When Anne McCullough did not return from her Saturday morning jog, her worried husband went looking for her.

It was out of character for the sporty mother of two to take so long on the run through rural New Plymouth roads.

Jeff McCullough's fears were confirmed when his wife's body was found by a member of the public across the back seat of a distinctive purple 1987 Holden Commodore with mag wheels.

The 45-year-old died after being struck by the distinctive car while she was running on upper Frankley Rd on Saturday afternoon. She was then picked up and taken to a reserve 10km away.


Family friend David Lean said Mr McCullough and their children, Grace and Ollie, were "hurting real bad" and needed space.

"Jeff's in no state to talk to anybody," he said.

The circumstances of Mrs McCullough's death were confusing but he thought the family were more in shock than angry.

"They're really still none the wiser about how and why."

Mr Lean had known Mrs McCullough since she joined New Plymouth Old Boys surf club as an 8-year-old, and she later babysat his children.

"She was a smiling, caring community-minded person who was never afraid to step in and do things she thought needed to be done. And even when you didn't expect her to do it she still produced the goods."

He expected the community would provide support that "Annie and her family had always given them. They've always been a good community family."

He said her father, Ike Flavell, played rugby for Taranaki and her father-in-law was John McCullough, a former All Black.

"They're grateful for the support they've had from right around New Zealand. They have family around them and now have to get through ... to the funeral."

Mr Lean said the family needed breathing space to "collect their wits" and get through what would be a difficult week.

A 27-year-old New Plymouth man has been charged with manslaughter and will appear in court on Thursday.

Detective Grant Coward said sightings of the distinctive Holden were important, not only between 1pm and 2pm, when the accident happened, but earlier on Saturday and even on Friday evening.

"We're also appealing to anyone who might have been out biking or running in that area."

Asked if police knew why Mrs McCullough was taken from the accident scene, Mr Coward said: "No idea [but] I'm not prepared to comment on that."

He said the area where the crash happened was frequented by lots of cyclists and runners.

Police particularly want to hear from anyone who saw the car at the top end of Frankley Road, or in the vicinity of Carrington, Baker, Mangorei and Junction roads.

- With Newstalk ZB