By BRIDGET CARTER
Initially it was a murder without a mystery. Lawrence Lloyd admitted to the manslaughter of his former girlfriend Katherine Sheffield and served seven years in jail.
But even as the case progressed doubts about his guilt surfaced.
Forensic scientists testified that the murder could not have happened at Lloyd's home as police suggested. Since Lloyd's admission two new inquiries have been launched, both due to new evidence being discovered.
Now, two years after Lloyd's release, another man has been charged with Sheffield's murder.
The body of Katherine Sheffield was found on September 21, 1994, in a shallow grave next to Lloyd's home about 6km south of Mangonui.
Lloyd admitted causing her death, though he never remembered the event. He had woken up, found her dead and assumed he must have killed her. They had argued because he thought she had taken his cannabis. His lawyer claimed that the last thing Lloyd saw before blacking out was her coming at him with a knife.
Sheffield's mother, Judith Garrett, said a family member of Lloyd had come forward more than a year ago and told police what he had seen and heard in a Taipa house, north of Mangonui, before Sheffield's body was found. As a result, police launched another investigation into the case.
Headed by Detective Superintendent Larry Reid in Wellington, it was the third time police had opened an inquiry.
Police took some material, thought to be blood, away from the Taipa cottage.
The Taipa house which has been the focus of the new police inquiry was 20km from Lloyd's house and 4km away from the caravan where Sheffield was living.
As a teenager, Sheffield was a fun-loving Kaitaia College athlete and a country girl who liked animals, according to her mother Judith Garrett.
But in the last few years of her life, she involved herself in drugs, alcohol and chose an alternative lifestyle in the Far North.
She moved in with Lawrence Lloyd, a 42-year-old, then took up home in a caravan in Aurere, 4km west of Taipa. When the couple parted, they remained friends.
When her body was found she had been missing for about a month.
Police built their case around the confession by Lloyd.
In the Whangarei High Court the following year, his lawyer defended the murder charge by saying that she had stolen his top quality cannabis and sold it on for $40,000. After a heated argument at his home, he was provoked and snapped.
She came at him with a knife. Lloyd pushed her away, then he flaked out.
As he woke, he saw Sheffield lying on the floor and assumed he had stabbed her. Police maintained that Lloyd cleaned up the blood. He wrapped her stabbed and wounded body in the blue sleeping bag, then tied it with ropes and buried it under some carpet, a corrugated-iron sheet and a piece of polythene.
Next to her he laid the weapon - a small knife he had used to slit her throat.
Ms Garrett, 60, said initially she accepted that Lloyd was her daughter's killer, but a year later, there were doubts.
Forensic scientists said Lloyd's version of how he had killed Sheffield could not be true. They said the killer stood behind her when she died and there would have been a lot of blood - but only a few spots were found in Lloyd's home.
It would have been hard to clean the untreated particle-board and wood.
Sheffield had no holes in her clothes, which Ms Garrett found strange.
Lloyd's lawyer maintained that the slaying was a domestic-style crime of passion, which did not make sense as the couple had been parted for years.
Ms Garrett said she made peace with Lloyd the year after the trial. Her anger subsided and she pitied him.
Two years ago, just before Lloyd was released on parole, questions over his guilt resurfaced. A man believed to have violently attacked Sheffield months before her death wrote to an aunt while in Rimutaka Prison for rape, suggesting he had killed her. "I did do that to Kathy," the letter said. "I didn't mean to and I couldn't even remember until just last year. I had a dream about it."
Police opened a second inquiry, but decided the man had no memories before 1997 and must have made up his confession.
Ms Garrett learned last year that police had new evidence and had re-opened the case for a second time.
Detective Superintendent Larry Reid, who leads the investigation, would say little about the inquiry, but said Lloyd's lawyer had taken the case to the Court of Appeal.
Yesterday, she said her feelings and emotions were mixed. She had waited and waited for an outcome and earlier had said that the wait was "driving me mad".
"I think Lawrence was there when she was killed, but I don't think he killed her."
Ms Garrett said the case had brought back the pain of losing her daughter and re-opened old wounds. She now lives near Lloyd's home in the Far North, moving back there several months ago after living in Dunedin, but does not keep in contact with her daughter's old boyfriend.
Lloyd, who served seven years in prison and is back on the site of his old home, has plans to rebuild a house that burned down on the section.
He says he is leaving appeal matters to his lawyer and is trying to get on with his life.
"If I did something like that I don't think I would still be talking. I would have put a bullet through my head."
By BRIDGET CARTER