Woman named, but mystery remains

SHANE COWLISHAW AND BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2012
Sofia Helen Athanassiou
Sofia Helen Athanassiou

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A woman who was found dead on Wellington's Mt Victoria was a regular sight on Newtown streets.

Sofia Helen Athanassiou's body was discovered by a group of joggers about 11am on Tuesday off a running track near Alexandra Park, above Wellington East Girls' College.

The 39-year-old had suffered minor injuries to her body but they had not contributed to her death, the cause of which remains a mystery, police say.

Yesterday several people in Newtown were shown a picture of Ms Athanassiou by The Dominion Post, with many recognising her.

Mary Ross said Ms Athanassiou was a regular at several bars in Newtown where she would play the pokies with her partner.

The couple had been together for at least 20 years and had children together, she said.

She described them as a friendly pair who had never been in trouble to her knowledge.

What had happened to Ms Athanassiou was shocking, she said.

"To tell the truth I don't know how she got up there, it's not where she hangs out.

"It's out of character, it's so out of character ... the only person who is going to know what happened is Sofia herself.

"They never bothered anyone, she was quiet, she was never argumentative ... she was a lovely person, both of them were."

Results of an autopsy completed late Tuesday were inconclusive and the results of further laboratory tests are up to six weeks away.

Drugs have not been ruled out as a factor in her death.

Police yesterday released a supplied photo of Ms Athanassiou wearing the same clothes she was found dead in as they appealed for sightings of her before her body was discovered.

"At this stage the death is still unexplained," Detective Senior Sergeant Donna Howard, officer in charge of the investigation, said yesterday afternoon.

"We don't have an exact reason why Sofia died or how she came to be where she was. In terms of her movements on the day, we are still trying to piece those together.

"We do know that she was with some friends at about 8.30am in the morning and we are still trying to sort out her movements from then on."

Ms Howard would not reveal many details about Ms Athanassiou, but said mental illness was a "component in the police inquiry".

She had a home and some of her family lived in Wellington, Ms Howard said.

"It's a very trying time for them. They are a very private family and we are just taking things slowly. We owe it to them to give them some answers."

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Twelve investigators continued to work on the case.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said Ms Athanassiou was not a tenant in council-owned housing at the time of her death, but had been in the past.

Anyone with information can call Wellington police on 04381 2000 or Crimestoppers, 0800555111.

- The Dominion Post

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