Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Friends and family pay tribute to Jane

Funeral for Jane Furlong at St Georges Anglican Church Epsom. Jane Furlong went missing in 1993 from K Rd's red light district. Her body was recently found in buried in the sand dunes on Sunset Beac
Funeral for Jane Furlong at St Georges Anglican Church Epsom. Jane Furlong went missing in 1993 from K Rd's red light district. Her body was recently found in buried in the sand dunes on Sunset Beac

Jane Furlong has been dead for longer than she was alive.

But yesterday, 19 years after she was buried deep in the sand dunes at an isolated north Waikato beach, hundreds gathered to remember a vivacious, daring and fearless teenager.

Ms Furlong disappeared from Karangahape Rd in the central city in May 1993. Her remains were found in a sandy grave at Sunset Beach near Port Waikato two months ago.

Ms Furlong, who was just 17, is believed to have been murdered and police are hunting her killer.

Yesterday, mourners at her funeral were urged to focus on the things they knew about her, rather than the things they did not understand or did not have answers to.

Ms Furlong's son Aidan, who was 5 months old when she vanished, was at the service with his father, Danny Norsworthy.

Mr Norsworthy was Ms Furlong's boyfriend, and was visibly upset yesterday, keeping his sunglasses on for most of the service at St George's Anglican Church in Epsom.

Friends from all walks of life filled the church, leaving only standing room.

Many approached Ms Furlong's mother, Judith, to share their stories of a girl who never got to grow up.

One woman spoke of running away from boarding school with Ms Furlong; another knew her as a child.

Aidan hugged his grandmother before taking his seat at the front of the church. He would later, with his father and Ms Furlong's two brothers, act as a pallbearer for a mother he never knew.

Judith Furlong gave a moving eulogy. She was applauded as she walked up to the front of the church.

"I decided to hold this service for Jane because it will acknowledge that Jane was a real person with a family and friends," she said.

Jane was working part-time as a prostitute when she vanished, but her mother wanted her remembered for more than her choice of job.

"We never thought that Jane would ever be found after 19 years missing and I am pleased that we have gone from missing to found. Missing really meant nothing.

"But there, on the 19th of May, was Jane, in a sandy grave.

"It's actually a place she would have liked. She loved the sea, she loved to swim and the wild surf was something she loved - so do I."

She said her daughter was "always where the action was".

"For as long as I can remember Jane had a daring and fearless spirit. She was not afraid of anything at all. She also had an inquiring mind, an outgoing personality and she was a chatterbox as soon as she was able to talk," Mrs Furlong said.

"As she grew older, her troubled background seemed to haunt her. She went from a diligent student to a rebellious teenager. I thought it was just a stage she was going through and she would grow out of it.

"I still think that would be the case if she'd lived. But she didn't get the chance."

Mrs Furlong "hoped and prayed" that whoever was responsible for her daughter's "evil" death would be found. "I hope to meet with Jane in heaven, where the truth can be revealed."

Members of the police team leading the investigation into Ms Furlong's death, named Operation Darlia, attended the funeral.

Afterwards, Detective Inspector Mark Benefield said the service was beautiful.

"We're still working really hard to find the killer ... We're victim-focused, that's what we're about. This is the last day the victim is going to be seen so we want to pay our respects to that victim because we are working hard for her."

Police are seeking help to find Jane Furlong's killer. Can you help?

If you have information on Jane Furlong's death contact police on 0800 675 263, email furlong@police.govt.nz or visit the special What Happened to Jane Facebook page. Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

- NZ Herald

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