungs. Both accounts involve a small Japanese dog that has no name, with whom Mr Valdez was last seen. ''Only the dog knows the real story,'' the villa owner's son, 21-year-old Rico Yeung Kin-chung, said last night. ''If only he could talk. That way we would know for sure what happened.'' The police version has Mr Valdez disappearing shortly after the two-year-old dog he was walking - one of the Yeungs' 15 small canines - dived off the villa's boat pier and into the sea at Tsing To Tuen. Mr Valdez reportedly told his cousin Elvie Fernandez that he would meet her back at the house after he jumped in and pulled out the dog. Miss Fernandez told police the dog came home alone and that she contacted her employer, who then reported Mr Valdez's disappearance to police at about 11.30 am. His T-shirt, shoes and watch were found at the end of the pier. Rico Yeung, a mechanical engineering student who attends school in London, said the dog would not have jumped off the pier because ''it hates the water''. He said the family's theory was that Mr Valdez was taking a morning swim, and then took the dog into the water ''to give it a sea-water bath''. Mr Yeung said his mother, Cheung Yeung Yuk-king, saw the dog about 100 metres from shore and called out to Mr Valdez to swim out and save it. His mother could not see Mr Valdez and was forced to take a dip to retrieve the dog herself, he said. He said Mrs Yeung reported Mr Valdez missing after she found his belongings by the pier. A distraught Miss Fernandez was too upset last night to go through the details of what she had told police. With Mr Yeung present, she said her cousin was a competent swimmer, but that ''he could not swim very long distances''. Miss Fernandez, who was being comforted at the villa by friends, said she could not inform her cousin's family in the Philippines of his disappearance because they had no phone in their village home. Marine Police arrived in the area 10 minutes after Mr Valdez was reported missing, with Government Flying Service helicopters and divers from the Fire Services Department arriving by midday. The man was not found and the search was halted at 4 pm, leaving Filipino welfare groups demanding to know why the search was called off when about three hours of daylight remained. ''This is totally unfair. In Hong Kong and many other countries searches are carried out until the missing person is found - dead or alive,'' said United Filipinos spokesman Sol Pillas. ''Why the change this time? The weather was fine, there was at least three more hours of daylight left when they stopped looking. I can't help but think if he wasn't a Filipino, the search would have continued.'' Marine Police Duty Controller, Chief Inspector Alistair McPherson, said the search was stopped because it was felt the man had either made his way back to shore and not reported he was safe, or he had drowned and his body had sunk and probably would not surface for several days.