18 Aug 2022

Human remains found in suitcases were of two children, police say

5:28 pm on 18 August 2022

The human remains found in two suitcases in Auckland's Manurewa are of two primary school aged children, police say.

Watch detective inspector Tofilau Faamanuia Vaaelua speak to media here:

It is understood a family had brought home a trailer-load of items, won at an auction for abandoned goods in a storage unit, without realising what was inside.

Police reiterated the occupants of the Moncrieff Ave property where the remains were discovered were not connected to the deaths of the children.

The occupants of the property were distressed by the discovery and had asked for privacy, police said.

Police said they were ensuring there was support available for the family.

Detective inspector Tofilau Faamanuia Vaaelua said the human remains were likely to have been in storage for several years.

Collecting CCTV footage would be a challenging part of the investigation due to the time lapsed between the time of death of the children and the discovery of the remains, he said.

A large amount of relevant CCTV footage could have been lost already, he said.

The post-mortem investigation faced some difficulties in the ability to identify the children, Vaaelua said.

The children were likely to have been between the age of five and 10 years old and their bodies were concealed in two suitcases of similar size, he said.

"The nature of this discovery provides some complexities to the investigation especially given the time lapsed between the time of death and the time of discovery," he said.

"However, the investigation team are working very hard to hold accountable the person or persons responsible for the death of these children.

"It's still very early stages of our investigation, we're still on a fact finding mission and we still have a lot of unanswered questions."

Vaaelua could not comment on whether police had contacted the previous owner of the storage unit from which the human remains were taken to the Moncrieff Avenue property.

The police investigation was following "positive lines of inquiry" in regards to the storage unit with the help of the storage company, he said.

The investigation team had first tried to link the other items in the storage unit with the suitcases and then moved on to use items among the rest of the property to assist them in the identification of the children, he said.

Vaaelua also revealed police were working with international criminal police agency Interpol in their homicide investigation.

The news would be hugely devastating to the nearby communities, Vaaelua said.

There were relatives of the victims who remained in New Zealand and the first priority would be to contact the next of kin, he said.

The formal identification procedures were still underway so police could not comment on the identities of the children, he said.

"There are relatives out there that aren't aware that their loved ones have deceased, especially two young children, as for the investigation team there are a number of them who are parents," he said.

"This is no easy investigation and no matter how long or how many years you serve and investigate horrific cases like this it's never an easy task."

Detective inspector Tofilau Faamanuia Vaaelua.

Detective inspector Tofilau Faamanuia Vaaelua. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

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