Search continues for missing mum five years on

By Morgan Tait -
Tiopira (Joe) Tumanako, with grand daughter Honey Tumanako. Photo / Paul Taylor
Tiopira (Joe) Tumanako, with grand daughter Honey Tumanako. Photo / Paul Taylor

Five years have passed since his daughter went missing, and life has only got harder for Joe Tumanako and his family.

Annabelle Tumanako was a 35-year-old mother of five when she disappeared in 2007, and despite an extensive police investigation her whereabouts remained a mystery.

Foul play is suspected, making Annabelle's case one of two unsolved homicides in Hawke's Bay between 2007 and 2011, a snapshot of the region's crime statistics has revealed.

The data, from Statistics New Zealand, shows about half of all crimes recorded by Hawke's Bay police are not solved within the same year.

It has been heartbreaking for the Tumanako family, as they wait for news of their loved one.

"It's been a hard road to go on," said Mr Tumanako, who took on the care of his five grandchildren.

His wife, Lillian, lost a battle to cancer earlier this year.

"It's a big loss in the family, losing the girl then her mother."

Annabelle's children, aged from 3 to 16 years old at the time of her disappearance, had struggled to cope.

They had only photos to remember their mother, and any new information that could further police inquiries would bring some closure.

"The kids miss their mother very much. It is a mystery all right - we don't even know what's happened to Annabelle."

His eldest daughter would be 40 now, but hasn't been seen since she disappeared from her Maraenui home on June 23, 2007. Her car was found at a closed petrol station next to the Westshore Hotel and, despite extensive searches and interviews, information has never led police any closer to knowing what may have befallen the much-loved woman.

"So we have got no idea what has actually happened to her, no idea. If anybody had some kind of information out there it would be really good," said Mr Tumanako. "It would be a relief to know."

Hawke's Bay Police Detective Sergeant Emmett Lynch said the case was a real mystery, but it was never too late for people to come forward with new information.

"It's a really big mystery to be honest," he said.

"It was very much out of character for Annabelle to do this and we are very concerned how she came to disappear.

"We have done some pretty thorough inquiries and come up with not a lot of information. We had that estuary area searched in quite a thorough manner with divers and dogs. There were all these shoreline searches done and we interviewed a lot of people, watched a lot of CCTV footage in the area."

Mr Lynch said there were a lot of patrons at the Westshore Hotel, but no one reported seeing her there, and forensic examinations of both her home and vehicle drew no clues.

The night of her disappearance was the first race in New Zealand's America's Cup campaign and also a Tri-Nations All Blacks vs Springboks game, events that might jog people's memories if they saw Annabelle or her car.

"If someone out there, even if it's anonymous to Crimestoppers or something they think is a minor detail, just to give us some information - it might not solve the matter, but it could be enough to deal with things a little more, and to give something to her family."

The data for unsolved crimes painted a grim picture for Hawke's Bay, as about half of those recorded went unresolved.

One reason to account for the concerning numbers was the way the data was classified.

Recorded crimes are offences entered into the police database, the National Intelligence Application, no longer than 14 days after the year they occurred has ended.

Resolutions were police action taken to "close" the case in that same time period, so crimes reported or resolved outside of that timeframe was not included in the statistics.

Hawke's Bay CIB Detective Senior Sergeant Dave de Lange said the nature of some crimes made them easier to resolve.

"In the case of some crimes such as drug offending, it is relatively likely that the offender will be involved at the detection of the crime," he said. "If you're recording drug dealing, you're usually dealing with the drug dealer.

"Homicides and assaults are often resolved because the offender is known to the victim, so as long as you are getting good co-operation from the people involved it will be more likely to be dealt with."

High volume crimes, such as thefts and vandalism, were harder to resolve.

"If someone breaks into a car and takes a Navman and there are no witnesses, it is hard to identify an offender. Sometimes we will have a reasonable idea of who's responsible, but have insufficient evidence to prosecute - those are still classified as unresolved.

"That doesn't mean at all that if any new information comes in it will re-opened and re- investigated [but] it might just be that little bit more information that we need."

The more information people gave police, the more crimes would get solved, he said.

"My view is let us know - if you think something's relatively unimportant it might not be. We really rely on information from the community, not just in solving crimes but in preventing crimes.

"People sometimes don't put forward information for various reasons. They might be scared or might not think it's relevant, or they might feel loyalty to someone involved.

"But if they do think they want to put it forward - it is never too late and it might be that information that leads to finding an offender and holding them accountable."

If you have any information about a crime you can call the anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555-111. If you can see, or suspect, a crime happening, phone 111.

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