Jamie Kaiwai disappearance: Private investigator claims ‘obvious flaws’ in police search

By Sophie Rishworth for the Gisborne Herald

A policeman turned private investigator has been in contact with the family of Tolaga Bay woman Jamie Kaiwai since she went missing in 2019.

The investigator offered his advice at no charge because he believed Jamie’s cousin Jonique Oli-Alainu’uese had uncovered “obvious flaws” in the way police investigated the case, and handled some of the evidence.

“The police would do well to concede that,” said the investigator, who did not want to be named because of contracts he is working on.

He has been in touch with Oli-Alainu’uese for more than a year.

From early on in Kaiwai’s disappearance Tairawhiti police believed she had taken her own life.

Last seen alive on October 11

It has been almost 18 months since the 27-year-old mother of one was last seen alive walking on Tolaga Bay beach near the wharf between 8pm and 9pm on Friday, October 11.

Her car was found abandoned at Tolaga Bay Wharf but her body has never been found.

Oli-Alainu’uese has been persistent in her belief foul play was involved in Kaiwai’s disappearance. She has also managed to find out things the police did not.

She wants Kaiwai’s case removed from Tairawhiti police and re-investigated. The investigation was, “riddled with mistakes and carelessness”, she said.

“From day one police have not treated it as suspicious. Based on her mental illness they have assumed she has killed herself.

List of 'mistakes and carelessness'

“I feel like they are using her mental health as a scapegoat to cover up the fact they did such a crap job. The police know I’m unhappy.”

Oli-Alainu’uese said the police view was that Kaiwai was a mentally-ill, drug-dependent woman who took her own life.

“We’ve been honest about her mental illness, honest about her drug use, we haven’t painted her as perfect but we do not believe she killed herself.”

In 2018, Kaiwai did have a “psychotic episode”. She lost custody of her son during this time and he went to live with his father, where he still is.

Kaiwai was helped by the community mental health team. But Oli-Alainu’uese has found out that in the month before she went missing she was discharged from community mental health.

Kaiwai also had a new job, had starting wearing makeup and was getting back on track, she said.

Police cut off contact with Oli-Alainu’uese in March. In January this year police told the Herald they were preparing the case to pass it on to the coroner.

“All my hope is is that the coroner can see what the rest of the nation can see,” said Oli-Alainu’uese.

“Re-investigate it again please.

“I don’t dislike the police. I honour the work they do. But in this situation I think they are refusing accountability for the mistakes they have made. That means Jamie misses out and our family is not getting the answers we need.

“Everyone is feeling her loss.”

The list of “mistakes and carelessness” referenced by Oli-Alainu’uese include police taking five months to send Jamie’s clothes away for testing.

Blood on clothes found in car

Clothes found in her abandoned car included a pair of grey track pants, covered in sand and damp. They were found in the boot of her car inside out with one shoe stuck in one of the legs.

Two hoodies were found, one inside the other, with drops of blood on the inside cuff of one of the sleeves.

A black leather jacket in the front seat also had blood on the sleeves and there was a black jersey with blood on it, too.

There was also the issue of her car being moved after she disappeared. A person contacted Oli-Alainu’uese to show her a photo they took on Friday, October 11, which captured Kaiwai’s car in the background.

This is significant because her car was parked in a different car park on Sunday, October 13, at the Tolaga Bay wharf. That morning police dropped off Kaiwai’s papa Eru Kaiwai to collect her car.

It fired up straight away, which was unusual, said Eru Kaiwai. Kaiwai often called and asked to borrow her papa’s jumper leads because if she did not drive her car once every 12 hours the battery died.

“It had a crook battery. If that car had been there since Friday not driven, it would not have fired up straight away,” Eru Kaiwai said.

As well, police did not finger-print her car. The room where Kaiwai lived at the Tolaga Bay Inn was never finger-printed either.

Her phone and computer were sent to the police’s high-tech crime group in Wellington, but they could not get in to either device.

Oli-Alainu’uese said she took Kaiwai’s laptop to a shop in Hastings who were able to access it in five minutes.

Information on the laptop included Kaiwai's movements

Information on the laptop included Kaiwai’s movements from the last few weeks because of her phone’s GPS data uploading on to her computer.

It showed some long drives, one to Hawke’s Bay and another to Te Araroa, where Kaiwai would only stay for around five minutes at each location.

Kaiwai had also searched the internet for midwives in Uawa a few months before she went missing, although Oli-Alainu’uese does not know if this meant Kaiwai was pregnant or not.

Oli-Alainu’uese said she passed all this information to police.

Kaiwai’s eftpos card also turned up at a different Tolaga Bay beach from where her car was found.

There is also a missing blanket. It is an old-school orange wool blanket with an Auckland Farmer’s Trading label on it.

“She asked our Nan for this blanket because she was cold at the inn. My Nan had two of these blankets,” said Oli-Alainu’uese.

The one she lent Kaiwai has never been found.

Police searched for 10 days around Tolaga Bay Wharf and the national dive squad was brought in to do a sonar search of the sea in that area.

A rahui was put in place for the whole of Tolaga Bay until the end of November 2019.

Oli-Alainu’uese believes Kaiwai is dead. “She would not just go missing. She loved her family, she loved her son.

None of us believe she committed suicide'

“None of us believe she committed suicide. In our heart of hearts we believe something has happened to her by someone else.

“This was Jamie’s life. It is not about who is right or wrong, just please re-investigate. But that’s not what is happening.”

Oli-Alainu’uese knows that even when Kaiwai’s case does eventually get passed to the Coroner it could be more than a year before the Coroner makes a ruling.

“We don’t know what happened to Jamie but we don’t think she committed suicide. There is no way in a small town she could have just disappeared and no one knows anything.”

Kaiwai's disappearance coincided with the arrival of six ships in Tolaga Bay

The weekend Kaiwai went missing coincided with the arrival of six ships in Tolaga Bay for the Tuia 250 Voyage. The ships arrived early on the morning of Sunday, October 13. There was an influx of people at the wharf and surrounding areas, and Jamie’s car was in the car park all weekend.

Kaiwai and Oli-Alainu’uese’s grandparents Eru and Elaine Kaiwai live by Uawa River. Kaiwai went to live with them when she was at high school and finished her schooling at Tolaga Bay Area School.

Kaiwai’s father died when she was a child and she was estranged from her mother.

• Tairawhiti police Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Ford said Jamie Kaiwai’s case was still open, and being treated as a missing person. Her case was being prepared to be passed on to the Coroner but Ford could not give a time frame of when that would happen.

• If anyone can offer any information about Jamie Kaiwai’s disappearance please contact police by calling 105 and quoting the case number 191014/3116.

Looking for support? It's available

• Call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor

• Call PlunketLine 24/7 on 0800 933 922

• Depression helpline: Freephone 0800 111 757

• Healthline: 0800 611 116 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week and free to callers throughout New Zealand, including from a mobile phone)

• Lifeline: 0800 543 35

• Samaritans: 0800 726 666

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