• Her dog alerted her to something odd outside her house
• "I called out, 'Are you all right?', but I knew she wasn't"
A woman who found the body of Tracey Ann Patient in a lay-by in the Waitakere Ranges wondered for years if she could have done something to save the teenager's life.
For the first time, former Scenic Dr resident Simone Graham is speaking about the morning 40 years ago today when she was led by her pet doberman to where the 13-year-old victim's lifeless body lay hidden in a bushy enclave.
Ms Graham has also revealed how she was woken in the early hours of the morning by a loud noise, similar to a car door or boot slamming shut, and often rued not investigating the unusual disturbance in the quiet rural community.
Now on the anniversary of one of the country's most notorious unsolved murders and as police investigate fresh leads, Ms Graham is hoping her recollection of events will somehow help lead to finding the West Auckland girl's killer.
Tracey was found strangled by pantyhose in the bush of the Waitakere Ranges on January 30, 1976. Her murder remains unsolved.
Ms Graham also wants to set the record straight, saying she was the first to come across the lifeless body of Tracey, curled up as if sleeping, at a gravelled lay-by in the Waitakere Ranges and not a man walking a dog.
She remembers her doberman, fresh from a quick morning run from her Scenic Drive property, return to the house acting out of character.
"He was making the strangest howling noise so I went downstairs, opened the door and he was really going for it. He went down the driveway and then came back. I said, 'Okay mate, what is it?' I followed him across the road and into a lay-by. He was standing over something and I went over and I looked.
"There was a young woman, she was very slightly down a bank - it would have been an 18 inches to two-feet gradual slope and she was amongst the bushes at the bottom of this little slope.
"My dog was standing on top of the bank and I stood there, so I really looked down on her and she was slightly curled - she could have been asleep in a very loose sort of position - her knees were up, her legs were up but not hugging up to her chest and her head was bent over and she was facing towards my left and I could see the side of her face and her hair.
"My dog was barking very, very loudly and I said, 'Hey, hey, hey are you all right? Are you all right?' But as I was looking at her I knew she wasn't. I think I knew she was dead."
Ms Graham said she raced 120m back to her home and raised the alarm telling her husband at the time to check her gruesome discovery
It took four calls over a period of three hours before the first police car arrived at the Waitakere Ranges scene.
And it didn't take long before the area was swarming with media and police.
As the nearest property to the lay-by, Ms Graham opened her home to reporters who filed stories over her landline.
At the time she heard reports a man walking a dog discovered the body but was not able to persuade those in her house that this was wrong.
"Nobody seemed to be keen on the facts. They made up their own stories. I was 25 years old, I was pretty naive and I just recognised they were saying whatever they felt like."
She said for years she wondered what would have happened if she had investigated the loud noise that woke her at 1am the previous night.
"For a long time if I had any sense of grief [it was] that 'My god what was the noise I heard, could I have stopped this from happening? That sat with me for a couple of years."
"I always thought that that little girl had no life."
She remained troubled no one had been charged with her murder.
"I actually would like to see the person responsible caught and I don't know if that's going to happen."
A former detective who worked on the case profiling suspects did not discount Ms Graham's account of finding the body first, saying it had a ring of truth about it.
"I wouldn't rule that out. It's quite possible," said the now retired Graham Bell.