Willie Apiata VC stepped out at the Halberg Awards this week, hand in hand with a mystery woman.

It is understood the former corporal in the New Zealand Special Air Service separated from his wife Sade Waikato months ago.

Ms Waikato and Mr Apiata have two young sons and Mr Apiata has a young teenage son from a previous relationship.

A guest at the premier sports awards ceremony said Mr Apiata and the woman were "definitely" together and he was heard introducing his date as his partner.

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Asked by the Herald photographer who the woman was, Mr Apiata replied "no names".

Mr Apiata has always been protective about his marriage and personal relationships, never sharing details.

After his secret 2011 wedding to Ms Waikato, some close family told the Herald they knew nothing of the ceremony and said Mr Apiata didn't like "a fuss".

On her Facebook page, Ms Waikato said the past year had been the "toughest year of my life by far, it truly has been one that has tested my inner strength on levels I never knew I had in me".

The former Army chef went on to describe her husband as her best friend.

"We made so many amazing memories that I will forever cherish. I can truly say the years we were together is a chapter I will never forget," she said.

She vows to remain close with Mr Apiata for the sake of their two sons and wishes him well.