Ben Hill is a reporter for The New Zealand Herald

Gina Lander murder: 'She was my best friend'

Kiwi woman Gina Lander, 46, is believed to have been murdered.
Kiwi woman Gina Lander, 46, is believed to have been murdered.

The daughter of a New Zealand woman murdered in the United Kingdom said she has lost her "best friend".

Former Tauranga woman Gina Lander, 46, was reported missing from her home in Walsall on March 16 by her partner David Stokes.

Police believe Stokes murdered Lander and then disposed of her body before reporting her missing.

Five weeks after Lander was reported missing Stokes committed suicide by jumping off a bridge in Walsall.

Lander's daughter Shireen Harper told the Herald her mother gave her "a real passion for life".

A UK coroner said Lander was unlawfully killed. Photo / Supplied
A UK coroner said Lander was unlawfully killed. Photo / Supplied

"I am obviously devastated that someone she loved and trusted took her life. I am also saddened that she is yet another victim of domestic violence.

"She was very bubbly and happy and had a passion for furthering children's development, many people will miss her.

"She had a fantastic heart and only wanted the best for people, it's shocking to think anyone would want to hurt her."

A UK coroner yesterday recorded Stokes' death as suicide and said Lander was unlawfully killed.

Harper said the coroner's report brings "much needed closure".

"It's a relief to know that David has not gotten away with it and that he is not able to hurt anyone else."

Friends have also paid tribute to the "bubbly and vivacious" Lander.

While living in Tauranga, Lander taught at Welcome Bay School. She also worked for a time as a relief teacher at Omokoroa Point School.

Friends have paid tribute to the "bubbly and vivacious" Lander. Photo / Supplied
Friends have paid tribute to the "bubbly and vivacious" Lander. Photo / Supplied

Omokoroa Point School principal Vicky Knell said her death was "an absolute loss".

"She loved children, she was passionate about teaching. She was vivacious and bubbly, and was very well-known, very liked and respected."

Knell said Lander ran the Jump Jam children's fitness programme in Tauranga, and was known as "Jump Jam Gina".

"She was just a lovely, lovely lady. I'm still a bit tender about it to be honest, it's a bit of a shock."

Knell said she last saw Lander after bumping into her four years ago.

Stephanie Annan met Lander while she was teaching at Omokoroa Point School, and said she was "full of life".

"She was the most amazing, bubbly, outgoing, fabulous person, she was just so cool.

"It's just devastating news, she's such an amazing person and I couldn't understand how anyone could do that to her.

"She was everybody's friend and she loved life. It's quite a shock, I'm in disbelief.

"She just didn't have a bad bone in her body."

UK police believe Stokes murdered Lander and then disposed of her body before reporting her missing.

Despite a number of police and social media appeals, Lander has never been found.

A police spokesman said: "On April 21 this year, police were called to reports of a man falling from a bridge over the M6 motorway.

"The man, identified as David Stokes, died following the fall.

"The 39-year-old was Gina's partner at the time she was reported missing.

"One line of inquiry to date has been that David Stokes may have killed Gina and disposed of her remains shortly before she was reported missing.

"At an inquest today it was ruled that Gina's death was an unlawful killing and that David Stokes committed suicide."

Police are not looking for anyone else in connection with Lander's death.

A memorial will be held for Lander in late November.

- NZ Herald

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