Police hunt for clues to German hitchhiker murder

22nd September 2005, Comments 0 comments

22 September 2005, WELLINGTON - New Zealand police appeared to have few clues on Thursday as they appealed for public help in finding the killer of a German woman aged in her 20s who was stabbed to death while hitchhiking.

22 September 2005

WELLINGTON - New Zealand police appeared to have few clues on Thursday as they appealed for public help in finding the killer of a German woman aged in her 20s who was stabbed to death while hitchhiking.

Police said they had identified the woman, whose body was found off a track in dense bush in the North Island's Egmont National Park late Tuesday, but would not release her name pending confirmation that her family in Germany had been informed.

An expert team conducted a metre-by-metre search in their hunt for clues in the area known as Lucy's Gully, about 20 kilometres from the North Island port city of New Plymouth, as an autopsy was carried out.

Detective Grant Coward, who is heading the homicide investigation, issued an appeal for anyone who had seen the woman, who was hitchhiking the 160 kilometres from Wanganui to New Plymouth, to come forward.

He said reports of another hitch-hiker, who looked like the dead woman, being seen on the roads that day had complicated the investigation on which 50 police are working.

As local people expressed their horror at the killing, Coward publicly warned the killer that he would be tracked down.

Police believe that the woman was picked up at Waitotara soon after 9 a.m. on Tuesday after being dropped off there following her first lift of the day from Wanganui, about 34 kilometres away, where she stayed on Monday night.

Her body was found about eight hours later by a jogger who investigated after noticing red clothing in the bush about 30 metres off the track.

Police said they did not know her movements in between, including whether she had travelled around the coast or by an inland road.

Bill Hahn, who owns the Waitotara Store, said the woman came into his shop, bought a bottle of water and used the toilet and was walking up the main road when he last saw her.

He said local people were extremely upset to hear that she had been murdered.

Low cloud and showers early Thursday morning hampered the search for clues in the Lucy's Gully scenic reserve.

Police said a number of people must have seen her on the roads and issued a detailed description in the hope this would jog their memories.

They said she was about 1.75 metres tall, of slight build, with shoulder length black hair, possibly tied up, and was carrying a large hiking pack and a smaller bag, neither of which has been found.

"It appears it was a nasty, vicious, attack," Detective Coward told reporters.

Barbara Charuk, of Tamara Backpackers hostel, Wanganui, said a German woman fitting the police description had stayed there on Monday night and a staff member described her as "a lovely young woman".

She told Wellington's Dominion Post: "It's tragic for that type of thing to happen. It's very rare that we actually have females hitching on their own, males do it more.

"I think that a lot of people erroneously think that they don't have to be as careful here."

She said the woman had not asked staff about hitchhiking, but they would advise solo women travellers against it.

DPA

Subject: German news

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