Blessie's warmth remembered

MARIKA HILL AND JOSH FAGAN
Last updated 18:24 27/05/2014
SEAN WILLIS/Stuff.co.nz

A man has been arrested and charged with murder in the disappearance of Auckland woman Blesilda "Blessie" Gotingco.

Apartment complex searched

Blessie
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Police forensics at Birkdale cemetery where a body was discovered during the investigation into the disappearance of Blesilda Gotingco.

SlideshowThe search for Blesilda Gotingco


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Blesilda Gotingco
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MISSING: Blesilda Gotingco.

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Auckland woman Blesilda "Blessie" Gotingco is being remembered as someone who warmed people’s hearts with her kindness and laughter.

A 27-year-old man charged with her murder is due to appear at North Shore District Court tomorrow.

The arrest follows the discovery of a woman’s body at Eskdale Cemetery in Birkdale, Auckland, this morning, which police believe to be Gotingco.

Gotingco, 56, went missing on Saturday night after catching a bus home from her work in the city centre.

Her Tower Insurance colleague Vanessa Dudley said Gotingco's team of 40 were devastated.

"She is the one who always made them laugh. She always had something positive to say."

Gotingco had worked for Tower Insurance for 10 years as an insurance consultant in the sales team.

She made such an impression on customers that some were calling Tower Insurance to pass on their condolences, Dudley said.

"They vividly remember dealing with her and her interaction. That’s just the person she was."

Her colleagues are organising a memorial service. "She’s been here 10 years so everyone has got stories to tell."

Earlier today, Tower chief executive David Hancock said the company was "close-knit", and Gotingco was a trusted member of the team.

An employee-assistance programme was available to help distressed staff.

"Our thoughts are obviously with everyone."

'FRIENDLY NATURE'

Thousands of people, including friends, workmates and family, have expressed their sadness on Facebook pages set up for Gotingco.

"Blessie always warmed my day with her sweet, friendly nature when we worked together," former colleague Czerina Kirkwood wrote.

Before the discovery of the body, Gotingco’s sister-in-law, Claire Nacario Limcangco, had been asking for people to pray for her safe return.

Detective Senior Sergeant Stan Brown said the family have asked for privacy while they grieve.

"Our thoughts are with Blessie's family at this very difficult time and their ongoing care and welfare is paramount," he said.

Police have searched the apartment of the man arrested for Gotingco’s murder.

Neighbour Wendy Darke said other residents heard police raid the apartment on Monte Cassino Place in Birkdale about 5.30am.

All the recycling and rubbish bins were out for collection day, she said.

"The police were going through our rubbish and recycling with a fine tooth comb," she said.

Officers in full-body hazard suits could be seen around the apartment for the entire day.

It would take several days to carry out the scene examination at the address, police said.

Police also remained at Eskdale Cemetery after cordoning off the area late last night.

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Gotingco disappeared after getting off a bus close to her home in Birkdale on Saturday night. 

Her cellphone and shoes were found about 400 metres from the bus stop along the route to her Salisbury Rd house.

'SO RANDOM'

Neighbours today gathered down the road from the police cordon in a state of disbelief.

Resident Nabil Keddouh, who lives across the road, said he was shocked by the news.

"It's a very quiet area usually," he said. "This is so scary to think that it may have happened so randomly."

Residents this morning had approached police officers, expressing their concerns and asking for information.

Tracey Flaws, who lived in nearby Birkenhead Avenue, said the whole community was shocked.

"You just don't expect this in little old Birkenhead," she said.

"It's a tight community everyone sort of knows everyone - my daughter knows Blessie's daughter."

Flaws said she regularly caught the Birkenhead bus, which Gotingco had taken home from central Auckland on Saturday evening.

She said the random nature of the disappearance was particularly frightening.

"It's quite scary that she was taken off the street," she said.

"I'll be very vigilant about walking home late at night or letting my daughters walk around at night.

"Sadly I don't feel safe around here anymore."

STREET 'REALLY SCARY, TOO DARK'

Filipino entertainer Russell Siayngco said he was sad about Gotingco's alleged murder and was now worried about his own family.

Siayngco was a member of North Shore-based group Filipianz.

''We are very, very sad about what has happened," he said.

Siayngco lived in Hillcrest, less than 3km from the cemetery where police found the body.

Siayngco regularly went down Salisbury Rd on his way to a friend's house. He last passed through two weeks ago and said the street was dangerous.

''It's really scary, it's too dark.''

Siayngco said he was worried about his family and they were being very careful.

He picked his wife up from work because he said it was safer than using public transport.

His sister-in-law regularly caught the bus home as late as 11pm or midnight and was now much more aware of her safety, Siayngco said.

SCREAM HEARD

Neighbours said they heard a high-pitched scream followed by a car driving off at the site where Gotingco's belongings were found.

She had left work at Tower Insurance, in Auckland's downtown Fanshawe St, in a rush at 7pm, police said.

Yesterday police had appealed for information about two items that Gotingco had with her when she disappeared - her reading glasses and a distinctive Omega watch with a mother-of-pearl face surrounded by diamonds.

- Stuff

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