No Blades link to car in forest

By Doug Laing

An abandoned car found in a forest near Taupo this month is not connected with the disappearance of hitchhiker Mona Blades almost 38 years ago, police say.

The car was initially reported to be an orange Datsun, of the type investigated by police after Miss Blades vanished while hitchhiking home from Hamilton to Hawke's Bay during Queen's Birthday weekend in 1975.

Bay of Plenty police investigated last week, but Inspector Mark Loper, of Rotorua, says the vehicle found secluded in Rangitaiki Forest was a Mitsubishi, and not of interest in the Mona Blades inquiry.

Miss Blades was 18 when she disappeared. During the investigation, police scoured bush and scrub alongside the Napier-Taupo road, hoping to link the disappearance with the last reported sightings of the teenager alive, with a man and an orange Datsun station wagon.

Some reports were that the vehicle was in the vicinity of rural Matea Rd, which is on the northeastern side of the road.

Police have never found any trace of the young woman nor her belongings.

Mr Loper, who did not join the police until nine years after the disappearance, is the latest of several officers who have retained the file, contained in dozens of folders at the Bay of Plenty police headquarters.

"Bits and pieces come in all the time," he says, "but we've got to make sure it hasn't been brought up before."

In the past 10 years, there have been at least two other searches sparked by new information, but neither added to the police picture of what might have happened to Miss Blades.

In 2004, her name was found etched into concrete in a private garage in Huntly, and early last year police dug-up the concrete floor of the laundry of a Kawerau property, acting on claims that a former traffic officer who had lived at the address was involved.

In 2005, police also spent several hours re-interviewing a long-standing suspect in the case.

Most "avenues" had been investigated before, but Mr Loper says police still want to investigate an anonymous woman's information that she had also accepted a ride with a man in an orange Datsun about the time of the disappearance.

The writer of the note has never been identified nor has any woman come forward to provide further information about it.

Mr Loper says a lot of people hitchhiked in the mid-1970s, and Taupo seemed to be a particularly common area where hitchhikers were seen at the roadsides.

He believes someone must still be concealing crucial information about the case.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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