Irena Asher cold-case examined

IRAENA ASHER: The student and part-time model has been missing for almost seven years.
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IRAENA ASHER: The student and part-time model has been missing for almost seven years.

Light may finally be shed on one of Auckland's most intriguing cold-cases with a coroner's hearing set to examine the disappearance of Iraena Asher.

Asher went missing almost seven years ago from Piha in the early hours of October 11, 2004.

The 25-year-old student and part-time model was last seen standing naked under a streetlight during a blustery storm.

FATE UNKNOWN: The 25-year-old went missing around Piha in the early hours of October 11, 2004.
SUPPLIED
FATE UNKNOWN: The 25-year-old went missing around Piha in the early hours of October 11, 2004.

That night, the owners of the Black Sands Lodge, Bobbie Carroll and Julia Woodhouse, had taken Asher in after she fled a party and made a 111 call to police. But later that night she ran from the couple's home.

Police say they are still baffled by her disappearance and admit they have no idea whether she drowned or was killed.

''The last she was seen was near the beach. So our enquiries, and the time-frame of the lack of action, would say that the inference is that she is dead,'' said Detective Senior Sergeant Stan Brown.

''We don't know whether it was an accident, a drowning by accident or an intervention by a second person - was there any criminal activity? We don't know.''

With so few clues, the seven year anniversary of Asher's death, on Tuesday, finally brings an opportunity to legally provide a ruling around her disappearance.

Asher's parents were reluctant to talk about the upcoming inquest, a date for which is still to be set, saying they are still grieving and angry.

Her father, Mike, said they felt let down by police, who failed Asher by responding to her 111 call by sending a taxi.

The Asher family has little contact with police.

Occasional tips are still reported to police from the Piha community where Brown says locals often point accusatory fingers at others.

Piha's campground manager Fiona Anderson doesn't believe Asher drowned.

As a St John first responder, she was called to help with the search that night and remembers it vividly.

''My understanding is that the search and rescue bloodhounds indicated she hadn't gone as far as the beach.''

''I believe that something sinister happened to her.''

Auckland Search and Rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Dene Duthie, who led the search for Asher, says no significance could be placed on a lack of tracks.

''All the time search and rescue are called out and the local fire brigade and volunteers are already searching and have contaminated the area,'' he said.

''That's what happened in this case.''

For Duthie, drowning was an extremely likely probability.

Brown said the question of drug involvement comes up regularly but there was nothing to prove drugs had anything to do with Asher's fate.

And while the Coroner may rule at the hearing that Asher died that night, police will likely leave the file open.

''The file [will be] sitting at Henderson police station, just waiting for that phone call.''

- Fairfax NZ