A 25-year-old Otahuhu man appeared in Manukau District Court today charged with the murder of a South Auckland woman.

The man, who was arrested last night, was granted interim name suppression so he could tell his grandmother of his arrest.

He did not apply for bail and was remanded in custody until Monday.

The body of the victim, aged 55, was found about 6.50am behind a toilet block in Murphy Park by two people waiting for a ride to work.

She was face-down, wearing a long, dark jacket with a multi-coloured jacket underneath. It was green along the bottom. She wore dark pants and black shoes.

At the scene later, six Environmental Science and Research workers in overalls and face masks could be seen inside a partially open marquee, taking photos and notes.

Detective Inspector John Tims said police started to speak with nearby residents yesterday afternoon. They would continue during the weekend.

The region's major crime team, created on November 2, was working on the case, dubbed Operation Church.

Asked if any weapons had been found, Mr Tims said the scene was still being searched.

He would not be drawn on whether police knew who the victim was, saying she had yet to be formally identified. She had head injuries, but an autopsy would determine the cause of death.

The park is next to McAuley High School, a Salvation Army church and the Otahuhu Kindergarten, which was closed yesterday.

McAuley principal Anne Miles said a special assembly was held when students arrived at school. "It was a totally normal school day for us. We explained to the girls there had been a death and said a prayer for the person."

Police are keen to hear from anyone who walked through Murphy Park between midnight and 7am yesterday.

The woman is described as Maori, long dark-haired, medium build, about 165cm.

People with information that could help in the prosecution can call Counties Manukau police, (09) 295-0200, or the Crimestoppers line, anonymously, 0800-555-111.

- WITH NZPA