Rotorua woman Wikitoria Dansey should have been connected with the final resting place of her brother more than 70 years after he died in a plane crash at war. Instead, she got the shock of her life. His remains were missing. After two years of searching for answers, she is speaking publicly for the first time to journalist Kelly Makiha in a bid to find her brother and bring him home to lay him to rest.
Wikitoria Dansey's voice cracks and her eyes fill with tears: "I want his remains back to be buried with his tūpuna".
The 85-year-old Rotorua author took what was meant to be a memorable trip two years ago to visit the grave of her beloved older brother, who died in the Solomon Islands more than 70 years earlier. Instead, she has been left devastated.
John Edward Dansey, or Bub as his family called him, died in 1945 when the plane he was flying went into the side of a hill. The beloved Rotorua soldier was just 22.
At the time, his Rotorua parents agreed for authorities to bury his body at the crash site - in dense jungle where his plane crashed. None of his family had been able to go to pay their respects.
After months of preparation, Wikitoria went to the Solomon Islands in 2017 accompanied by family and with help from local authorities to find the grave.
But they were horrified to discover his remains were gone, apparently taken by Americans 30 years earlier after mistaking them for those of American soldiers.
For two years she has been fighting to find out where they are and who has them - and how she can get them back to Rotorua.
She said her whānau had been failed by governments and the authorities who she believed were not providing her with answers quickly enough.
She has this week spoken publicly about her story for the first time in a bid to get answers.
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The Rotorua Daily Post has contacted the New Zealand Defence Force, Veterans Affairs MP Ron Mark and Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey. They say they are working to find John Dansey's remains and are making progress.
Wikitoria was just 10 when her brother died but she will never forget the day her family found out.
Her older sister used to work at the telephone exchange and biked home in the middle of the night with a telegram. Too afraid to give it to her parents herself, she gave it to another sister to deliver.
"I remember it vividly. I remember hearing my mother screaming."
Bub was a former Rotorua Boys' High School student, a prized sportsman who excelled in rugby, cricket and boxing. Wikitoria remembers him well for his yodelling skills.
It had always been on her bucket list to visit her brother's grave and it was a long process to get it organised given the remoteness of the crash site. Accompanied by her daughter and two grandsons, they travelled on a banana boat to the spot at Guadalcanal on the Weather Coast where the plane crashed.
A local policeman, a representative from the NZ Embassy and local rangatira (indigenous leaders) also went with them.
However, after going up to the site, they were devastated to be told by local villagers "there were no bones up there".
For several years a local woman had tended to Bub's grave but the villagers said Americans had come and taken the remains about 30 years ago.
They also learned an arm bone had been found in the area of the crash a few years earlier and had been kept by a local villager until about six months before Wikitoria's trip, when American marines took it for safekeeping.
Wikitoria has been in contact with the US authorities and has supplied a DNA sample for testing to find if the arm bone belonged to her brother.
She said it had been a long process and they had written countless emails to authorities and other people and they felt they were not getting answers.
"None of them really want to help . . . I'm angry. Furious."
Veterans' Affairs Minister Ron Mark told the Rotorua Daily Post this week his officials had been working on the case since the middle of last year.
"I understand the US authorities have tested the arm bone and this work is now being peer-reviewed by Defence Health. This will be completed shortly and I'm hoping for a positive outcome for Wikitoria."
Mark said the New Zealand Defence Force would be looking at options to find Wikitoria's brother's resting place.
"They will discuss this with Wikitoria when the results of the forensic testing are known. I know this is incredibly stressful for Wikitoria and I am sorry it is taking so long, but it is important that decisions are not made until all the relevant information is in hand," Mark said.
"We must get it right so that we can have a chance of locating John's final resting place. NZDF will assist wherever they can, and if there is anything I can do, I will."
A New Zealand Defence Force spokesperson said in a statement the force had been working on Wikitoria's request since April 2018, and in May this year received a forensic analysis of the bone fragment from the US Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Hawaii.
"This analysis is currently being reviewed by Defence Health and as soon as this peer review is completed we will be in a position to update Wikitoria about the results and the next steps.
"We regret that this has taken such a long time to resolve, but unfortunately this is not unusual in complex cases of this kind. The NZDF has the deepest sympathy and respect for Wikitoria Dansey and her family, as we do for all the families of those who died defending New Zealand, and we are committed to doing everything we can to assist her."
Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey said where possible, reconnecting whānau with their lost loved ones, especially when they had served overseas, was a priority.
"I apologise to Mrs Dansey that she has had a negative experience throughout this process.
"When Mrs Dansey approached us, she agreed that there was a lack of detail regarding her brother, especially considering this tragedy in her whānau happened more than 70 years ago.
"Our office made contact with Mrs Dansey on two occasions. The initial kōrero between us both, and the second to relay the information that we received from Defence Archives after our inquiries."
Coffey said he had this week contacted Ron Mark's office and understood it would be addressing the concerns with her on behalf of the Government.
Meanwhile, Wikitoria, a writer, continues to keep a folder of all her memories of her brother, including writings documenting her search for answers.
Flicking through the photographs of her brother, her bottom lip starts to tremble as she thinks of him not being laid to rest with his family.
"I feel sorry for him. Where is he?"