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Police suspend bush search for missing woman

Police suspend bush search for missing Wellington woman

Police have tonight (Thursday, 16 June) suspended their bush search for 62-year-old Wellington woman Mrs Kaye Stewart who hasn't been seen since she went for a walk in the Rimutaka Forest Park on Monday.

Sergeant Jo Holden, Wellington Police Search and Rescue coordinator, says there has been no sign of Mrs Stewart despite four days of searching.

"It is highly unlikely that she would have survived four nights in the open given the light clothing she was wearing and the cold and wet conditions in the search area.

"If Kaye was conscious and responsive then I'm very confident that we would have found her in the areas we were searching on Monday night based on the information that we had at that time," Sergeant Holden says. "If she was disorientated, lying injured and unable to respond then there is also a very high chance teams would have found her in the search area by now.

"It's never easy suspending a search. However, in the absence of any clues as to where she is or where she may have gone, it is no longer feasible to continue the search at this time.

"We feel very much for Kaye's family and friends who have been out searching with us. They'd like to know where she is and what has happened to her. So do police and the many civilian Land Search and Rescue volunteers who have put their hearts and souls into trying to find her."

Mrs Stewart drove to the Catchpool area of the Rimutaka Forest Park on Monday morning. She talked to a Department of Conservation ranger at the Catchpool Visitor Centre about 10.30am and asked about some short walking trails as she was due to meet family in Wainuiomata at 12.30pm.

She was seen a short time later by the carpark at the end of the Catchpool access road. Around 12.30pm she spoke to another DOC staff member near the DOC workshops on the Wainuiomata Coast Road and was given directions on how to find her way back to her car, a silver Toyota Corolla hatchback, parked on the Catchpool access road two kilometres away.

That was the last time Mrs Stewart was seen. When she failed to meet family as arranged, they went to the Rimutaka Forest Park and found her car locked. They looked for her for a short time on tracks near the car before reporting her missing to police.

More than 40 specialist and Land SAR searchers have combed trails, tracks, bush, logging areas, roadside verges and streams since then. Police divers have cleared the Catchpool Stream and into the Wainuiomata River, police search dogs have been used along with helicopters and heat seeking camera equipment.

"We have made every reasonable effort to find Kaye, including searching tracks and bush in places that she may have walked into but have found no sign of her," Sergeant Holden says.

Meanwhile Lower Hutt CIB is continuing background inquiries into Mrs Stewart's unexplained disappearance.

Detective Senior Sergeant Soni Malaulau, head of Lower Hutt CIB, says most people living in the southern end of the Wainuiomata Coast Road have been contacted and police will extend this to cover northern properties to see if anyone saw her on the road or in the Catchpool area.

As part of the background inquiries Police are appealing for people who were in the Park area including loggers, construction workers and others using the Coast Road to contact Lower Hutt Police on 04 560 2600.

"We know there was traffic in the area so we want to identify vehicles or hear from people who have any information about Kaye's disappearance."

Detective Senior Sergeant Malaulau says that investigators will, as part of their inquiries, review information gained during the search. "If new information comes to light that gives us some indication of where Kaye is then the search will resume.

"If people have any information that can help explain Kaye's disappearance, then please contact police."

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