Fifty-eight years since the budding model went missing, there is a new theory in the Wendy Mayes case. Martin Johnston reports.
Kelly Carbin is too young to have met Wendy Mayes, the glamorous woman who would have become her great-aunt, yet she feels as if she knows her intimately.
Kelly is 25. Wendy was killed at age 16, the Wellington teen and aspiring model's body vanishing without trace in 1961 — more than two decades before Kelly was born.
It was also before the 1962 birth of Kelly's mum Michelle, who also thinks about Wendy a lot.
Kelly can't remember a time when her family didn't talk about Wendy — and her disappearance.
"From the day I can remember, everyone talks about her all the time, especially my nana [a sister of Wendy's].
"I think I remind her of Wendy in a way. Whenever I do my make-up she always comments like, 'Oh you look just like Wendy'.
"She was a really good ballerina ... She had just passed her final exams and she was going to be a ballet teacher.
"She had this beautiful painting of ballerinas in her room and my nana gave it to me. It's above my bed now."
Kelly lives in Wellington's Lower Hutt, as did Wendy.
"I've never met her, but it feels like I know her, just because of what my nana and mum have told me.
"She's always talked about — forever. Everyone [in the family] knows about her."
Wendy's name has been passed down through the generations: It was given to Michelle as a middle name, and also to a cousin of Kelly's.
But now there has been a twist in Wendy's story, a new layer, told by a man who has never met the family.
The man claims to have been told that Wendy got into a milk delivery truck and her body was buried in a Wellington construction project.
Could this be a new lead on what the police say is the oldest missing person case on record that became a homicide inquiry?
Or is it just a modern version of the crank calls and letters that dogged the police inquiry from the outset?
Kelly and Michelle have been in contact with the informant and want the case reopened.
Police have spoken to the informant. They say missing person case files are "never closed", but they have struck silence in trying to follow up the chain of hearsay in the claimed new information.
Wendy was a typist at Standard Motor Bodies Ltd, and lived with her family on Whites Line East in Waiwhetu, Lower Hutt.
She replied to an advertisement in a Wellington newspaper for a calendar model. The classified ad read: "Photographer requires model for calendar work. Twelve sittings, £2 2s a sitting. Submit photograph if available. Box 311, Wellington."
Except that the man who placed the ad, John Maltby, wasn't a photographer, and he had given a false name, J. Thompson.
He had previously run an agency called the Brunsdon Modelling and Charm School, but his wife Doris wasn't keen on this line of work so he was trying to avoid her finding out he was making a comeback.
Maltby was actually a trainee butcher and had previously been the proprietor of the Sunbeam Supermarket in Lyall Bay. He had also been a minor criminal.
He racked up six burglary convictions in his native England dating from when he was about 13.
While living in Australia in 1953 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison, again for burglary, and in 1954 he was deported. He came to New Zealand in 1956.
Maltby was the father of three children with Doris, the last of whom was born on Thursday, September 14, 1961, the day of his fateful first meeting with Wendy.
Wendy and her friend Diane Bell met "Thompson" upstairs in Tory St's Carousel Coffee Bar about 6.30pm. He told them the calendar would be circulated in Australia and there would be an "accent on legs". Diane measured Wendy's legs for Maltby and he made notes. After the meeting, Maltby drove both young women in his black, 1951 Wolseley car to the Manners St Post Office.
After work at 5pm the following Monday, September 18, Wendy met Maltby again at the cafe, which followed another young woman's interview with him.
After 16 minutes, Wendy and Maltby were seen to drive off in his car, turning right from Jessie St into Tory St. This was the last positive identification of Wendy.
Maltby later said he dropped her off in Manners St near Herbert St (now part of Victoria St). But he didn't explain why he took a circuitous route that began by heading briefly towards his home at Edinburgh St, Berhampore, near Wellington Zoo.
Wendy had told her mother Joyce that because of the interview with "Mr Thompson" she would be late home for dinner.
About 3 the next morning, after Wendy hadn't come home, Joyce called the police.
Armed with the sighting of "Thompson" and Wendy driving off from the cafe, police officers spotted the car being driven in the city on Wednesday, September 20. The driver was identified as Maltby, and he was questioned for six hours.
He said he did not kill Wendy or harm her in any way. After leaving her, he had driven home, eaten a meal and visited his wife in hospital. He went home for the night and next day, Tuesday, went to work at Onepu Butchery in Lyall Bay.
His movements after leaving the hospital and before arriving at work were entirely unknown, former police officer Trevor Morley told her inquest in 2008. Morley was a private investigator who prompted the inquest.
The police released Maltby — there was insufficient evidence to hold him — and they watched carefully, but not carefully enough.
In the early hours of Thursday, September 21, Maltby nipped out the back of his home, looked both ways down Russell Tce, and took off into nearby scrub. Police saw him leave but couldn't find him.
A massive search began for Wendy and Maltby. The police asked newspapers to publish Maltby's picture. Since maintenance records indicated his car had travelled up to 786km in five days, an appeal was made to petrol stations in the lower North Island for information on whether Maltby had filled up in the period soon after Wendy's disappearance.
Morley said the police file has a report from a man who believed he filled Maltby's petrol tank early on Tuesday, September 19.
Three days after Maltby's disappearance and six days after Wendy's, his body was found by fisherman Raffael Greco, floating in the surf at Island Bay beach.
Coroner P. Keesing found Maltby had drowned, but it wasn't clear how he came to be in the sea.
The police told a later coroner, Garry Evans, who ruled in 2009 that Wendy was killed by an unknown person, that there was no evidence Maltby had threatened suicide.
The 1961 search for Wendy spread. Constables sifted refuse at the Houghton Bay tip. The Wellington coast was scoured. Deerstalkers looked in the Rimutaka Range.
Three men claimed to have seen Wendy around the time of her disappearance.
One said he saw her walking on Dixon St, central Wellington, on the Monday. The second said he saw two people on that day in a car like Maltby's near his home, although the witness was uncertain whether the passenger was male or female.
The third witness, speaking seven days after Wendy's disappearance, said he saw her in a blue car in her home street.
The police were swamped with calls. "In four days last weekend, Wellington Central CIB received an average of 800 calls a day from the public concerning the search," the Herald wrote as the mystery entered its ninth day.
"Hundreds of calls received by the search control centre since last Friday have been sifted and checked by teams of search parties."
Scientific analysis found no clear evidence linking Maltby to a crime — no scratch marks on his body, no bloodstains or rips on his striped, green suit, nothing in his car.
He had washed a bedspread before being questioned, although he wasn't asked about it. A hair, similar to Wendy's hair, was found on it, but there was "nothing conclusive in this respect", Evans said.
The head of the police inquiry, Detective Chief Inspector W.S. Craigie, wrote in 1962 that Maltby had seemed highly confident when questioned, "which could suggest that he had disposed of the body in a place where it [is] most unlikely to be found".
Fifty-eight years after her disappearance, the Herald on Sunday has been told the new theory by a man who approached the paper after a series of articles on missing people, including Wendy and Auckland boy Peter Boland, who was 9 when he disappeared 62 years ago from a farm he was visiting near Ōpōtiki.
The Weekend Herald had revealed the police are investigating after receiving new information last year about Peter's disappearance.
The man, who asked not to be named, says he said he received the information from a friend who in turn was told by another man several years ago.
The man claims to have been told that Wendy was seen, around the time she went missing, getting into the milk delivery truck by a child who was on the truck.
He claims her body was buried in construction work on the Hutt Expressway, part of State Highway 2, in the vicinity of Haywards Hill Rd interchange.
The informant said he had contacted the coroners' office and spoken to the police a number of times about the matter. He had given the police the name and contact details of the alleged source of the information. His friend had anonymously called the police Crimestoppers line.
When asked about the information, Detective Sergeant Pete Vine told the Herald on Sunday, "As this has always been hearsay information, as we do, we follow the chain and we have requested [the informant to] provide the details of his unnamed source/friend and/or have him/her contact police."
The police could then meet the middle person in the chain.
"This obviously will further corroborate what has been told and enable police to properly assess the information, any risk and what further inquiries can be made.
"This unnamed person/friend has not contacted police — certainly not ... CIB staff [in the informant's locality] and his details have never been given that we are aware of."
The informant was last spoken to by a detective on January 3 "and advised his source/friend would contact police but as stated, to my knowledge this has not occurred to date".
The Crown Law office, when asked if it would consider ordering a new inquest, said there would need to be new facts or other reasons that made this necessary in the interests of justice.
Kelly Carbin believes the new information warrants a closer look.
"The man that everyone originally thought killed her was [John Maltby]. But he claimed he dropped her off... That was the last he saw of her and he had a good alibi — he went straight to hospital because his wife was giving birth.
"I think [the new] story does add up. After 58 years, for this to come out now, like, why would someone make this up?"
The family were put in touch with the informant after responding to an online post which was seeking to contact Wendy's family.
"My nana tells me she remembers the day Wendy left and she was dressed to the nines because she knew she was meeting that guy for the job. She had pearls on, brooches, rings, make-up perfect — yet nothing's ever been found.
"It's like there's no trace of her at all. There was nothing found in John Maltby's car and you would think if she fought him and struggled there would be like a necklace or an earring or something."
Knowing the potential difficulties of identification after so many years, Wendy's family have taken precautions, Kelly says.
"Nana and her sisters have all got DNA tested ... just in case they discovered any remains over the years.
"Their hearts will never rest until there's closure. But it's not looking likely. I just remember my nana saying her mum [Joyce, who has since died] was distraught for years and years and she never stopped hunting. She ended up getting phone calls from crazy people saying, 'We've seen Wendy'. She never let it go. In the end she just had to; it was just causing too much pain."
The disappearance of Wendy Mayes
•September 14 Wendy and a friend meet John Maltby at the Carousel Coffee Bar after answering his newspaper ad for calendar models.
•Sep 18 She meets Maltby again at the coffee bar and was last seen getting into his car.
•Sep 19 Her mother reports her missing.
•Sep 20 Maltby is quizzed by police for six hours and released.
•Sep 21 Under police surveillance, Maltby bolts from his house and disappears into nearby scrub.
•Sep 24 A fisherman finds Maltby's dead body floating in the surf at Island Bay beach.
•January 31 Coroner Garry Evans rules that Wendy was killed by another person, but there was insufficient evidence to say who the killer was.
•December Wendy's family hear a new theory about where her body was concealed and want the case reopened.