Murder victim mourned

Police continue their search of the cemetery on Eskdale road in Birkdale in relation to the disappearance of Blessie Gotingco. Photo / Chris Gorman
Police continue their search of the cemetery on Eskdale road in Birkdale in relation to the disappearance of Blessie Gotingco. Photo / Chris Gorman
Blessie Gotingco's colleagues at Tower Insurance have been offered grief counselling as they cope with news that a body has been found in a North Shore cemetery.

Police believe the body, found in a bush area last night, is that of the missing 56-year-old.

A 27-year-old man will appear in court tomorrow morning charged with murdering the mother of three.

Tower general manager customer interaction, Vanessa Dudley, said the mood among staff at the Fanshawe St office was "sombre" as the news unfolded today.

Amongst Ms Gotingco's 40 team members, Ms Dudley said some had gone to church, others had gone home to be with their families, and others were coping by focusing on work.

"Some have gone and come back, some have stayed," she said.

Support and grief counselling was being provided to those who needed it, and would continue to be offered for some time, she said.

Ms Gotingco's best friend, also a Tower employee, had remained away from work this week to provide support to Blessie's family.

"We've put a lot of support around not only the immediate team but the wider Tower staff," Ms Dudley said.

Chief executive David Hancock had been giving updates to staff as news developed today.

"As the news has elevated today it's reached its peak in terms of trying to make sure everyone's supported. Everyone knows everyone here, so we're just really trying to make sure everyone is taken care of."

About 550 people worked in the Fanshawe St office, and many would have got to know Ms Gotingco in her almost 10 years with the company.

Blessie Gotingco
Blessie Gotingco
She had worked in different roles, but spent most her time in her current position as an insurance consultant in the sales team, which involved talking to customers about their policies.

Ms Dudley said Tower had been contacted by customers who had dealt with Ms Gotingco and wanted to express their concern.

"That's just who she was - very personable."

Staff from her team described her as always positive and ready to laugh, Ms Dudley said.

"She was the one who always made you laugh, she was the one who always had something positive to say," she said.

The company had been in touch with Ms Gotingco's family, and would continue to offer them support.

"They have maintained, and I respect, that their privacy is important to them at this time. When and if they're ready, we are here to support them."

Ms Gotingco's desk had remained untouched since she left work on Saturday night, and would not be disturbed until her family were ready to retrieve any personal items she had left there.

Staff had also been asked to consider how they would like their colleague and friend to be remembered by the company.

"We've started to think about that and asked the team what it is they would like to do to remember her. I'll leave it in their hands but I'm sure there will be many things," Ms Dudley said.

"I think it's really important that we do have something in her memory."

The 27-year-old man accused of the murder was arrested today after a woman's body was found at a North Shore cemetery.

Senior Sergeant Stan Brown, who is heading Operation Lynsey, said two scene examinations were underway: one at a block of apartments in Monte Casino Place, Birkdale, which was where the accused was arrested this morning. This examination was expected to take several days, Mr Brown said.

The scene examination at the cemetery where a woman's body was found today was expected to be completed by tomorrow.

A post-mortem examination would be held tomorrow morning.

"There is a still a lot of work to be done by the enquiry team in the next few weeks, including statements taken from the vast number of people who have provided police with information over the past few days," Mr Brown said.

Investigators had now confirmed that Mrs Gotingco did take the 973 bus from Lower Albert Street to Birkdale just after 7pm on Saturday night.

The enquiry team was still looking to speak to anyone who travelled on that bus, Mr Brown said.

The 0508 number was still open and more than 50 calls had come into the enquiry team today.

Anyone who believed they might have information was still encouraged to make contact with police, he said.

As the investigation continues Mr Brown said the welfare of the Gotingco family was a priority.

"Our thoughts are with Blessie's family at this very difficult time and their ongoing care and welfare is paramount.

"We'd like to reiterate their request, please allow them the time and space to grieve as they deal with this."

Police also thanked the media for their assistance over the past few days.

Police confirmed earlier today that the body of a woman has been found in a bush area of the Eskdale Cemetery.

The body will be formally identified this evening, but police do believe it is that of Blessie.

News that a body has been found today was met with shock and sadness among those following the Help Find Blessie Facebook page, set up to aid in the search.

Sally Randal wrote: "As a local here I can tell you we have all been concerned for Blessie's safety and are now devastated on the outcome ... prayers for your family and friends right now".

Gina van den Bos posted: "Poor Blessie. I don't know her or her family but my heart goes out to them all. they going to need the support of our community. Let's show them that we do care and this is not on and not going to be tolerated in our community."

Another post on the page, from Rose Burrowes, read: "rest in peace, blessie the whole country is sending their love to your family in this heartbreaking time."

Tash Swinburne wrote: "Thoughts and prayers are with Blessie's family, friends, and loved ones. So sad . Hopefully our community will be able to feel some sense of ease now, and the family will have a little bit of closure. So unimagineable."

Mrs Gotingco's husband Antonio, who was visiting the Philippines when the 56-year-old went missing, is expected to arrive back in Auckland this afternoon.

He is travelling home with Mrs Gotingco's brothers and they are expected to go straight to the family home on Salisbury Rd to support the couple's three children.

When asked how they are coping, a family friend said "devastated is an understatement".

 

 

- Anna Leask, NZ Herald  

 

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