Screams raise fears for missing mother

Blesilda Gotingco
Blesilda Gotingco
Mother of three Blesilda Gotingco had planned to get a ride home with her best friend when she finished work on Saturday, but declined the offer after volunteering to work late.

At 6.30pm, the 56-year-old, known as Blessie, phoned her son to say she would be catching a bus from the Auckland CBD shortly after 7pm. She never made it home.

Screams were heard near her home in Salisbury Rd, Birkdale, and belongings, including her phone and shoes, were found near the closest bus stop, just 636m from the house.

Police say they have "serious concerns" for her safety and are appealing to anyone with information to come forward.

Mrs Gotingco's best friend, Behula Shah, described her as "a very cheerful person, a very happy person".

They had worked at Tower Insurance for almost two years, forming a bond as they sat next to each other.

On Saturday morning, Mrs Shah picked Mrs Gotingco up from her home and they travelled to work together.

She last saw her when she left at 5pm. "We were supposed to leave together but she opted for overtime."

Mrs Shah said her friend had previously expressed concerns about her safety when walking home from the bus.

"She gets off from the bus on the main road, Birkdale, and then it is about a 5, 6, 7-minute walk ... She said there's not enough light there, especially when it's winter and a bit dark."

Mrs Gotingco had also spoken of her concerns to her own daughter Bea, Mrs Shah said.

"When I spoke to her daughter she said she had spoken to her also about that- that she feels a little bit unsafe. That road is dark. I think there's not enough lighting."

It was Bea who raised the alarm after she returned home from a late shift at 3.15am yesterday and couldn't find her mother. She called her two brothers and the police.

She then tracked her mother's mobile phone using a high-tech application and found it just before 6am on a grass verge in Salisbury Rd.

Mrs Gotingco's shoes were also there, "in a state of disarray", police said.

The Herald has learned police found other items belonging to Mrs Gotingco, including Tupperware containers she took food to work in. Last night, it was understood that the bag she carried her belongings in had not yet been found.

Mrs Shah rushed to be with Bea and her brothers after hearing her friend was missing.

"I had a missed call from her, the daughter, in the morning and then I got a message, 'My mum is missing'."

The siblings were not up to speaking last night about their mother's disappearance. They were being supported by police and Victim Support workers.

Their father, Antonio Gotingco, was last night trying to make his way home from the Philippines.

Mrs Shah said she spent most of yesterday with the children and dropped them off dinner before returning to her own home.

"They are all broken, they can't stop crying because they just want to know that their mother is safe."

Two of Mrs Gotingco's brothers are flying to Auckland, one from Australia and the other from Canada, Mrs Shah said.

Police and forensic staff spent yesterday doorknocking locals and searching the area.

Resident Bill Fonua said items belonging to Mrs Gotingco were found outside his house.

"My daughter heard some screaming around 8pm. She's the youngest in the family. She's only 10."

Mr Fonua said he learned she had heard something only after police questioned her yesterday.

Investigators are now trying to pinpoint Mrs Gotingco's movements after she left work.

Detective Senior Sergeant Stan Brown said that had she left work at 7pm as intended, she was likely to have caught a Birkenhead Transport bus at 7.20pm or 7.40pm. The number would have been 973 or 974.

He wanted to hear from anyone who travelled on either bus.

Last night, police confirmed that neither of the buses had a camera.

"The circumstances of Blessie Gotingco's disappearance and the location of some of her belongings give rise to serious concerns for her safety," Mr Brown said.

Mrs Gotingco was last seen wearing a white top and light trousers. She is of slim to medium build, about 160cm tall, and has dark shoulder-length hair.

Tower Insurance spokeswoman Tracey Palmer said Mrs Gotingco was a valued member of the customer interaction team based in Auckland.

"Tower is supporting Blessie's family by working closely with the police to assist their inquiry."

- Brendan Manning of APNZ and Anna Leask of The New Zealand Herald.

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