Exhaustive use of modern technology is highlighting the fact that police will never close the file on the disappearance and suspected murder of Napier schoolgirl Kirsa Jensen 37 years ago until they establish what happened.
Long-serving Napier detective Daryl Moore is now custodian of the file, revealing on the anniversary of the 14-year-old's September 1, 1983, disappearance the efforts still going in to try to solve the case.
A police officer for 34 years, a "Christchurch boy" starting in Napier about 3-1/2 years after the disappearance and a few months ahead of the 1987 abduction and murder of 6-year-old Teresa Cormack, Moore was on Tuesday at the scene of the disappearance, along with retired officers Ian Holyoake, who headed the inquiry at the time, and Ross Pinkham, who was "o/c suspects".
Also present was bereaved mother Robyn Jensen, who travelled to Napier especially for the commemoration.
Since inheriting the file last December, Moore has been involved in a projected "digitising" the file he says stretches to "tens of thousands of pages", and in making sure it is properly transferred from the original typed and handwritten form. He has read "about a third".
"There's a bit of work to do," he said, but he wasn't just talking about the modern storage of the volumes of evidence, which may yet be hiding the answer just as much as the possibility an answer is still out in the community.
"There's still information coming in, even this year," he said. There was contact as recently as the last month, sparked by former assistant police commissioner Holyoake's part in a radio broadcast recalling the hunt.
Head of the Napier CIB at the time of the disappearance, he said he was at home on the morning of September 2 doing a university study paper when he was called back to work, and updated on what police had been told of the most recent 24 hours or so.
"It seemed suspicious to me, and this suspect seemed suspicious to me," he said, although Moore's reading of the file was that it was still a case of a missing person, a teenage girl who appeared to have fallen off her horse Commodore and could still have been out there in what was as the time primarily wasteland, between the beach and the highway at Awatoto, on the Napier side of the Tutaekuri River.
A pupil of Colenso High School (now William Colenso College), and daughter of St Augustine's Anglican Church minister Dan Jensen and schoolteacher wife Robyn Jensen, Kirsa disappeared while on a Thursday afternoon after school ride on Commodore on the foreshore at Awatoto on the Thursday afternoon of September 1, 1983.
Increasingly worried that she had not returned home, Robyn Jensen called police about 5.45pm and concerns for the teen's safety escalated when Commodore was found tethered to a World War II gun emplacement.
It remains the last sign of where she had been, today marked by a tree and plaque, placed on the 10th anniversary in 1993 and now at least once a year tended by Holyoake, who retired in 1999 and moved back to Napier after 40 years as a police officer.
Despite an intense inquiry, including police drawn from several other parts of New Zealand, there was no further trace of Kirsa, who otherwise would now have been looking forward to a 52nd birthday in December.
In the days following, a $5000 reward was posted by Napier newspaper The Daily Telegraph, which had the story dominating its front page for a month, but which is now also disappeared, after merging with Hastings daily the Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune in 1999 to form Hawke's Bay Today.
The spotlight soon turned on the man Holyoake this week called "this suspect" - Whakatu orchard worker William John Russell.
He first appeared as a witness, telling police he was driving over the nearby Tutaekuri River bridge and heading towards Napier when he looked to his right and saw a girl talking to a man, near a parked white truck, and that the man appeared to be holding the girl at arm's length.
As police tried to locate such a vehicle, and its driver, Russell told police that rather than continuing on into Napier he had actually turned back up the vehicle track near the stony beach to see if the girl was all right.
He told police the girl had blood on her face and said she had fallen from the horse and someone had gone to contact her parents.
It seemed to tally with evidence of people who saw Kirsa riding on the beach from the Napier side and heading to the south, riding up on to the foreshore to avoid kontiki and fishing lines across the beach, continuing towards the river mouth, and taking her horse back towards the gun emplacement, a hand over one side of her face, perhaps as if having been injured in a fall.
Police searches of Russell's vehicle and home did not find anything to suggest Kirsa had been there, but did establish a piece of rope used to tether Commodore at the gun emplacement matched rope from an awning Russell had been getting rid of on behalf of his employers.
The case took a bizarre twist when John Russell made a confession in 1985. And at one stage he drove to TV studio Avalon in the Hutt Valley wishing to confess, and crashed on the way back to Hawke's Bay. He later retracted the confession and told interviewer Paul Holmes he had been mentally ill.
Apparently tormented by his association with the events or the inquiry, he spent time in psychiatric institutions and took his own life in 1992, when he was found dead in a Hastings boarding house.
Holyoake remains open-minded on whether Russell was their man, and said in 2018 he wondered how much the "stupid bloody white truck", which probably didn't exist, may have interfered with people's recollection or views on what they may have seen.
Dan and Robyn Jensen separated and ultimately divorced as the years moved on, something Holyoake says seems to happen amid the trauma of a lot of life's tragedies.
Dan Jensen moved to Australia, and Robyn Jensen left Hawke's Bay, to live in Northland and the Auckland area.
She wrote the book Kirsa: A Mother's Story, published at the start of 1994 and leading to a documentary, and still with a home at Tuakau returned this week as the wife of Robin Irwin, from Wairarapa where they had gone to the movies a couple of times as youngsters.
They had each married someone from Carterton, and kept in touch at various stages, and married last November.
She said she visits the Awatoto memorial every time she visits Napier, and had done so as recently as "just before the lockdown" earlier this year. "This time's a bit harder," she said.
"It's another lovely first day of spring," says Holyoake at the memorial where the original trees is thriving despite the elements of the Awatoto environment, albeit a much prettier picture now beside the Rotary Pathway as it turns and heads inland under the bridge.
He remains perplexed about how a teenage girl could just disappear into a metaphorical cloud of smoke and says: "They say if you're a detective long enough there will always be one case you never resolve. If anyone has anything to say ... call Daryl."
Moore does have of course have the usual "day job" to do, but has a brief to look into cold cases, which includes two other cases where the files are being digitised.
The inquiries into the sniper-shooting of farmer Jack Nicholas outside his house west of Napier about dawn on the morning of August 27, 1994, and the death of Chattrice Maihi Carroll, whose body was found in her Onekawa South unit in January 2008, cases which each resulted in an arrest but no conviction.