Special Crossover Episode - The Bassett Rd Murders with Murder Road Trip

September 20, 2017

This weeks episode is a special crossover episode with Haley from the Murder Road Trip podcast. We discussed the Bassett Rd Murders of Auckland. 

 

Research. script, and editing by Haley from Murder Road Trip 

Intro music by Incomputech

Outro music and Kiwi Crimes editing by Taina Albrett

Logo by Luke Highet

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Episode 7 - Beatrice (and Walter?) Bolton

September 14, 2017

This week’s episode is going to be part murder/possible wrongful conviction case, part crash course on a major New Zealand law change. I also touched on a major law change in the last episode. This episode is a listener request from Phil over at My Thing Can Beat Your Thing. He wanted to know why the death penalty wasn’t abolished until many years after the last execution. I thought that was a great questions and went down a rabbit hole. I found it really interesting, and I hope you will as well!

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Bonus Episode Announcement

September 10, 2017

*Updated* I originally uploaded the incorrect file, so you may show 2 of these episodes in your podcast app. Please disregard the other one, this is the correct file

 

Over the past couple of weeks I have been getting a lot of questions about the show, the words I use, NZ laws, and NZ in general. I’ve decided to release a bonus episode where my friend Haley from the Murder Road Trip podcast will be asking me the questions that I am frequently asked, and I’ll do my best to answer them. If you have a question you want me to answer, send it to me! You can email me at kiwicrimespodcast@gmail.com, tweet me on @kiwicrimespod, or ask on the discussion page – just search Kiwi Crimes Podcast Discussion Page on facebook. Please have your questions in by Tuesday the 12th of September.

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Episode 6 - The Aramoana Massacre

September 6, 2017

On Tuesday the 13th of November, David Gray took guns from his large collection and proceeded to shoot 16 of his neighbours, in what is known as the deadliest criminal shooting in New Zealand's history. By the end of his rampage, he would have shot 16 people, killing 13 of them, including 4 children. This was a hard case to research, and it will be hard to tell. I totally understand if the involvement of children means you can’t listen to this episode. I promise to be as brief as I can, and to be respectful of those little angels.

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Episode 5 - Heidi Charles

August 30, 2017

This week, I’ll be unpacking the 1976 disappearance of Heidi Charles, a 36 year old mother of 2 who had only been living in New Zealand a few months when she went missing while on holidays in Rotorua. This is a stand alone episode, but there are a lot of links to the episode on Mona Blades from a fortnight ago. If you haven’t listened to that episode, I suggest you listen to that one first and then come back. It’s not essential, but one of the theories will make more sense.

 

Intro music by Incomputech

Outro music and editing by Taina Albrett

Logo by Luke Highet

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Episode 4 - Olive Walker

August 23, 2017

This week I’ll be unpacking the 1970 murder of Olive Walker, an 18 year old woman from Rotorua. But first, I have a couple of disclaimer My first disclaimer is that, I struggle to say Rotorua correctly. I find it really hard to roll the R on an initial sound, and it’s something that I’m working on and practicing. So, for this episode, I’m going to sound like a Pakeha when I say Rotorua. I, like everyone, am a work in progress. This episode does briefly mention a sexual assault. If that is something you’re not comfortable with, you may want to skip this episode. It is a brief, 1 sentence mention when I talk about the discovery of the body, and I won’t be going into detail. One thing that you will hear me say a lot today is “police were unable to”. And it might get frustrating. I had to keep reminding myself that in the 1970s the police were working with a lot less. Less technology, less resources. It was a different time, and I hope that they were doing their absolute best.

 

NZ in the 1970’s was a nation divided. When researching this case, I found very little in the papers. What I did find was a lot of articles about the 1970 All Black rugby tour of South Africa. The short version, because this isn’t a history podcast, is that South Africa did not allow Maori rugby players into South Africa to play against their team. Prior to 1970, the New Zealand Rugby team did not take Maori players however, in 1970 Maori players were finally allowed to go - as long as they were referred to as ‘honorary whites’. This was a hugely divisive issue. Some people couldn’t understand what the problem was, while others were outraged that NZ was contributing to apartheid by allowed Maori players to be referred to as honorary whites. I do have to wonder - if the issue surrounding the rugby tour was not happening, would Olive have gotten more media attention? Or would she have gotten the same. We will never know, but I do wonder.

 

Rotorua is a tourist town, located in the Bay of Plenty region near a lake of the same name. The full name of the town is Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahu-mata-momoe. Rotorua is affectionately known as Roto-Vegas due to its many motels and neon lights. It is well known for its geothermal activity, which causes steam to rise from vents in the ground, and bubbling pools of hot mud to be dotted around the city. The whole area smells of sulphur, due to the geothermal activity.

 

Olive Walker was a shy, quiet, and kind young woman from a large Maori family. She had turned 18 only 6 days before she was murdered. Olive related much better to children than people her own age or older, and she was a regular babysitter for her nephews and nieces. Her sisters were grateful for her help with their children, and recount stories of children who would gravitate towards her and her gentle nature. Olive was not good with strangers, and if someone stopped their car at the end of her driveway she would run straight inside, whether the person was intending on coming to her house or not. She only spoke to people that she knew and trusted. Her family said that she had learning difficulties, which put her a couple of years behind her chronological age at school. She had social delays as well.

 

At 6:45 on Friday the15th of May 1970, Olive left her home on Leslie Avenue in Rotorua. She was going to her sister’s house on Malfroy Road to babysit her nieces and nephews. It was a cold night and she was bundled up in a jumper and her favourite duffle coat. It is not clear how she made her way towards her sister’s house. Her sister’s home was around 5km away, over an hours walk, so she may have caught the bus into central Rotorua, where she was later seen. But there were no reports of her being on a bus that night although witnesses said they saw he walking away from a bus stop.  Although it was a large distance to cover on foot, overall people walked more, and an hours walk may have been something that Olive was used to. It’s impossible to know now how she got there, but Olive was seen in central Roto outside the now closed down Odeon movie theatre at 7:30pm by some former high school classmates. That was the last time anyone reported seeing her.

 

A short while later, there were reports of a woman screaming on Malfroy Rd. Malfroy Rd is a fairly long street, and the screams were heard at multiple houses along the road so it is thought the screams may have been coming from someone in a vehicle.

 

Olive’s sister, who was expecting Olive to arrive to babysit the children assumed the plans had changed, got on with her evening, and went to bed. Similar to the last episode where I talked about the disappearance of Mona Blades, this was a time before constant communication, so it’s not too unusual for her sister to have assumed Olive was doing something else instead. Olive also had a habit of being late, so her sister really didn’t think much of her not showing up.

 

Around 11:30pm that night, a car pulled into a rest area a few kms south of Roto. The rest area was popular with young couples since it is raised up from the road and fairly private, so it's not out of the ordinary for a car to be there at a late hour. As the car pulled into the rest area, the headlights shone on something near the picnic table and this caught the eye of the people in the car. One of the occupants of the car got out to investigate, and discovered Olives body lying in the grass behind the picnic table. The car left to get the police, and by 1am police had arrived. The found Olive laying on her back. She was wearing the same clothes she was last seen in - red cotton pants, a red and green patterned jumper, a fawm duffle coat, and red socks. She was not wearing any shoes, although a pair of sandals were later found nearby, and they are believed to be Olives. The medical examiner determined that Olive had been killed by multiple blows to the head with a blunt object that had sharp protrusions, such as a spanner, a hammer, or a tyre iron. She had been killed between the hours of 9:30pm and 10:55pm The blows were so severe that her skull had broken into 7 pieces and her chin was punctured. There was no bruising or injuries found on any other part of her body. The medical examiner believes that Olive was sexually assaulted and semen was found in Olives underwear.

 

The next morning, when it was light, the area surrounding the picnic table were searched. A pair of shoes, believed to be Olives, were found in a bush. The police found a large pool of blood in the gravel parking lot, tyre tracks, shoe prints, and drag marks. They surmised that Olive had been killed in the parking lot, perhaps while getting out of the car and away from her attacker. She was then beaten about the head, causing bleeding and death. Olive was then dragged away from the car, and left near the picnic table. It doesn’t really make sense for Olive to be left out in the open, so the police wondered if the murderer was intending to drag Olive to the bushes, but may have been spooked by the headlights of another car or a noise and decided to leave her and get away. Or maybe the killer never intended to hide her body at all, and intended for her to be found quickly.

 

Olive had no ID on her, so the police had no idea who she was, or how to contact her next of kin. The media ran stories about the young woman found in the rest area on the local radio stations. The described her hair, eye, and skin colour, as well as what she was wearing. This is how Olive’s family found out about her death. Her sister called the police and said that the young woman could be her sister, and by Saturday afternoon it had been confirmed that the young woman was Olive.

 

The investigation into Olive’s death had already begun. Locals were questioned, Olive’s family all gave statements. The Walker family insisted then, and still insist now, the Olive was shy and she would not have willingly gotten into a car with a stranger. She was either picked up by someone that she knew, or she was forced into a car against her will. They also recounted the complaint that Olive had made 2 weeks prior. She told her family that she was being followed by a man driving a car that she believed was a Humber. Police questioned everyone that was connected with Olive in some way - family, extended whanau, school friends. All up 7000 people were questioned. The police made a photo mock-up of what Olive was wearing when she went missing, and superimposed a photo of olives face on the mock up. This was printed in newspapers and shown to locals in the hopes that it might jog someone’s memory. Police investigated men in the area who has criminal records for similar crimes, but that didn’t lead to anything concrete. They also looked into a family member, however he ended up having an alibi for the night of the murder and also didn’t own a car. The police were very interested in a man who was given a ride to Waipa by a young couple of Saturday morning. The couple picked him up around 2am on Amahou Street, which is one of the main roads in Rotorua. The couple picked him up because his car was out of petrol. He was in his 30’s and of european desent, and his car was a Hillman or a Humber in 2 shades of blue. The police were unable to locate this man, or his car which was one of the types of vehicle that they police were interested in.

 

The police investigated the tyre tracks found at the rest area and measured the turning circle of the car. They narrowed the vehicle down to only 7 makes of car - Hillman, Humber, Carrier van, standard 8 or 10, Singer Gazelle, Sunbeam Rapier, or a Bradford truck or van. 1800 cars in the area matched the description, and many were searched over the course of the investigation, however some were never found. Police were, of course, looking for any evidence of blood in the car since they believe that the attack started either in the car or directly outside it. The only lead the police ever got was from a shop assistant in Hamilton, around a 2 hour drive away from Roto. A few days after Olives murder, a man came into her shop and wanted to purchase something that would remove blood from car upholstery. The man was described as being in his 20’s with black hair and dark eyes, good looking, and possibly part Maori. The man then asked for directions to Auckland. This lead was followed up but the man was never found. There wouldn’t have been security cameras or traffic cameras, so once he left the shop it would have been impossible to find out where he went. And even if he did go to Auckland, it’s a big place and that wouldn’t have narrowed down the search area enough.

 

There were 11 shoe prints in the gravel near the tyre tracks and drag marks. The shoes were determined to be made by Kiwiflex footwear, and they were a size 6. Only 5% of Kiwiflex shoes were made in a size 6. The shoes were commonly issued to forestry or sawmill workers. The rest area where Olive was found backed onto the old Waipa Sawmill, which employed 200 men, many of whom lived at the nearby single man’s camp.  The police made the assumption that since the shoe size was small, the killer may also be smaller in stature. The shoe prints also showed that the killer had a hip deformity, which caused an irregular gait, which is more prevalent in Maori and Pacific Island people.

 

This bit recorded separately and is in the drive

You’re probably thinking what I was at this point - Great, look at that information. Surely there weren’t that many Maori or Polynesian men who wear a size 6 kiwiflex shoe, have a hip deformity and irregular gait, and drove one of the 7 possible cars living in Rotorua in 1970. Well, the police spoke to the foremen at the saw mills, and they couldn’t help with a suspect. In fact, no one that the police looked at was a strong suspect. There was never enough evidence to rule someone in or out. There were rumours, and suspicions, but they don’t get hold up very well in court. When the case was looked into again years later, and the sawmill worker theory was explored again, police found that the staff records had not been kept, and they were unable to follow the line of inquiry any further. Again, the police were at a dead end.

 

The police looked into many theories, but never found the killer.

 

The theory that the killer was a local is a strong one. Firstly, the rest area where Olive was murdered was mainly known by locals. It was up and off the road, and the entrance was not easily seen if you were driving past. The killer would have needed some local knowledge to know where the rest area was, and to know that once there he wouldn’t be seen from the road. The rest area was popular with courting couples, however he may have taken his chances that no one would be there at that time. The rest area backed onto a sawmill, and the killer was wearing sawmill or forestry issued shoes. He could have worked at the Waipa sawmill, or even the sawmill close to Olives house. There is a possibility that the sighting of her in town in inaccurate, and that Olive was abducted close to home! The sawmill worker theory stays with me. It is possible that the weapon used to murder Olive was a pickeroon, which was a tool used in sawmills in the 1970’s.

 

Then there was a man the she saw following her 2 weeks before her murder. Could this be who killed her? It’s possible, especially since her being followed prior to the murder would also point to the killer being a local. He would have known where she was, and maybe the times that she was likely to be out by herself. He would have needed to work and live in the area. Olive maybe even knew who he was, but was too scared to tell her parents a name. Maybe they thought that being shy and quiet meant that she would go willingly?

 

A theory was that the killer was from out of town. He was passing through, saw Olive, and grabbed her in a crime of opportunity. I don’t think that theory is too likely. Although it would explain why they never caught the killer, it doesn’t explain other evidence, like how he knew about the rest area. The shoes he could have gotten from another sawmill or forestry job in another area, I suppose. I don’t know, i think too much evidence points to it being a local who knew what they are doing and that they were going to take Olive.

 

Olives case is still open, and is regularly reviewed. In 2006, the TV show Sensing Murder, which gets psychics to try and solve murder and missing persons cases, featured Olives murder on one of their episodes. I’m not saying anything about my personal beliefs or feelings on psychics because this isn’t the time nor the place. What I will say is the Olive's family welcomed any input from the show. It had been 36 since her murder when the show aired, and I think most families at that stage would try anything in the hopes of getting an answer. Olives family are also very spiritual, and they were open to anything that could possibly help. One thing the show did do is highlight Olives case and bring it back in front of the New Zealand public. No matter what your thoughts are on psychics, I hope you’ll agree that attention and publicity for Olive was a good thing.

 

Today, it has been 47 years since Olives murder. If she were alive today she would be 65 years old. He father passed away a few years after her death, at the age of 68 years old. Her mother was still alive at the time of filming in 2006, however I haven’t been able to find if she is still with us. Her siblings want answers, and they hold out hope that, one day, they will know what happened to Olive Oriwia Walker.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Kiwi Crimes! I hope you’ve enjoyed the episode, and that you will subscribe so you can hear what’s coming up next.

 

Please consider leaving me a review on iTunes! Reviews help other people to find the podcast. A big thank you to this weeks 5 star reviewers - Melzzbelz, Moonstarc, and Vicki Russell for their kind words.

You can find me on facebook and instagram at Kiwi Crimes Podcast, on twitter at @kiwicrimespod, or you can email me at kiwicrimespodcast@gmail.com. I have a discusssion group, just search Kiwi Crimes Discussion Group on facebook.  I received my kiwi crimes stickers, so if you’d like one feel free to reach out to me and I’ll happily send one out to you

 

Intro music by Incomputech

Outro music and editing by Taina Albrett

Logo by Luke Highet

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Episode 3 - Mona Blades

August 16, 2017

This week I’ll be discussing the disappearance, and presumed murder, of 18 year old Mona Blades in the 1975. Mona disappeared without a trace while hitchhiking from Hamilton to Hastings. Usually this is where I describe the area where the crime took place, and give you some background on it. This is quite hard to do in this case as it is not known exactly where the crime took place due to the lack of body and evidence, so, for this week, I’m going to skip this part of the episode.

 

As I said, Mona was 18 years old when she went missing. It was Saturday the 31st of May, 1975, the start of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. Mona, who was living in Hamilton with her sister Lillian and brother in law Tom, decided to visit her family in Hastings, a 4 hour drive away. It was her nephews birthday and she wanted to visit the family and give him his gift in person. The long weekend was a convenient time for Mona to go away, as she was starting her new job at a local dairy on Tuesday and it would give her 3 days with her family.. A dairy is a small corner store that sells household basics, as well as chocolate, lollies, and ice creams. Mona decided that this trip home should be a surprise, and she planned on just turning up, as family sometimes does.

 

Early on Saturday, Mona was dropped off at a main road in Hamilton by her brother in law, Tom, She planned on hitch-hiking the 4 hours to Hastings. Hitchhiking was not uncommon in the 1970’s, so this plan wouldn’t have raised any red flags with Mona’s sister and brother in law. Even today, people still hitchhike, and it is perfectly legal to do so. I think New Zealand has a reputation of being a very safe and friendly place, which I think it is, but hitchhiking is never going to be 100% safe. There have been at least 8 murders or missing people as a direct result of hitchhiking since the 1970’s, and I say at least because it’s impossible to know if a missing person's case is connected to hitchhiking without witnesses.

 

After Tom dropped Mona to a main road, she hitched a ride to Taupo, around a 2 hour drive from Hamilton. Taupo is around the halfway point between Hamilton and Hastings, and it's very popular with tourists, so she probably hitched a ride with someone who was heading to the area for the long weekend. It is unknown how long she was in Taupo before she got her next ride. In Taupo she was seen by a truck driver getting into an orange datsun 120y. The truck driver ended up following the car towards hastings, on the Napier- Taupo Highway before eventually losing sight of the datsun in the heavy holiday weekend traffic. Over an hour later, the truck driver spotted the same car, parked on Matea Rd, which is a road just off the Napier-Taupo highway, The roads are flat, and there are no trees so a truck driver would have easily seen a car parked fair way down the road, especially an orange one as it would have stood out against the greenery. Another witness, a fencing contractor, said that he saw Mona in the back seat of an orange datsun that was parked on Matea Rd, but when he was driving back past a short while later Mona was no longer in the car.

 

The fencing contractor was the last person to report seeing Mona. After that, she just vanished. She never showed up to her family's home in Hastings, and since the visit was a surprise and they weren’t expecting her, it wasn’t until she failed to return home to Hamilton that the family even knew she was missing. This was a time before constant communication, and her sister didn’t expect to hear from her or the family, so she really didn’t know anything was amiss until Monday night, when Mona said she would be home. She was also due to start her new job the next day, and it was not like her to be unreliable. A phone call to the family in Hastings revealed that she had never arrived and, panicked, Mona’s sister Lillian called the police and reported her missing.

 

The search for Mona started right away, but the police were on the back foot, not knowing exactly when or where she went missing. Luckily, the truck driver and fencing contractor came forward quickly, which allowed the police to narrow down the search area to the stretch of road along the Napier-Taupo Highway close to Matea Rd. The witnesses were also able to give police a description of the driver and the car, although the description of the driver was very general. He was a middle aged, bald, overweight man who was possibly wearing glasses, and he was of course driving the orange datsun. A sketch was done and released to the public, and I’ll put it on the Kiwi Crimes social media. Police began a ground and air search of the area, which included using heat seeking technology that was capable of showing the location of freshly dug graves. From what I have read, police never treated this as a missing persons case, it was assumed to be murder right from the get go, and it was assumed that Mona was buried nearby to where she was last seen. Police found 4 dresses in the area, however her family states that they were not Monas, and there is no explanation behind who owned the dresses, where they came from, or why they were found near to where Mona was last seen.

 

Weeks passed and there was still no sign of Mona. In fact, there was no sign of anything that would link to Mona. No clothes, no bags, no purse - nothing. Everything she had with her had vanished along with her. A $10,000 reward was offered, which is which is almost $100,000 if you adjust it into 2017 dollars. Psychics, clairvoyants, and numerologists, all offered their help in location Mona, and providing leads, however that information was of no help. Sightings of Mona were reported all over the lower North Island. Tips came in from Taupo, Rotorua, New Plymouth, and Wellington, with one person claiming to have seen Mona buying a ferry ticket from Wellington to Picton. These leads were all followed up, but they lead nowhere, and eventually the sightings stopped, probably due to the passage of time.

 

Along with the tips, came letters directed at Mona’s family. Horrible letters, telling them how irresponsible it was of Mona to be hitchhiking, and how she needed to be better disciplined. We all know hitchhiking is not a great idea, but the last thing a family needs after the disappearance of a loved one is to be chastised and attacked. The letters were unhelpful at best, and cruel at worst. Then there were the letters that were downright odd. One claimed Mona was taken by scientists because they wanted her brain cells. All correspondence was handed over to the police for them to follow up, but most of it led nowhere helpful. However, there was one letter that the police were very interested in. It was an unsigned note from an 18 year old woman who was hitchhiking the same day, time, and a similar route as Mona. Her letter stated that an orange datsun stopped for her, but she had a bad feeling about the driver and said she had changed her mind about where she was going, then got out. She was picked up by an elderly couple, and they saw the datsun again, on the side of the road and empty, just about where the other witnesses said they had seen the car. The note was unsigned because the woman wasn’t not supposed to be hitchhiking. She was young and she was worried about getting in trouble at home. Police publicly appealed for this anonymous woman to come forward, and appealed for her parents to let her come forward, as they believed she held more information that would help solve the case. Afterall, she had spoken with the man, and gotten a good look at him, as well as the car. She heard his voice, and he may have said something that could have led to his capture. She could have added more detail to the police sketch that was released and made it more accurate. Unfortunately, the woman never came forward, and it is still not known who she was. I hope that she does come forward one day. It is never too late, and her memories could help to solve this case.

 

Police questioned every person in NZ who owned an orange Datsun. Most of the owners were cleared,  but there were 4 that are considered quite strong suspects.

 

The first is John Freeman. John Freeman was a man who had rented an orange datsun for queens birthday weekend. He made national headlines when, on the day that it was revealed that police were speaking to people who were driving orange datsuns on queens birthday weekend, he shot and injured a high school student before turning the gun on himself. The police never got to question him, but his behaviour shot him to the top of the list, with the thought being that he decided to end his own life because he was involved with Mona’s disappearance. The only evidence against John Freeman is that he hired the car and that he ended his own life the same day as the announcement, which is circumstantial at best but I have to admit doesn’t look great. It may all be a huge coincidence but, then again maybe it’s not. I don’t think that after this much time police will ever be able to prove that John Freeman was involved.

 

The next suspect I found is an unnamed elderly man. Since Mona’s police files are sealed until 2075 I wasn’t able to find out who he is or why he is a suspect. His name and details were never released to media, and I wasn’t able to find out why. Basically, he is just a quick mention since there is no information avaliable.

 

Thirdly, there is Charles Hughes who lived in Hamilton in 1975. He has long been a suspect due to owning a similar car to the one that Mona was last seen in, and has denied any involvement since the beginning. Charles worked for a house removal company, and his company car was an orange Datsun. The police found there were a few hundred kilometres of unaccounted for milage on his car, enough for a trip to Taupo and back, and Charles had no explanation for the extra kilometres. Since the car was a company car, Charles was probably required to keep mileage records for tax purposes, so he would have had a record book in his car that would need to be filled in, in some detail, every time he drove the car. He was also unable to provide an alibi for the day that Mona went missing. He has been interviewed by police several times over the past 42 years, and claims that he has always cooperated with police, even offering a DNA sample. There is nothing to compare the DNA sample to, but whether or not he knows that, I don’t know. Charles has since moved to Australia, and he works as a caretaker in Sydney.  The police that questioned him in the 90’s reported a gut feeling about his involvement in the case, however gut feelings are not evidence, and with nothing else to go on they couldn’t arrest him. He is still a suspect, and will be questioned every time the case is reexamined. Charles has gone public on several occasions, wishing that Mona would be found so that her family could have closure, and so that he could stop being a suspect.

 

The last suspect is Mervyn Derrick Hinton who was a traffic officer in Kawerau, which is located over a 2 hour driver away from where Mona was last seen. Mervyn was questioned because, like the others, he owned the same type of car, however his daughter denies that he even owned a datsun, saying the in the mid 1970’s he owned a toyota corolla. His friend, Tony Moller long suspected that Mervyn was involved with Mona’s disappearance even since he was heard saying “If you think I did it, prove it”. Mervyn died in 2009, and in 2012 the concrete laundry floor of his old house was dug up. The thought was that Mona was buried under the floor, which was laid around the time of her disappearance. The new owners of the house gave police permission of use ground penetrating radar on the floor, which showed 2 or 3 large objects buried beneath. Police dug up the concrete, the dug down nearly a metre and probed down another metre, however they didn’t find anything. Mervyns daughter went public with a statement about her belief in her father's innocence, stating the the laundry floor was laid the week before Mona disappeared, so there was no way she could be buried underneath. His daughter has photos, that are dated, the show the floor laid prior to Mona going missing.

 

In 2004 police thought they had made a breakthrough. What appeared to be a shallow grave was discovered in a garage in huntly. Mona’s name was carved into the wall above the “grave”. However, there was nothing buried under the name and it was soon discovered that it was inscribed on the wall as a joke - and not a very funny one if you ask me. The tenants in the house apologised and police went back to the drawing board.

 

In 2013 a hunter reported an abandoned vehicle in a forest at Rangitaiki, near Taupo. You’ll remember that Mona was picked up in Taupo, so it’s not too far from where she was once seen. The police followed up the lead, but nothing further was released about it.

 

There were some other theories thrown around when Mona first disappeared. Some thought she had just walked away and started a new life. She saw the opportunity for a fresh start and took it. That theory doesn’t seem very likely to me. For one, she seemed quite content with her life in Hamilton. She was starting a new job, and she liked working in shops and interacting with people. She loved her family, so much so that she was hitchhiking to see her nephew for his birthday. That doesn’t seem like the actions of someone who wanted to walk away and start a new life. And even if she had wanted to start a new life, there are easier ways to do it. At 18 you’re an adult and she could have moved away and started a new job and had a new life while still being in touch with her family. Also, Mona’s disappearance was big news. Her face was on newspapers everywhere. The whole country had their eye out for her. I think she would have been spotted and found pretty quickly if she had decided to leave by herself. This theory holds very little water for me.

 

The thing that I found very interesting when researching this case was not just this case itself, but the fact that there were 2 other women who went missing between 1970 and 1976 in a similar area. This pinged my whiskers. I’ve done more research, and I don’t think the 3 are connected, however I found it interesting that some people think they could be. Regardless of whether they are connected or not, I want to explore the other 2 cases, and I will do so in the next 2 episodes.

 

As a final note - Mona’s case has never been closed, and it has never been sent to the coroner for an inquest. Nothing has ever been found - no body, clothes, bags, nothing. Mona and all her things vanished into thin air. She could have been moved from the location on Matea Rd where she was last seen, and police could have been looking in the complete wrong direction. If you have any information about Mona’s disappearance, please call the tip line on 0800 MONA BLADES, which is 0800666225. Maybe you saw something. Maybe someone has said something to you. No tip is too small. Both of Mona’s parents have now passed, but her siblings, nieces, and nephews are still waiting for answers.

Editing and outro music by Taina Albrett

Intro music by Incomputech

Logo by Luke Highet

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Episode 2 - William McIntosh

August 9, 2017

This week I’ll be looking at the 1949 murder of William Fraser McIntosh of Moa Creek

 

Moa Creek is located in central Otago which is at the bottom of the South Island. Moa Creek is a tiny farming town, and houses are few and far between. Moa Creek was established in 1863 after gold was discovered in the area. A hotel and small villiage quickly appeared and was bustling with miners. Later, the nearby Poolburn dam was built, and the fishing huts surrounding the dam were later disguised as village houses for a Lord of the Rings film. Today, to say Moa Creek is a small town is an understatement. If you google Moa Creek hotel you will find an add for an Old Moa Creek Ghost Town tour.

 

William Fraser McIntosh was a 63 year old farmer who had lived in Moa Creek his whole life. He was the son of Alexander and Ellen McIntosh, who were also farmers,  and was the oldest of 5 children. He was educated at Moa Creek School. In the early 1910’s he purchased a farm with his brother, and during the first world war he became the sole owner of the farm. I talk this to mean that his brother died in the war, however I didn’t find anything that can back that up, so it is just an educated guess. In 1911, at the age of 24,  William married Margaret Lockhart. They went on to have 3 children together, Fraser, Dorothy, and another daughter who I couldn’t find the name of because she is only listed and Mrs husbands last name. The family was still recovering from the loss of Dorothys husband in the second world war a few years earlier when William was murdered in his own woodshed.

 

On the 28th of September 1949, William was at his home in Moa Creek with his wife, Margaret. Around 2:30pm William told Maragret that he was going to tend to the sheep, but that he would be back shortly because he wanted to hear at least part of that afternoons Ranfurly Shield rugby game on the radio. The match was between Otago, Williams local team, and Auckland, so it would have been an important match for the town. This will come into play later, so keep it in the back of your mind. The game came and went, and William still hadn’t returned home by nightfall. Maragret became worried, especially when she noticed that the sheep were still in the valley. She called a neighbour, who organised a search party. The search didn’t last long, as William was found in the woodshed, on his property, less than 100 metres from his house. Williams body was found less than 2 metres from the door. He had been beaten viciously about the head with an unknown weapon, and had been covered with a coat which, it was later found, belonged to William and had been kept in the woolshed. The police were called, but due the the towns rural location they were several hours way, and didn’t arrive until 5 the next morning.

 

When the police arrived they brought Dr S.W Alexander with them. He was the acting pathologist at Dunedin hospital at the time, which was likely the closest city to have a pathologist at all. After the scene was secured and photos were taken, Williams body was transported to Clyde, which would have been the closest large town, and one of the only places in Central Otago with a morgue. It was soon determined that, although William was hit several times over the head, the first blow likely killed him.

 

By the time the police arrived, Williams children had started to gather at the home. His son had to be discharged from Dunedin hospital where he was recovering from surgery to fix an old war injury at the time of his fathers death.

 

Police began questioning locals right away and, of course, Margaret was also interviewed. She recounted the happenings of the previous afternoon and told the police what she remembered - it was a normal day, William went to round up the sheep at 2:30 but said he wouldn’t be long. She assumed he was caught up with chores when he didn’t arrive back in time for the rugby game, and after a few hours, called the neighbour around. Around 8pm the search party found William in the shed. However, when recounting the events she remembered a visitor to the property that she had earlier thought nothing of.

 

Around 3pm on the day of the murder, Margaret saw a man walking around the farm, and he looked like he had come from the direction of the wood shed. He knocked on the door and asked Margaret if a certain person owned the farm. She said no, but that person did own a neighbouring farm. The visitor said that he had made a mistake with the address, so Marg gave him directions, closed the door, and went about her day. She heard a car or motorbike go down the driveway and over the cattle stops, and thought that was the end of that. It wasn’t until she was interviewed by police that she wondered if this man could have something to do with her husband's brutal murder. Marg was able to give police a description of the man. He was described as, and I’m quoting from the Otago Daily Times, “Approx 30 years od age and 5 foot 7 inches in height. When seen he was wearing a dark coloured suit, with no hat. He was of strong build, with dark wavy hair, and he had full features and bright eyes”. Margaret also said that the man was holding a brown paper parcel that was around 30cm long.

 

A manhunt was immediately launched for the stranger described by Marg. It was described as the biggest manhunt in Otago for many years. Murders just didn’t happen very often. Detectives were brought in from Christchurch and Timaru, in the hopes that those with more successful murder cases would be able to shed some light on the situation. The description of the man was published in newspapers daily for several weeks after the murder in the hope that someone would read it and come forward with some information. Locals were given the description of the man, but no one remembered seeing him, or anything unusual on the afternoon that William was killed. While it may seem strange that no one saw anything, it isn’t if you take into account the remoteness of Moa Creek. There just weren’t that many potential witnesses in the first place. And, remember that rugby game that william wanted to be home for? The Otago vs Auckland Ranfurly Shield match? That game was a big deal for the Otago region, and a lot of potential witnesses were inside listening to the game on the radio. The already quiet and sleepy town would have been deserted until after the match, and by that point the man would have been long gone.

 

After coming up empty in Moa Creek police started looking further afield. They set up a base in the nearly town of Mosgiel, and continued to look for anyone who matched the mans description. They followed many dead end leads, including locating a car that was of interest but was later cleared.

 

Police also scoured the farm and local area for any sign of the murder weapon. The weapon was believed to be a tommahawk. They searched extensively for the weapon, but it was never found. Since the man who Marg saw at the farm had a car or a motorbike it is entirely possible that, if he was the murderer, he took the weapon with him, and dumped it somewhere far away from Moa Creek. Regardless, the police drained ponds and checked every ditch and tussock they could find.

 

Understandable, residents of Moa Creek were shaken up after Williams murder, and this wasn’t helped by the murder still being on the loose. Unannounced visitors on local farms were being met by owners armed with guns.

 

All of the searching and hunting was fruitless. Williams killer was never found and the weapon was never conclusively IDed. I did read several items from the woolshed were sent to the pathologist, but no conclusive information was released about the findings. Forensics in 1949 would have been limited, and there could be any number of reasons why the testing wasn’t conclusive. Or, alternatively, the testing may have been conclusive but the police held back that information.

 

Theories

 

Obviously, the main theory that the police were working with is that the murder was committed by the strange man who visited the property. However, so much is still unknown about the murder. Since the weapon was never conclusively identified, it isn’t known if he brought his own weapon, or just used something in the woolshed. There would have been lots of potential weapons in the woolshed. Not knowing if he brought his own weapon or not means we don’t know if the murder was premeditated, which creates more questions than answers. If he brought his own weapon then he clearly meant to kill a man, however if he used something that was already at the farm it would seem that is was more of a crime of passion or opportunity.

 

Either way, from what the community said about William, he was a well liked man who had no enemies. So why would someone come and kill him? Was it a case of mistaken identity? Maybe the man had intended to go to a neighbours house, like he said to Marg, but got the address wrong, and killed the wrong man. It’s possible but houses in Moa Creek were few and far between, and its not like going to number 23 instead of number 25 because the letterboxes are close together. I think it would be less likely to get the address wrong in a rural setting. I’m not 100% about this theory, and I think it has too many holes.

 

Another possible theory is that William did have an enemy, or enemies - and no one knew about it. Maybe he owed someone money? It could have been a former employee who helped out around the farm, although Marg said that they only hired help in the busy season, and even then there was a group of farmers who worked together and any hired help was hired to help all of the farmers.  Or maybe he had some connections and associates that his family and friends didn’t know about. Was he involved with something seedy that he kept hidden? It’s hard to say since there is so little evidence and we only know what his wife knew. It is possible, although I don’t know if he would have owed anyone money, since his will showed he had funds available, plus he had a farm he owned freehold.

 

Another theory, is that the strange man was completely innocent. He was genuinely lost and went to the wrong house. However, the neighbour that he said he was looking for said he had no idea who the man was. So was the neighbour lying? Or did he not know who the man was either? Maybe the man had the wrong address and the wrong name? The thing that makes me hesitate about the man being lost is that, Moa Creek is a long way out of the way for someone to just pop by, and you’d think the strange man would have called ahead if he was known to the neighbour. It was 1949 but houses still had phones!

 

One thing that pings by whiskers is that the description of the man, and the newspaper article do not mention any blood on his clothes. Surely if you had just committed a murder using a blunt object to hit someone about that head, you would be close enough to get some blood spatter on your clothes and face. Unless the man took some time to clean up afterwards. We do know he took the time to cover William with a coat, so maybe he washed up as well. There is no mention of any blood on a sink, taps, or towel in any of the reports that I could get my hands on, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. That would at least explain why no blood was mentioned. But if he didn’t do it, who did?

 

Locals favoured the hired hit man theory. Local gossip said that there was a hired assassin from Australia coming to settle a score against a local man, and that assassin killed William instead of the intended victim, realised his mistake, and fled. This theory is very imaginative, but not very likely. Firstly, William was killed by multiple blows. Would a hitman kill in that manner, or would they just hit until they were dead? Multiple blows sounds more like a crime of passion to me, whereas a hitman would be detached. Also why would a hired hit man, someone who is a professional, kill someone and then go and knock on the door and allow the wife to see him? This doesn’t make any sense to me. If it was someone that was hired you would think they would want to leave as little evidence as possible.

 

It’s been nearly 68 years since the Moa Creek murder, and it is still infamous. When I emailed the Otago Daily Times to inquire about some articles that they had published, the man I spoke to knew of the murder well. I said it earlier, but murders just don’t happen very often in Moa Creek. The saddest thing is that Williams family still doesn’t know what happened to him. His kids and grandkids still don’t have answers. Never say never but, barring a deathbed confession, I don’t think we will ever find out what really happened to William.

 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Kiwi Crimes! I hope you’ve enjoyed the episode, and that you will subscribe so you can hear what’s coming up next. Please consider leaving me a review on iTunes! Reviews help other people to find the podcast.

You can find me onfacebook and instagram at Kiwi Crimes Podcast, on twitter at @kiwicrimespod, or you can email me at kiwicrimespodcast@gmail.com. I received my kiwi crimes stickers, so if you’d like one feel free to reach out to me and I’ll happily send one out to you.

 

Until next time, ka kite ano

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Episode 1 - Kenneth Pigott

August 2, 2017

Kenneth Pigott was a 60 year old grandfather who lived in the small town of Waitara (Why-ta-ra) in the Taranaki region of New Zealand. If you look at a map, that's the region on the west coast of the north island that sticks out a bit. The taranaki region is famous for Mt Taranaki, located in egmont national park. It is an extinct volcano, and it dominates most of the skyline in northern taranaki. Waitara is a small town, close to the coast, with a river running through it to the ocean.  Keith was a truck driver, and by all accounts a well liked member of the community.

 

Girls

 

The offenders in this case were all children. 3 14 year old girls - Renee, Puti, and Kararaina. They all lived in Waitara, and the families had known gang connections. Prior to their involvement in the murder the 3 girls were well known to police for underage drinking, vandalism, and generally causing a disturbance in the small town. There were other children present at the time of the killing, a girl aged 12 and a boy aged 13, however they are not involved until the trial and, from what I can tell, were bystanders during the crime. The 13 year old boy was later revealed to be Renees younger brother, Raymond, however the identity of the 12 year old girl is not known. When we refer to the 3 girls we are not referring to the 12 year old, we are referring to Renee, Puti, and Kararaina.

 

Murder

 

Kenneth was drinking at the Waitara (Why-ta-ra)  Pub on the 10th of March 2002. He had a few drinks, and had decided to sleep in his 4 wheel drive truck instead of risking driving while intoxicated. A drink driving charge would mean he couldn’t work as a truck driver, and drink driving is just not a good idea. Waitara (Why-ta-ra)  is a tiny place, so there wouldn’t have been a taxi service, and it is unclear why a friend didn’t offer to give him a ride home. Regardless, Kenneth decided to sleep it off in his vehicle.

 

At the same time that Kenneth was at the pub, the 3 girls were also drinking, and at some stage one or all of them decided that they wanted to steal a car. Why they wanted to steal a car is unknown, however they made their way into town, looking for a vehicle to break into. Around 11pm, the 3 girls, after drinking half a litre of bourbon purchased for them by a family member, came across Kenneth sleeping in his truck. The girls opened the truck and removed Kenneth’s cellphone, wallet, and keys, which must have been in easy reach. They removed other items from the truck, including a hammer. However, that wasn’t enough for the girls - they were out to steal a truck, and that's what they were going to do. They needed to remove Kenneth from the truck, so the girls began to formulate a plan. The 12 year old,  who was with the girls said that one girl asked if she should hit him with a hammer in the truck, while another one suggested that someone should punch him.

 

Kenneth woke up to find the girls outside his truck, and his keys missing. He demanded they return his keys. He probably didn’t think he was in any danger at this stage, just dealing with some kids who were playing around. Renee went round the back of the truck while Kararaina distracted Kenneth. Puti was apparently riding her skateboard nearby. Then, Renee started hitting Kenneth with the hammer. She hit him 8 times in the head. Sometime during the attack the 2 other girls joined her, and they kicked Kenneth while he lay bleeding on the ground.

 

After the attack, the girls realised that they would need to get rid of the body. They called for the other 2 children to help them, and together they moved Kenneth over the stopbank and into the river. The river was not far from the pub, and the 5 children could have moved Kenneth’s body, although I’m sure it wasn’t an easy task. Raymond, Renee’s brother, was ordered to throw the hammer into the river as well.  What they didn’t realise is that, despite the vicious attack, Kenneth was still alive. He would die soon after entering the river, from drowning.

 

The 5 children then went back to the truck  and took it for a joy ride. The two younger children were dropped at home, then the 3 girls continued to drive the truck around Waitara, visiting friends and driving past the police station, tooting. The girls were in no danger of attracting the attention of police. I live in a city, and the local police station is not attended overnight. I highly doubt the Waitara police station was manned 24/7. Renee even went home around 3am, changed out of her bloodied clothes, and told her dad she was going back out. Later on, Puti was dropped off home, and Renee and Kararaina continued the joy ride. They headed towards Palmerston North, which is a couple of hours drive from Waitara, before eventually dumping the truck in the Waitotara Valley just north of Wanganui, when it broke down. Apparently the girls had put petrol in the truck, which ran on diesel, so it broke down soon after that. Renee and Puti hitchhiked back to Waitara. They man who gave them a ride to Wanganui, reported the girls to the Wanganui police because he felt suspicious.

 

At 6:30am on 11th of March police located Kenneth’s truck in the Waitotara Valley.  Around 2pm, Kenneth’s body was discovered in the river, and the girls were arrested soon after.  

 

Trial

 

The three girls appeared in New Plymouth youth court. All 3 girls were charged with murder for their roles in the killing of Kenneth Pigott, and they all entered a plea of not guilty. Just a reminder that these girls were 14 years old. Babies. The girls were tried separately, but we couldn’t find why. We know that in some cases with multiple defendants there can be a combined trial, but the trials can be separate as well.

 

Kararaina was the first to be tried. She changed her plea to guilty of manslaughter, and on the 26th of August 2002, she was sentenced to 8 years, 9 months in prison. Her sentencing was the day of her guilty plea, which allowed her to give evidence against Puti and Renee.

 

Puti’s trial was held next. She originally pled not guilty but changed her plea towards the end of the trial to the same as Kararaina - guilty of manslaughter. On the 11th of September 2002 she was given a sentence of 8 years 3 months.

 

Renee’s trial was held last and, as she was the ringleader, received the most media attention. The crown suggested that Renee was a very streetsmart 14 year old, referring to her habit of roaming the streets at night, and her heavy drinking. The jury only took 3 hours to deliver a guilty verdict. Renee was remanded in custody until her sentencing in February of 2003. During sentencing, which was delayed twice to allow time for psychological reports to be completed, Renee’s lawyer tried to argue that she should receive a reduced sentence due to low intelligence, stating that in some areas, Renee’s intelligence was similar to that of a 9 year old. However the judge, Justice Priestly, countered that low intelligence was not a reason to reduce the sentence in a murder trial. Justice Priestly recounted Renee’s actions leading up to the murder which was 2 years of alcohol abuse, drug use, aggression, assaults, truancy, defiance, vandalism, and tagging. He also brought up the fact that Renee hadn’t been in school since 2001, when she was 13.  He went on to address Renee directly stating, "Miss O'Brien you killed a man. You battered a man senselessly and recklessly. Your conduct that night was of catastrophic consequence of the antisocial behaviour and bad conduct which you have displayed over the previous year or two." The judge sentenced Renee to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 10 years before she could apply for parole. He also recommended psychological assessments be shared with the prison unit manager, the she should receive support and treatment, and that Renee be kept separate from the adult population so as to keep her safe, and probably so ensure that she wouldn’t have any negative influences. He was trying to give her the best shot at rehabilitation. Renee hung her head and cried as the sentence was read. Renee was transferred to Christchurch Women’s Prison to serve her sentence.

 

Appeals

 

2 of the girls appealed their sentences. Puti’s appeal was successful, and her sentence was reduced to 6 years and 6 months. Renee’s appeal was lodged arguing that her sentence should be reduced due to her age and mental impairment, and because a life sentence was too harsh of a punishment for a teenager. Kenneth’s son, Dean, was furious about the appeal, stating that a reduced sentence would be insulting to the family. The appeal was dismissed, and Renee’s life sentence with a minimum of 10 years was upheld.

 

Update

 

In April of 2007, Puti was released on back end home detention. Back End Home Detention is where a prisoner is allowed to serve the last of their sentence on home detention instead of in prison. They have to meet all the conditions of home detention, and they have to have excellent family support who agree to take responsibility for the prisoner. The parole board makes the decision of whether or not to grant home detention. Puti applied for parole from home detention, hoping it would be granted due to her counseling, job training, and low risk of reoffending, but it was denied, and she served the rest of her sentence on home detention. In 2017 Puti is back living in Waitara, and she lives there with her children.

 

In February of 2008, Kararaina was released on Back End Home detention.  She now lives in Palmerston North, and has a child. Puti and Kararaina remain friends.

 

Renee was able to apply for parole in February of 2013, after serving 10 years in prison. That application was denied in April of that year, and she underwent drug and alcohol counselling. In April of 2014 Renee applied for parole, and was again denied. She was due for another parole hearing in April of 2015, but I can’t find any information on her after 2014. It is possible that she is still in prison and has not applied for parole for some reason. I have a feeling that if she was released it would make the news.

 

On a slight tangent, but still related, Renee’s family moved to Christchurch when Renee was transferred to the prison there. In 2006, her younger brother Raymond, who witnessed the murder of Kenneth and then was a witness in court, was charged with manslaughter. He was 16 when his friend and him were driving down Columbo street, and saw Trevor Clague, walking down the street. Raymond and his friend got out of the car, armed with a baseball bat, and his friend struck Trevor, killing him. Raymond initially faced a murder charge, however this was reduced to manslaughter. The friend was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence.

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June 19, 2017

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