New Year's Eve marked the 50th anniversary of one of New Zealand's longest unsolved murders. A Herald investigation has uncovered further evidence in the chilling case. An update episode of The 50 Year Secret is available here, and across all major podcast apps.

A new suspect in the 50-year-old unsolved murder of Welsh tourist Jennifer Beard was reported to police a year before he died - but was never investigated.

Documents released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show a member of the public contacted police about rumours Otematata man Reginald Wildbore had committed the infamous murder, and that his own wife had said as much.

Jennifer Beard was murdered on New Year's Eve, 1969. Photo / Supplied
Jennifer Beard was murdered on New Year's Eve, 1969. Photo / Supplied

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But the tip was never investigated by police, who simply said he was "not considered a suspect" after being interviewed in 1970, a couple of months after Beard's death.

In that interview, Wildbore describes seeing a young woman, presumably Beard, outside the post shop in Fox Glacier the day she disappeared.

Wildbore tells police he overheard the woman saying she managed to catch a ride with a man Wildbore knew.

Another statement provided to the Herald on Sunday contains an interview with an unnamed person, who says they saw Wildbore at the pub in Fox Glacier some time after 3pm that day.

The murder is believed to have happened about 1pm in Haast.

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Beard was hitchhiking on the West Coast on New Year's Eve 1969 when she disappeared. Her body was found badly decomposed under the Haast River Bridge on January 19, 1970.

Nobody has ever been charged with her murder, but a recent Herald investigation has uncovered evidence of Wildbore's confession.

Ian Molloy told the Herald he had been friends with Wildbore for about 10 years when the secret came out.

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"Quite often he'd come around in the morning," Molloy said.

"This morning he'd come around and he knocked on the door and I went out to the porch, and he just looked at me and then he just broke down crying his eyes out. And he said, 'I've done something really, really bad'. He said, 'I killed Jennifer Beard'."

Molloy said he was too "gobsmacked" to respond, instead staring at Wildbore in silence as the other man wept.

"He couldn't control himself for crying. He hung around for a little bit then he took control of himself and he just went away," he said.

"I never saw him again."

Molloy was scheduled to go north for work the following day. The next he heard of Wildbore was the news he'd committed suicide.

Ian Molloy (pictured) said his friend Reg Wildbore confessed the murder to him in 2003. Photo / Michael Craig
Ian Molloy (pictured) said his friend Reg Wildbore confessed the murder to him in 2003. Photo / Michael Craig

The day Wildbore died, he was supposed to go to the Oamaru police station, where he was to be arrested and charged with historical sex crimes against a child.

Former friends of Wildbore have also come forward, saying he told them he tried to go to police but couldn't find the courage, and that he would become tearful and withdrawn each year on the anniversary of Beard's disappearance.

Now the Herald on Sunday can reveal an unnamed informant went to police about Wildbore in early 2002, a year before he died.

In a police report form, dated February 2002, the detective constable notes information received from the person, whose name has been redacted.

"[The informant] was working in Otematata not long before the murder," the officer writes.

"About three years ago he shifted back to Oamaru and has bumped into people he knew from his time in Otematata. Around 25/10/01 he was told by one of these people of a rumour that Reginald Wildbore [redacted] had committed the murder. [The informant] was told that this was a rumour that was active in Otematata at the time of the murder, and that Wildbore's wife at the time, [redacted], has stated that he had committed it."

The informant doesn't remember who told them this information.

"It seems likely that if this information was common knowledge as [the informant] was told, it has probably already been looked into as part of the homicide investigation," the officer said.

"I would suggest that if this information has not already been investigated, or if it cannot be determined whether it has been investigated, then [redacted] needs to be spoken to."

The file was forwarded on to Detective Mark Lodge, the officer in charge of the Jennifer Beard file.

But in March 2002, Lodge responded, dismissing the information.

Jennifer Beard's body was found in early 1970 under the Haast River Bridge. Photo / Michael Craig
Jennifer Beard's body was found in early 1970 under the Haast River Bridge. Photo / Michael Craig

"I have checked the Beard homicide file for references to Wildbore," he wrote.

"He was in fact interviewed on the 8th February 1970 and not considered a suspect after that.

"You may wish to relay that fact to your informant."

Lodge, who retired in December, told the Herald on Sunday he did not remember any specifics relating to Wildbore, and did not want to comment.

A police spokeswoman confirmed no enquiries over Wildbore have been carried out since his initial interview.

Southern district crime manager Shona Low said there was nothing in Wildbore's initial interview with police to suggest he needed to be spoken to further.

"He was interviewed along with hundreds of other people," she said.

"There was nothing on the file to suggest there was any reason to think that he was a suspect."

She could not comment on why police did not investigate the informant's report in 2002, when Wildbore was still alive, as it was too long ago.

Low said there was nothing more police could do with the new information, given Wildbore was dead.

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