DNA struggle stalls skeleton mystery

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 12:21 07/06/2012

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Attempts to indentify a mystery skeleton found at Port Waikato have been stalled by failed DNA tests.

Scientists are trying to extract a DNA profile from the remains found on Sunset Beach last month to determine who on their list of 30 possible matches - women aged 15 to 25, who disappeared more than 10 years ago - it could be.

Samples have been taken from the bones and teeth of the skeleton but the officer in charge of the investigation said two had so far failed. Different methods of extraction are now being tried.

Detective Inspector Mark Gutry said they were no closer to identifying the woman.

"If the first [test] had worked we would've had it, or the second one, so we've just got to wait, really."

Scientists were struggling because the skeleton had been buried so long, but Gutry is confident they will get a DNA profile they can compare to those on file.

"Once we get that we'll match it with the ones we have and then if it's not there we'll have to do some more work around that but we're pretty confident that we've got what we need."

Some of the missing person DNA was directly from those people, while some was from family members.

"It's something we do as part of our missing persons process - to look at dental records and DNA records and collate them on the file so that if anything comes up we can match them."

The list remained at 30 and would do so until they had a profile.

Once the skeleton is identified police will determine how the woman got there and who disposed of her, Gutry said.

"Depending on which one of the 30 it is, it will be a different enquiry."

Gutry said they were still questioning people in the Port Waikato area and looking at the movements of the dunes in recent years.

Several theories have been put forward as to who the victim is.

Investigative author and missing persons expert Scott Bainbridge believes it could be missing prostitute Jayne Furlong.

Furlong was 17 when she disappeared from Karangahape Rd in 1993. Her body has never been found but police suspect she was murdered.

Bainbridge said Furlong was known to hitchhike and could have gone to the beach on the promise of money and drugs.

She was due to testify in two separate cases - one involved gang members accused of a bashing, the other a businessman charged with brutal sex attacks on sex workers.

Police still want to hear from anyone who has information about the skeleton.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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