Grim find sparks search

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 05:00 22/05/2012
Chris Hillock

A woman's body has been found buried in a sand hill at Port Waikato.

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Police are trawling missing persons records as they try to identify the remains of a female skeleton found buried in dunes at Port Waikato.

The complete skeleton was found by a woman walking her dog about 7.45am on Saturday.

"I turned and looked up the beach and saw the skull," the woman, who did not wish to be identified, said. "I went in for a closer look and it was pretty obvious what it was so I went straight home and called the police."

Police will today work through a list of 47 missing people in an attempt to identify the remains.

A team of 30 police investigators were sifting through sand just metres from the Sunset Beach Surf Club yesterday. Sandbags, plastic mats, tarpaulins and sheets of corrugated iron marked the area where police believe the remains had been buried for "many years".

Officer in charge of the case, Detective Inspector Mark Gutry of Counties Manukau, told the Waikato Times it was too early to speculate on how long the skeleton had been at the site.

"What we have is an intact full body of a skeleton that we believe to be female. It was all in one piece," he said.

The woman who found the remains said while speculation was rife about who the person could be, she wanted no part in any discussions out of respect for the person's family.

"The one good thing is that a grieving family will finally get some answers and that's all I can really say about it," she said.

Following the grisly find the woman left the area on Saturday to stay with friends in Hamilton, but returned to her home on Sunday.

Mr Gutry said the remains were taken to a mortuary in Auckland on Saturday afternoon and examined.

"There was significant decomposition suggesting it has been in the vicinity for a number of years," he said.

A small crowd had gathered to watch as the police team looked for clues. Many had a theory on who the skeleton could be, but most said those theories had now changed with news that it was female.

Eileen Marbeck, whose daughter Sara Niethe disappeared in mysterious circumstances in March, 2003, said she had mixed feelings about the discovery of the remains.

"We want to find her body," she said last night. "If it did turn out to be Sara, in one way you know where you are then. It's been nine years now. It's a long time, and we would like to put it further to rest."

However, she said closure would also make her daughter's death final.

Port Waikato greyhound trainer Christine Ramsey works her team of greyhounds on the flat sandy beach most days.

"There have been a few men go missing, but I can't think of any women," she said.

Ms Ramsey said the beach had changed dramatically over the years thanks to a series of large storms that had cut between 10 and 15 feet away from the dunes.

"Looking at where [the skeleton] was it had to have been there for some time because the beach has literally moved back that far," she said pointing to the dunes.

Another man, who asked not to be named, agreed the landscape had changed "significantly".

"There has been an awful lot of movement along those dunes so I'm not surprised that this [skeleton] has become obvious after so many years."

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Mr Gutry is appealing for anyone with information about the remains to come forward.

- Waikato Times

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