A young woman found dead in the Waikato River has been described as "beautiful", "sassy" and "stubborn".

Beth Christina Winfield was last seen playing with her two dogs on the banks of the Waikato River near the Ann St reserve in Hamilton on Wednesday afternoon.

But after her dogs became agitated the 23-year-old's body was discovered in the river, about 4pm.

Police are investigating her sudden death, which they say is unexplained.


Winfield's sister Lily Hoebers and her parents Neil and Carole Winfield posted on Facebook yesterday on a dedicated page set up to commemorate the young woman's life.

"My beautiful sister," Hoebers wrote. "I used to always give her crap about the amount of make-up she wore and her crazy hair colours, only because I always thought she was prettier without it."

Hoebers said knowing her sister was dead brought new pain each day.

"Waking up and realising this is not a dream is breaking my heart."

Carole Winfield wrote that her daughter looked "stunning" after being a hair model and father Neil Winfield asked for more photographs.

Dozens of friends posted heartfelt tributes and one put together a slideshow of photos of Winfield to the Rod Stewart song Sailing.

"Farewell baby cousin. You were a pain in the arse, but still my little cousin, and we loved you," wrote a relative.

"RIP Beth Winfield. Will be missed but never forgotten. Had some pretty good times with you and awesome memories with you," one friend wrote.

The family were originally from England but emigrated to New Zealand when Winfield was young.

Yesterday police were appealing for sightings of a black Subaru station wagon parked at the reserve while Winfield played with her dogs.

It was reportedly playing loud music throughout the afternoon. It's not clear if the vehicle belonged to Winfield but it was towed from the scene about 7pm on Wednesday.

Waikato Police wanted to hear from anyone who saw the station wagon parked in the reserve or in the area that afternoon.

They said Winfield was believed to have been throwing a ball and playing with her two dogs on the riverbank.

Police guard the scene where Beth Winfield's body was found. Photo / Belinda Feek
Police guard the scene where Beth Winfield's body was found. Photo / Belinda Feek

"Miss Winfield has later been found deceased in the Waikato river a short distance from the vehicle."

The two dogs, Bindi and Toby, alerted members of the public to the tragedy, after they were seen running up and down the river bank with their leads still attached and barking.

Her body was discovered by a member of the public at a spot in the river near the reserve, which is popular with runners and cyclists.

Winfield's funeral will be at Hamilton Central Baptist Church at 12.30pm next Wednesday.

Any sightings of the vehicle or information can be passed on to Detective Sergeant Terri Wilson of the Hamilton CIB on (07) 858 6200 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.