Relative sought by police after kids’ bodies found in suitcases ‘could be their mother’

Detective Inspector Tofilau Faamanuia Vaaelua has revealed details of human remains found in suitcases at a property in Manurewa.

Police in South Korea are looking for a family member who may be the mother of a family member in connection with the discovery of the bodies of two children in a suitcase at a south Auckland storage facility.

The woman is a South Korean-born New Zealander who arrived in South Korea in 2018, a police officer told Reuters. There is no record of her leaving South Korea since then.

According to Reuters, her whereabouts are unknown and it is unclear if she had other relatives when she arrived in South Korea.

“New Zealand police have asked to confirm whether the person who may be involved in the criminal case is in South Korea,” the officer said, adding that, given her past address and age, she may be the mother of the children.

Safestore facility in Papatoetoe.Photo/New Zealand Herald  Relative sought by police after kids’ bodies found in suitcases ‘could be their mother’
Safestore facility in Papatoetoe.Photo/New Zealand Herald

The families of the two dead children are believed to be in South Korea, the Herald reported Saturday.

Sources earlier confirmed to the Herald that the families of the two children are in Asia.

In a press conference last Thursday, Detective Inspector Tofilau Faamanuia confirmed New Zealand police were also cooperating with Interpol as part of the homicide investigation.

“We have started investigations with overseas agencies. I can’t go any further,” Vaaelua said.

The remains were discovered on August 11, when people living at the Moncrieff Ave house in Manurewa brought “ownerless property” to the address, which they bought at an auction at the storage facility.

When they opened the suitcase, they made a grim discovery that sparked a homicide investigation.

Vaaelua also said the children were between the ages of five and 10 and had relatives living in New Zealand. Their remains are thought to have been stored for several years.

Police stressed that the family who found the body had nothing to do with the death.

Vaaelua said police had also made “very good progress” with the DNA investigation.

He confirmed the children’s bodies may have been in the Papatoetoe secure storage facility for three to four years before they were found.

“Early indications are that these children may have been dead for many years before they were discovered last week.”

The horrific discovery was made at a property on Moncrieff Ave, Manurewa.Photo / Dean Purcell  Relative sought by police after kids’ bodies found in suitcases ‘could be their mother’
The horrific discovery was made at a property on Moncrieff Ave, Manurewa.Photo / Dean Purcell

However, he was reluctant to give too many details about what police know about tenants or storage unit owners out of fears it could affect the investigation.

Asked if the police knew the identity of the person who rented the storage unit, Vaaelua said: “Yes, with the help of the storage company, we are conducting an active investigation into the storage unit.”

Vaaelua said the families who found the bodies were “understandably distressed by the discovery and asked for privacy”.

“We make sure to support them.”

A neighbour earlier told the Herald there were “children’s items in the back of the trailer” for carrying suitcases such as prams, toys and walkers.

“We want to reassure the community that our investigation is continuing to establish the facts to determine the full circumstances of these children’s deaths,” Vaaelua said.

“This includes determining when, where and how. The nature of this discovery provides some complexity to the investigation.”

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