Police guard the cemetery on Eskdale Road in the search for Blessie Gotingco. Photo / Chris Gorman
Police guard the cemetery on Eskdale Road in the search for Blessie Gotingco. Photo / Chris Gorman

Body found at cemetery believed to be missing woman

POLICE searching for missing Auckland woman Blesilda Gotingco say they have found an object they believe is a body.

Police cordoned off a cemetery on Eskdale Rd at Birkdale last night and this morning said they found the object in bush at the cemetery.

A scene examination was underway but  it would be late afternoon before police were able to confirm any more details.

Detectives are currently at the Gotingco house on Salisbury Rd, with police cars parked in the driveway.

Locals are milling around the cemetery, concerned about safety in the usually quiet suburb and eager for news about Mrs Gotingco.

Some residents passing on a morning walk decided to turn back.

"It's horrible isn't it?" said one woman.

Waitemata police spokeswoman Beth Bates later said there was no access to the cemetery while police worked there - including for anyone with a burial scheduled there today.

"The cemetery have also been advised that it is an area of interest to police and that we are doing a scene examination there," she told the Herald this morning.

The cemetery is less than 1km from where Mrs Gotingco went missing on Saturday evening.

As the search for the 56-year-old mother-of-three continues, her daughter says the family are struggling.

Detective Senior Sergeant Stan Brown revealed police were looking for Mrs Gotingco's "very distinctive" Omega watch and her red-frame reading glasses which they believe she had on when she went missing.

The watch is two toned, with a diamond bezel and mother-of-pearl face.

A community search was also being organised for this morning around the Birkdale area where she lives with husband, Antonio.

She was last heard from at 6.21pm on Saturday when she spoke to her adult son to say she would be leaving her job at Tower Insurance in Auckland's CBD about 7pm to catch a bus home.

Some of her belongings - including her cellphone and shoes - were found on Salisbury Rd about 400m from the bus stop where she would have disembarked.

Her daughter Bea was still waiting for news with other family members at a house nearby, and told the Herald: "It's hard for the family. That's all I can really say."

They might speak at a press conference soon, she said. "We've passed the 48-hour mark now," she said, without elaborating on her comment.

Antonio Gotingco is due back from the Philippines today.

The Herald has learned that police have access to a list of names of every passenger who used a registered Hop card on two buses Mrs Gotingco could have travelled home on.

She is likely to have caught a Birkenhead Transport bus at 7.20pm or 7.40pm. The number would have been 973 or 974.

Auckland Transport can trace all registered Hop cards, but those who paid cash would be harder to find.

Police believe Mrs Gotingco used a Hop card regularly but had not registered it.

They said a man who believed he might have been on the same bus as her had been in contact with them and inquiries to confirm this were under way.

Birkdale mother of two Renata Cihakova, 24, was last night trying to rally people on Facebook to do a community search.

She does not know Mrs Gotingco but said residents had become increasingly concerned for their safety since she went missing.

The search would take place this morning and cover all the parks and reserves in the Birkdale and Beach Haven areas, as well around nearby Birkenhead College.

"We're just hoping for the best," Ms Cihakova said.

But it was unclear if it would go ahead as the administrator of a Facebook paged titled "Help find Blessie" said they had been told by police not to search.

Last night two volunteers were sticking up flyers on lampposts close to where Mrs Gotingco's home, asking people if they had seen her and providing the police number.

Mrs Gotingco's friend and colleague Behula Shah said she was asked by police to come into the station yesterday and provide a formal statement, recounting Blessie's last known movements.

She had also been with the family yesterday supporting them.

Screams were heard near Mrs Gotingco's home after she went missing, and belongings, including her phone and shoes, were found near the closest bus stop, 636m away.

Mr Brown said police were still investigating whether there had been any other suspicious activity in the area, but no reports had surfaced so far.

"There's nothing certainly known to us in that immediate area of strangers being attacked and things like that."

Mr Brown said nothing at all had been found to indicate what had happened to Mrs Gotingco or why.

"Our ideas are limitless. We just hope she is still alive out there."

Mr Brown said the next phase of the investigation, dubbed Operation Lynsey, was for officers to re-interview Mrs Gotingco's immediate neighbours.

"There are certain questions we would like to ask neighbours."


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