Kirsty Bentley murder case handed to coroner
A coroner has begun an investigation into the death of murdered teenager Kirsty Bentley, 18 years after she died.
Bentley, 15, went missing after leaving her Ashburton home to walk her dog on New Year's Eve, 1998.
Her badly decomposed body was found two weeks later in the secluded Rakaia Gorge, 60 kilometres from Ashburton. A pathologist report ruled she had died from a blow to the head.
Her killer has never been caught.
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Police confirmed coroner Peter Ryan requested the case earlier this year, so the coronial process could begin.
The role of the coroner is to formally establish when, where, how and why a death occurred.
It is understood an inquest will be held in July, which could involve witnesses being called to give evidence.
Bentley's mother, Jill Peachey, said she was aware the coroner was looking into the death but did not be want to attend a public inquest if there was one.
Detective Inspector Gregory Murton, who is in charge of the cold case, said it was a matter of process that the case would go to the coroner eventually.
"There has to be an inquest sooner or later. The coroner will basically determine the cause of death, time, date and how she died," he said.
Last year saw a number of ripples in the case, after the death of Kirsty's father, who was considered a key suspect.
Murton said Kirsty's file was still considered open, although there were no fresh lines of inquiry.
"No new information has come through. I am reviewing all of the documents on the file, there are thousands of documents."
Forensic testing was not currently being undertaken, he said.
Criminal lawyer Michael Bott said one of the reasons a coroner would consider investigating a cold case was to bring closure for the victim's family.
"There are a range of reasons why the coroner would get involved. One being it will bring closure for the family.
"It is official recognition that someone has died in a certain way."