Neighbours were last night asking how a child missing for a week and feared taken by kidnappers could be found only metres from where she disappeared.

"They reckon they searched everything twice, but she's right under their noses," one Henderson man said.

He believed more questions would be asked of police.

Deborah Gregory, of nearby Maurice Borich Place, wanted to know why it had taken police so long to find Aisling when she was so close.

The neighbourhood had been really quiet over the past week, and the police presence had been incredible, she said.

About 100 grief-stricken people gathered on Pomaria Rd last night, Many had helped in the search, placed brochures on their car windscreens or done whatever they could to find Aisling Symes.

A neighbour, whose property overlooks the area where police were digging yesterday, said he had been hoping the little girl's body would not be found.

"I don't even want to know what they are doing. It's too sad and it is far too close to home. How the little girl's body arrived where it did will be on everybody's mind."

Some stood with candles last night, others stood wearing pyjamas. They were a wide range of ages, from children to the elderly.

They were there for the same sad reason - to pay their respects to a child they never knew, but who touched their hearts as if she was one of their own.

Police hunting for Aisling were last week confident she was not in the area where the body was found last night.

Two days after she disappeared, the officer in charge of the investigation, Inspector Gary Davey, said police were confident she was not in the area and so were looking at a possible abduction, "given her age and the possibility of how far she would move under her own steam".

He also said it was unlikely she had been swept out to sea, and police believed she could be with a stranger.

Police were "keeping an open mind", he said, but were increasingly convinced Aisling had been kidnapped.

"We have searched and not found her, which makes it more likely we are looking at someone having picked up Aisling."

This morning he said he was proud of his investigation team and believed they had done a good job. He said the drain where she was eventually found had been previously searched.

More than 40 officers worked on the criminal investigation, checking "people of concern" in the area and looking at any recent reports of suspicious behaviour.

Mr Davey said two sightings of Aisling on Longburn Rd, around the time she disappeared on Monday, indicated the most likely possibility was an opportunistic abduction.

"As far as we know, we believe Aisling hasn't wandered off."

More than 100 police and volunteers searched the area late on Monday and on Tuesday last week when Aisling disappeared, but could not find the toddler.

Police divers checked the Huruhuru Creek and Taikata Inlet, focusing on a small stream behind Longburn Rd.

Mr Davey said earlier that he was not ruling out foul play, but believed the toddler might still be alive and with a stranger.

"It would be negligent of us not to look at all aspects of Aisling's disappearance," he said.

"Fears are growing by the hour, but we still remain hopeful we will find her alive."

He said an Asian woman who was seen with Aisling moments before she disappeared might hold the key to her whereabouts.

But the woman - described as being in her mid-30s, of medium height and build, with a black top and three-quarter pants and accompanied by a black and grey dog - might not speak English and so could be unaware of the disappearance.

A senior sergeant from Northland was called in last week to conduct an independent peer review of the operation.

Mr Davey said the officer had concluded that "police had gone above and beyond the call of duty".

Police spokesman Kevin Loughlin also asked residents of Longburn Rd, Kingdale Rd and Rathgar Rd last week to check their properties for Aisling, paying particular attention to sheds, outbuildings, fencelines or other places that a small child might explore or hide in.

Suspicious behaviour had been reported in the area recently, he said, but he would not say whether that involved paedophiles.

"We will be profiling people of interest who were either predisposed to that type of behaviour or living in the area."

On Friday, Aisling's parents made an impassioned plea to anyone who might have their daughter to return her.

NZ Herald reporting team: Rachel Tiffen, Andrew Koubaridis, Mathew Dearnaley, Yvonne Tahana, Beck Vass, Kara Segedin