Unsolved: The murders of Kirsty Bentley and Jennifer Beard

NEW Zealand, though a country with a small population of around 4.3million, has had its share of brutal crimes and unsolved murders.

The Press details nine unsolved murders that police in the Canterbury region of New Zealand. The renewed look at the unsolved murders comes after an arrest in the high profile case of Christchurch woman Mellory Manning, who was murdered in 2008. A 24-year-old man appeared in court on March 29.

One of the highest profile unsolved murders in the Canterbury region (main city is Christchurch) is that of Ashburton teen Kirsty Bentley who was 15 when she disappeared while walking her dog in 1998. He body was found 18 days later. In 2010 police released details of Kirsty’s death, which had never been revealed to the public, in the hope of a breakthrough in the case.  Police enlisted the  help of British  expert on child murder Chuck Burton to help them crack the case. Burton, a retired Detective Inspector, has built a datatbase of every murder and serious sexual assault of a child in Britain, which goes back over 50 years.

Kirsty’s father and brother have been considered in the pool of suspects in her murder. Her brother John was the only person home when Kirsty took her dog for a walk, the last time she was seen alive.

Another murder that has remained unsolved is that of backpacker Jennifer Beard. Jennifer was travelling solo around the South Island en route to meet her boyfriend when she was found under Haast River Bridge, on the West Coast of the island. It is believed she was killed on New Year’s Eve, 1969, though her body was not discovered for 19 days. The book about the case Getting Away With Murder: The Jennifer Beard Investigation is well worth a read. The prime suspect in the case, Timaru man Gordon Bray, always maintained he was innocent of the crime and died in 2003. In 2010 the detective who was in charge of the investigation into Jennifer’s death, Emmett Mitten, gave an interview to The Southland Times and he says a crucial piece of evidence, which implicated Bray, was misplaced and discovered too late.