Body confirmed as Vanessa Pickering

Last updated 20:10 12/02/2010
Daniel Tobin

Police have confirmed the body found on Godley Heads is that of missing woman Vanessa Pickering.

Police gather above a bank overlooking Taylors Mistake
DEAN KOZANIC/The Press
HOMICIDE INQUIRY: Police gather above a bank overlooking Taylors Mistake, near where the body was discovered.

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A young girl will not get her wish for her mother to come home, after police today confirmed that the body found yesterday at Godley Heads on Christchurch's Port Hills was 27-year-old New Brighton woman, Vanessa Pickering.

Detective Senior Sergeant Virginia Le Bas said the body had been formally identified as Ms Pickering and that a post mortem into the cause of her death was not yet completed. However, Ms Le Bas said that a homicide investigation was now under way.

"Her daughter, I guess, is still wishing her mother will come home," she told a media conference in Christchurch tonight.

Police confirmed that after receiving specific information the body had been recovered quickly in an area which hadn't previously been searched and that it appeared no attempt had been made by the killer to hide the body.

She also intimated that the killing had taken place where the body had been found by saying "at this stage the police are not looking at any other scenes or doing any other examinations".

But Ms Le Bas would not discuss the state of the body, if she was clothed or what type of injuries had been inflicted.

The cause of death "is not unknown - it just hasn't been finalised and I'm not in a position to say at this stage," Ms Le Bas said. "Certainly it was not an accidental death by the injuries that she has sustained but I'm not in a position to go anywhere further with that."

"Vanessa's death - she has certainly suffered some trauma, and again, it's difficult for me to exactly determine the extent of what violence (had been used), until I am in the position to have a full post mortem result."

Ms Le Bas said a full scene examination had been completed where the body had been found and that "items of interest had been recovered.

Ms Pickering's body should be able to be returned to her family "later this evening or early tomorrow," she said.

A man with name suppression appeared in Christchurch District Court yesterday, charged with assault with intent to commit sexual violation, sexual violation, unlawful detention, and assault on a child. He was remanded in custody.

Vanessa Pickering was last seen on Monday, leaving her New Brighton home with her daughter and in the company of the man in a blue/green Toyota Estima. Police are still keen to receive information from the public regarding sightings of the van or Ms Pickering, particularly in the North Canterbury area, from Monday until midday on Wednesday.

Ms Le Bas said the public had been extremely helpful to date and could still have important information for the police investigation.

Ms Pickering's daughter had been interviewed, Ms Le Bas said. She's "a big part of the investigation. She's been through a traumatic experience and we have to respect that. Although she is seven years of age, she is a witness and has been interviewed by specialist interviewers."

A statement from Ms Pickering's mother, Rachel thanked "the dedicated team of police, search and rescue and related agencies, the media, the many volunteers and the public who had provided both information and support".
Neville Pickering, who with his wife Pauline manages the Havelock Motor Camp, said Miss Pickering's daughter was "traumatised".

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"She was very helpful to police and we said she's lucky to be alive."

Miss Pickering's uncle, Neville Pickering, said his niece was brought up "in the back blocks" of the Wairarapa after living on a Kaikoura farm as a baby. She was the oldest of four children.

He said Miss Pickering was very much a farm girl, high-spirited and "amazing" with animals.

"Vanessa was one of those girls; she'd do more work on a farm than the average man. Put her in a town and she was a bit lost."

The property manager of Pickering's Marine Parade apartment, Mark Smith, said she was a "good mum and a great tenant".

"She kept to herself, but she was sociable – it was like a family environment here."

Smith had spoken to Pickering's family, and they were "shattered" by her disappearance.

He knew the father of Pickering's daughter.

"He's a nice guy who loves his daughter, he's a good guy."

Police have appealed for sightings of a Toyota Estima believed to be connected to the case.

The car was recovered in Cheviot on Wednesday.

Family and friends yesterday showed their support for Pickering on a Facebook page called "Missing Vanessa Pickering".

- Marlborough Express, The Press,  NZPA

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