Identity of burning body still a mystery

By Andrew Koubaridis

Crime scene investigators make a detailed search of Hangapipi Rd. Photo /Greg Bowker
Crime scene investigators make a detailed search of Hangapipi Rd. Photo /Greg Bowker

Police investigating the charred remains of a young woman found burning on the side of a quiet Waikato road are urging anyone who can identify her to come forward.

The body has been removed from the remote rural road in Rotowaro, near Huntly, and an autopsy to determine the cause of her death should be completed in Auckland this morning.

The woman has been burned beyond recognition and police can only describe her as slim and young.

The body lay on the side of the road uncovered for most of the day while police and ESR scientists began a careful search yesterday.

Investigators would not say if traces of accelerant were found but the Weekend Herald understands no evidence was found in the immediate area where firefighters found her.

Detective Senior Sergeant Nigel Keall said the death was being treated as suspicious until proven otherwise,

The body was found on Hangapipi Rd, an isolated rural road west of Huntly, just after 10pm on Thursday.

The road was likely to be closed for several days with residents being allowed in to pick up clothing and deal with urgent matters only.

The closure is necessary to preserve the scene and potential evidence.

Mr Keall said someone must know who the dead woman was.

"We're working to establish her identity and this is where we need the public's help, this person is someone's daughter and could be someone's sister, partner or even mother and we need to find out who she is not only for our investigation's sake but for her family as well."

Mr Keall said police would like to hear from anyone who saw any vehicles or people on Hangapipi Rd between 9.30pm to 10pm, particularly near the start of the road where the woman was found.

"We're asking for any nominations of who this person may be or any information of vehicles or suspicious people in the area."

The area was blessed by police kaumatua after the body was removed from the crime scene.

The Huntly Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer, Craig Bush, said last night that the fire could have spread quickly if it hadn't been a still night.

The firefighters were responding to initial reports of a scrub fire and not all the crew were required to put the flames out, sparing some the distressing sight of a burning body.

Mr Bush said firefighters had been offered counselling but so far everyone seemed to be coping.

Anyone with any information on the woman's identity, suspicious activity in the area or details on this matter should contact the inquiry team at the Huntly Police Station on 07 828-7560 or information can be left anonymously at CrimeStoppers 0800 555-111.

- NZ Herald

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