Body found in hunt for Aisling

Police have found a child's body, believed to be that of Aisling Symes, after searchers dug a west Auckland property near where the two-year-old went missing a week ago.

Inspector Gary Davey said it was with "tremendous sadness" that he could confirm police had discovered the body of a child in a drain just after 8pm this evening. He could not confirm it was Aisling.

The body, which was discovered in a drainpipe under a Henderson property shortly before 8pm last night, was removed from the scene shortly after midnight and taken to the Auckland Hospital mortuary.

MISSING: The investigation into the disappearance of Aisling Symes has entered its second week.
MISSING: The investigation into the disappearance of Aisling Symes has entered its second week.

A post mortem examination of the child's body will be carried out at 9am. 

The area where she was found is under guard and the scene examination will continue today.

"I know you have a lot of questions and so do I," Mr Davey said last night.

"Over the next few hours and days we will work through those questions."

Speaking with tears in his eyes Mr Davey said the property, about 200 metres from Aisling's deceased grandparents' home, had now been cordoned off and was being treated as a crime scene.

Police staff from the investigation are with the Symes family tonight.

At 10.30pm tonight more than 100 people at the scene, some with small children, holding candles and huddled in blankets. Leah Hayes said the discovery of the child's body "made her feel physically sick. "I was hoping for a happy ending. It's just so sad."

An address in Pomaria Rd, which backs on to the property has also been under police guard.

Fire officers and police spent the evening digging land located down a long driveway off the Pomaria Rd address, which backs on to a creek and neighbours Aisling's grandparents' house in Longburn Rd.

The area had been covered with tarpaulin and was being searched by around 15 police officers under lights.

It is understood police had also searched a septic tank at the back of the section.

Earlier around 200 people gathered outside the property where the sound of heavy machinery had been heard and a helicopter had been hovering nearby.

Family members who attended a church service this evening praying for Aisling's safe return, were also called away. Aisling's parents were not in attendance.

Firefighters had been working since about 6pm on the Pomaria Rd address.

Aisling disappeared a week ago from the front yard of her deceased grandparents' west Auckland home. She was watching her mother, Angela, and five-year-old sister Caitlin fix a tap on a washing machine when she wandered away.

A police search team scoured a three kilometre radius around the house for nearly 48 hours but failed to find any trace of Aisling.

The last confirmed sighting of her had been at 5.15pm last Monday in Longburn Rd, Henderson, in the company of an unknown Asian woman who was walking a dog.

Late this afternoon British peer Michael Ashcroft offered a reward of $50,000 for information on the missing toddler.

It is not known whether this reward offer had any connection with tonight's discovery.

Lord Ashcroft offered a reward of $200,000 after the Waiouru Army Museum's war medals were stolen last year and visited New Zealand earlier this year to discuss establishing crime tip-off service Crimestoppers, which was launched today.

Police staff on the inquiry had been increased to 70.

Last week police said after an intensive search of the area around the Longburn Rd home of her deceased grandparents, they were convinced she was not in the area.

Aisling's father said the past week has been "one very long bad day".

A Facebook site set up by Symes family member Christina Bartle had more than 12,000 members last night.

Mrs Bartle, whose husband is Aisling's cousin, said Aisling's parents had been overwhelmed by the messages of support.

- with NZPA

Stuff