Thousands gather to remember Blessie

Antonio Gotingco, left, the husband of Blessie Gotingco, prays with a large group of locals who...
Antonio Gotingco, left, the husband of Blessie Gotingco, prays with a large group of locals who have gathered to honour her memory. Photo / Herald on Sunday / Steven McNicholl

Thousands of people gathered in Birkdale last night to light candles and remember Blessie Gotingco.

The 56-year-old woman went missing last Saturday night after getting off a bus a few hundred metres from her home on Salisbury Rd, Birkdale.

Her body was found in bush at the Birkdale-Glenfield Cemetery two days later. A 27-year-old man has been charged with murder.

More than 2000 people last night marched through the streets of Mrs Gotingco's neighbourhood. Many wore green - Blessie's favourite colour - as they lit candles and paper lanterns which floated up into the night sky.

Last night, Mrs Gotingco's grieving husband Antonio stood in the middle of Birkdale Primary School's packed basketball court and addressed the silent crowd.

"I would just like to extend on behalf of my family our deep appreciation and gratitude for all the support, the love, the prayers we are getting.

"We just want justice for my wife. I don't know what else to say but a big, big thank you to each and every one. I never expected this size of a crowd coming over.

"I'm sure Blessie is watching us all and she is very happy."

People marched from Birkdale Primary School to Eskdale Ceemtery where many candles and tokens in Blessie's memory remain today.

On the Facebook page used to spread word of the event, people were praising the community spirit shown last night.

Lucy Quinn wrote, "I just got home; the turnout was enormous!!! There would've been a good couple of thousand people there I think. It's nice to think that although there is the odd person amongst us who would commit a terrible act, the huge majority of us are good decent folk who care for each other."

Ross McCook wrote, "1000s literally ! Amazing community ! Thank you to Blessie's family for allowing us to come together tonight."

Raewyn Solomon wrote, "Wow, wow, wow - candles and community for as far as you can see."

Adrienne Brunton said she organised the march as a way to bring the community together and is already planning a similar event for next year.

She said the turn out was huge, and the atmosphere was peaceful.

"It exceeded all of our expectations," she said.

"The community really opened up and embraced each other. It was a beautiful event."

She said the march finished at the cemetery so the "darkness" that had been felt in the area since Blessie's body was found could be lifted.

"That was about blessing the cemetery. Let's hope there's light over that cemetery rather than the darkness that was there last week."

Ms Brunton said the Gotingco family had another event on that night and had planned to be at Birkdale Primary School to see the crowd gather then leave.

However, some family members decided to stay and walk alongside the community because they were so impressed with the turn out and spirit of the crowd, Ms Brunton said.

"They said they were so thankful that they [stayed]."

She said she hopes the community spirit shown last night is long-lasting.

- By Sophie Ryan of APNZ

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