One of Blessie Gotingco's sons is comforted by a neighbour. Right, one of the last photos of Blessie. Photo / NZ Herald, instagram
The man accused of murdering Blessie Gotingco is known to
authorities -- and recently moved into the community where
the mother-of-three disappeared.
The 27-year-old was arrested early yesterday, just hours
after the 56-year-old's body was found in bush at the
Birkenhead-Glenfield cemetery on Eskdale Rd.
He will appear in the North Shore District Court this morning
charged with murder. For legal reasons the ODT cannot name
the man or publish details of his past.
Sources confirmed last night the man has been under
supervision since he moved into the community.
As the matter was before the courts, police could not comment
on the man or how he and Mrs Gotingco's paths crossed. But it
is understood that soon after she went missing, the man was
identified as a possible suspect.
He lives 1.4km from Mrs Gotingco's Salisbury Rd home and 800m
from the bus stop she is thought to have got off at on her
way home from work on Saturday.
Mrs Gotingco was last seen leaving Tower Insurance in
Auckland's CBD, where she worked in customer interaction,
about 7pm on Saturday. She took Birkenhead Transport's 973
bus from Lower Albert St to Birkdale Rd and it is thought she
was walking the short stretch home when she encountered the
The search for Mrs Gotingco moved to the cemetery on Monday
night. It is unclear who found her body but police stormed
the man's Monte Cassino Place apartment less than 12 hours
Steve Meadows lives in the apartment above the accused. He
was asleep as police arrived yesterday.
"I was woken up at 5.41am. There was just this hell of a
bang," he said.
"Then there was a lot of shouting -- and then nothing. I
thought, 'God, what's that?' ... I looked out over the
balcony and I could see eight police cars and about 15 cops.
"They eventually led him out. He was completely wrapped up in
a white suit with a hood pulled tight over his head."
The man was taken away and Mr Meadows tried to "squeeze"
information out of officers who stayed at the house. He said
one told him "it will all become clear in the next 24 hours".
By 8am, the street was swarming with police -- officers,
cars, forensics and detectives.
"They were going through all the rubbish bags and bins
outside [the house] and some of the neighbours' rubbish too,"
one resident said. "It's a really quiet street. I didn't hear
anything, like screams or arguing, so I had no idea what was
Neighbours had not noticed anything unusual at the accused's
apartment over the weekend. One said he had not been seen for
a few days.
As the search went on, police removed several household items
from the property and put up black plastic sheeting to shield
the garage from the public.
Later in the morning police had a silver BMW belonging to the
accused towed out of the street. It has been reported that
the car had a smashed windscreen and a repair man was called
to the house to fix it on Monday. Police confirmed the car
would be examined by forensic experts.
One resident of Monte Cassino Place said police appeared to
have found a machete-like weapon in a reserve near the
street. Police were also seen examining an alleyway into the
reserve. They wouldn't comment on whether a weapon was
involved, or Mrs Gotingco's cause of death.
They said once a post-mortem examination was completed today,
the Coroner would direct when Mrs Gotingco's body would be
returned to her family for burial.
Detective Senior Sergeant Stan Brown said the investigation
was ongoing and there was still a lot of work to be done,
including taking statements from the "vast number" of people
who had come forward.
But the priority for police was the welfare of Mrs Gotingco's
family, including her husband who returned to New Zealand
from a trip to the couple's native Philippines yesterday and
their three adult children.
Monte Cassino Place residents were shocked by the arrest.
"People in houses on this street have lived here longer and
so most of us know each other," said Jeremy, who did not want
his surname published. "But the apartments -- people come and
go. They don't stay very long and they keep to themselves."
A neighbour said the incident had left him and his wife
shaken. "My wife is a little bit scared now because she
sometimes catches the bus. I went and picked up my kids from
school today as well.
"This is a safe area and our neighbours are really good
people. It's shocking this man was living not far from us,"
the man said.
A woman who lives in the same building as the man charged
said he was quiet and polite.
"He waved and nodded hello sometimes. He was very polite. We
didn't know him though."
- Anna Leask of The New Zealand Herald