'Cold Case' family seeks new inquest into their mother's death 40 years on

Lesley Calvert's children are seeking a new coronial inquest into her death 40 years after her body was discovered on ...
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Lesley Calvert's children are seeking a new coronial inquest into her death 40 years after her body was discovered on the family farm.

The family of a woman who died in mysterious circumstances 40 years ago have today called for a fresh coronial inquest as they believe she was murdered and the original findings can no longer be trusted.

Lesley Mary Calvert disappeared from the family's Waikawau farm in North Taranaki on February 2, 1977.

In the following days a massive search of the farm and wider Waikawau district was conducted by police and civilian volunteers but no sign of the mother-of-three's body was found.

Lesley and Lindsay Calvert on their wedding day.
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Lesley and Lindsay Calvert on their wedding day.

While the official search was abandoned family and friends continued to scour the rugged countryside during the subsequent months to no avail.

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However on September 12, 1977, seven months and 10 days after her disappearance, Calvert's body was discovered less than a kilometre from the family's home.

Lindsay Calvert says police considered him the main suspect in his wife, Lesley's death 40 years ago.
Cameron Burnell

Lindsay Calvert says police considered him the main suspect in his wife, Lesley's death 40 years ago.

Her children, Denise, Sandra and Greg, say the location had been searched on numerous occasions previously and it was beyond question that their mother's body had not been there on those occasions.

"The coroner's finding that our mother died in the paddock (in which she was found) on or about the day she disappeared has no validity and cannot be sustained," they claim in a statement issued today.

The children have written to Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall and the Solicitor General, Una Jagose, asking that the inquest into their mother's death be reopened.

"We categorically believe that there are more than adequate grounds for a new Coronial Inquiry and we have asked the chief coroner to convene this as a matter of urgency.

"After four decades, New Plymouth Police have now conceded that during extensive searches in February she was not in the location in which she was subsequently found on September 12 1977.

"This concession alone invalidates Coroner Middleton's finding that she was and died there on that day."

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said a new inquiry would be opened if the Solicitor-General or the High Court ordered it.

Detective Senior Sergeant Brent Matuku, Taranaki CIB, said Calvert's death was referred to the coroner and it was determined she died of unknown causes.

Matuku said while there was no ongoing police investigation into the death, he encouraged anyone with new information to contact police and it would be carefully assessed.   

Calvert's childrens' statement claimed the New Plymouth police now accepted their mother was either murdered and her body placed on our farm at a later date or that she killed herself in the location sometime after the official search ended. 

"As her children we do not accept the latter scenario. There was nothing in her demeanour that morning that indicated that she was not intending coming back to collect us from school that afternoon."

The family said a new Coronial Inquiry is "the only right and proper action to be taken in an effort to resolve what we regard as an unresolved homicide".

They added: "Our father, Lindsay Calvert, has been trying for 40 years to get this matter resolved. It is well known that he has taken every opportunity to publicise our mother's disappearance and refute the accusations made by members of the original police investigation team that he killed our mother.

"We believe that when all the facts are presented, it will be clear that things were not carried out in that original investigation as they ought to have been, that people were not interviewed properly, and things were not checked adequately.

"As a family we would like that to be acknowledged and an adequate investigation carried out.

"All of us are united in that regard."

 - Stuff

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