A woman allegedly brutally murdered in Christchurch, on New Year's Eve, was a sex worker - and is the fifth prostitute killed in the city over the past 15 years.

Bella Te Pania, 33, was found inside a vehicle at an Air New Zealand engineering and maintenance facility at Christchurch International Airport.

Emergency services were called to the Air NZ base at Orchard Rd just before 6.50am. However, she died a short time later, police said.

A 42-year-old plasterer arrested at the scene has appeared in court charged with her murder.


Standing in the dock, he wore a large white bandage on his left arm and hand.

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He was granted interim name suppression and has been remanded in custody. He is due to appear next at the High Court in Christchurch on February 7.

Prostitute's Collective co-founder and national co-ordinator Catherine Healy confirmed Te Pania was known to her organisation.

Emergency services were called to Orchard Rd, near the Christchurch International Airport, on New Year's Eve. Image / Google
Emergency services were called to Orchard Rd, near the Christchurch International Airport, on New Year's Eve. Image / Google

"Whenever anything of this kind occurs, it impacts deeply on all our community," she said.

Te Pania's death comes after a string of grisly sex worker slayings in the Garden City over the past decade and a half.


Renee Duckmanton was picked up from the city's red light district in May 2016 by Gambian-born butcher Sainey Marong before he strangled her and setting her dumped body on fire on a country roadside.


In 2008, Mellory Manning was stabbed, strangled and bashed with a metal pole before her mutilated body was dumped in the Avon River.

In 2005, Peter Steven Waihape was sentenced to at least 18 years in jail after picking up at 24-year-old occasional prostitute - whose name is permanently suppressed - and running her over in his car before putting her in the Avon.

That incident came just eight months after 36-year-old prostitute Suzie Sutherland was murdered by South African Jules Patrick Burns, who dumped her body in a vacant city lot.

Police said earlier that they were not seeking anyone else in relation to Te Pania's death.

A spokeswoman also clarified that the incident did not involve any Air New Zealand staff, while an airline spokesman said: "While this incident is unrelated to Air New Zealand, we are assisting the police with their inquiries."