The unsolved murder of a girl found dead in an Auckland bush more than 40 years ago looks likely to remain a mystery as police investigations into it wind down.

Tracey Patient's body was found in bush on Scenic Drive in the Waitakere Ranges on the morning of January 30, 1976. She had disappeared the night after going to visit a friend in Henderson.

It appeared the teenager, who was 13 at the time of her death, had been strangled by pantyhose and her body dumped in the bush.

Today, the police announced the investigation has been wound down and would no longer be actively investigated unless new information came to light.


Detective inspector John Sutton said it was a disappointing outcome for the team that had resumed work on the case full-time when the cold case was re-opened just before the 40th anniversary of Patient's disappearance.

"We have not been able to provide Tracey's family with the news we wanted to give them," he said.

"We have however spoken with Tracey's family and have advised them of our outcome and while they share our disappointment, they are appreciative of our efforts."

After police announced they had reopened the cold case on the eve of the 40th anniversary, hundreds of tips came to light.

In July, pensioner Gary Ross claimed he saw a man leading a young girl along by the elbow near the Henderson shops, the night she disappeared.

Sutton said it was "astounding" the number of people who came forward with new information.

"Hundreds of theories and a number of leads have been explored across many thousands of hours," he said." The team spoke to more than 200 people, and on several occasions, detectives have travelled to Australia to carry out further investigative work."

However, he said despite all their hard work the mystery has remained unsolved.

Sutton said despite the disappointing outcome, he was proud of the efforts of the investigative team who had worked on the case for many years.

In February, Patient's family thanked the public for their support since police made a new appeal for information on January 28.

"We have been overwhelmed by the level of support that people in New Zealand have shown for Tracey's case since the police media campaign started."

Case timeline
Jan 29, 1976: Tracey goes to a friend's house on Chilcott Rd, Henderson. The friend walks her halfway home to the intersection of Great North Rd and Edmonton Rd about 9.30pm. Tracey is last seen outside 295 Great North Rd, Henderson - only five minutes' walk from her home.

Jan 30, 1976: A man walking his dog finds Tracey's body in a bush area on Scenic Drive. She had been strangled with a stocking.

Next few months, 1976: Police launch large-scale investigation into the murder. Police investigate hundreds of suspects and follow numerous lines of inquiry.

Mar, 1976: Anonymous woman calls Youthline saying she saw a blonde girl, thought to be Tracey, on Great North Rd with a man in a brown suit. Both got into a brown car that drove off just after 9.30 pm. Despite public appeals, the caller is never found.

Nov, 1978: Anonymous caller tells police a signet ring Tracey owned is in a rubbish bin outside a chemist in Avondale. Officers find the ring, which Tracey was believed to be wearing when she went missing.

Jan 10, 2006: Airing of Sensing Murder episode in which psychics investigate the case.
Feb 1, 2010: Revelation police have interviewed a man in connection with the case.

Jan 29, 2011: Police say continued interest from media organisations has triggered several new tips from the public.

Nov, 2015: A team of eight police investigators relaunch fulltime investigation into the case.

Jan 28, 2016: Police reveal they are following new leads.

Jan 29, 2016: The 40-year anniversary of Tracey's disappearance.

July 2016: Pensioner Gary Ross claims he saw a blonde girl being escorted by a middle-aged to elderly man who was holding her by the elbow and walking along Great North Rd in Henderson near the Henderson shops several hundred metres from the last reported siting at about 9.30pm on Jan 29, 1976. He claims he made several attempts to report it to police including the day after Tracey went missing and the last in 2011.