Private investigator makes film about mystery murder

By Ben Aulakh of of the Westport News

Murder victim Jennifer Mary Beard. Photo / File
Murder victim Jennifer Mary Beard. Photo / File

A private investigator looking into the unsolved murder of Welsh hitchhiker Jennifer Beard in 1969 has made a film about her findings.

Cindy Roberts has spent the last two years researching the events around the murder that has remained a mystery for the last 43 years.

Roberts said the 90-minute film, which is close to being finished, explored the various possibilities of how Miss Beard might have died.

"The focus of the movie is the different witnesses that came forward, but also witnesses that people haven't heard about yet.

"There were so many rumours, so many stories, so many scenarios, and we just go through quite a lot of them, but we do introduce new evidence as well," she said.

Miss Beard, 25, had been travelling through the South Island on her way to meet up with her fiance Reg Phillips, with whom she was due to go tramping, when she disappeared.

It is believed she was strangled in a sexually motivated attack on New Year's Eve. Her body was found under the Haast River Bridge 19 days later.

Roberts said she had never expected to make a film on such a subject.

"I basically started doing private investigation work about five years ago, and I never really thought I would be getting into investigating an unsolved murder.

"I woke up one day and her name was suddenly stamped on my brain, I didn't even know who she was... I thought who is this person, so I started researching her.

"From then on I just kept bumping into witnesses. The first witness came to me, I didn't have to go looking. I put something in the paper about some information, and it's been snowballing from there."

The film had been almost entirely self-funded and paid for by West Coasters, Roberts said.

The story was still relevant because of the huge impact the aftermath of Miss Beard's murder had on New Zealand.

"New Zealand hadn't seen anything like it, there were hundreds and hundreds of people, army, policemen, thousands and thousands of Vauxhall Velox cars were checked, it was just astronomical."

- The Westport News

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