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Barbara Ann Quinn, who was 41, was found dead in a car in Greymouth on Saturday after initially being reported missing on Friday.
Police said when they found the body on Notown Rd, they also found a man nearby with moderate injuries.
The man, who has name suppression, has been charged with murder and assault.
He is accused of assaulting Quinn the day before she went missing. He did not apply for bail.
He is due to appear again in the High Court at Christchurch on January 21.
Police are still looking for anyone who was on Notown Rd in Greymouth between noon on Friday and 3pm on Saturday. If you have information that may help, phone 105 or Crimestoppers - 0800 555 111 - to report it anonymously.