A policeman turned private investigator has been in contact with the family of Tolaga Bay woman Jamie Kaiwai since she went missing in 2019.
The investigator offered his advice at no charge because he believed Jamie’s cousin Jonique Oli-Alainu’uese had uncovered “obvious flaws” in the way police investigated the case, and handled some of the evidence.
“The police would do well to concede that,” said the investigator, who did not want to be named because of contracts he is working on.
He has been in touch with Jonique for more than a year.
From early on in Jamie’s disappearance Tairawhiti police believed she had taken her own life.
It has been almost 18 months since the 27-year-old mother of one was last seen alive walking on Tolaga Bay beach near the wharf between 8pm and 9pm on Friday, October 11.
Her car was found abandoned at Tolaga Bay Wharf but Jamie’s body has never been found.
Jonique has been persistent in her belief foul play was involved in Jamie’s disappearance. She has also managed to find out things the police did not.
She wants Jamie’s case removed from Tairawhiti police and re-investigated. The investigation was, “riddled with mistakes and carelessness”, she said.
“From day one police have not treated it as suspicious. Based on her mental illness they have assumed she has killed herself.
“I feel like they are using her mental health as a scapegoat to cover up the fact they did such a crap job. The police know I’m unhappy.”
Jonique said the police view was that Jamie was a mentally-ill, drug-dependent woman who took her own life.
“We’ve been honest about her mental illness, honest about her drug use, we haven’t painted her as perfect but we do not believe she killed herself,” said Jonique.
In 2018, Jamie did have a “psychotic episode”. She lost custody of her son during this time and he went to live with his father, where he still is.
Jamie was helped by the community mental health team. But Jonique has found out that in the month before she went missing Jamie was discharged from community mental health.
Jamie also had a new job, had starting wearing makeup and was getting back on track, she said.
Police cut off contact with Jonique in March. In January this year police told the Herald they were preparing the case to pass it on to the coroner.
“All my hope is is that the coroner can see what the rest of the nation can see,” said Jonique.
“Re-investigate it again please.
“I don’t dislike the police. I honour the work they do. But in this situation I think they are refusing accountability for the mistakes they have made. That means Jamie misses out and our family is not getting the answers we need.
“Everyone is feeling her loss.”
The list of “mistakes and carelessness” referenced by Jonique include police taking five months to send Jamie’s clothes away for testing.
Clothes found in her abandoned car included a pair of grey track pants, covered in sand and damp. They were found in the boot of her car inside out with one shoe stuck in one of the legs.
Two hoodies were found, one inside the other, with drops of blood on the inside cuff of one of the sleeves.
A black leather jacket in the front seat also had blood on the sleeves and there was a black jersey with blood on it, too.
There was also the issue of her car being moved after she disappeared. A person contacted Jonique to show her a photo they took on Friday, October 11, which captured Jamie’s car in the background.
This is significant because her car was parked in a different carpark on Sunday, October 13, at the Tolaga Bay wharf. That morning police dropped off Jamie’s papa Eru Kaiwai to collect her car.
It fired up straight away, which was unusual, said Mr Kaiwai. Jamie often called and asked to borrow her papa’s jumper leads because if she did not drive her car once every 12 hours the battery died.
“It had a crook battery. If that car had been there since Friday not driven, it would not have fired up straight away,” said Mr Kaiwai.
As well, police did not finger-print her car. The room where Jamie lived at the Tolaga Bay Inn was never finger-printed either.
Jamie’s phone and computer were sent to the police’s high-tech crime group in Wellington, but they could not get in to either device.
Jonique said she took Jamie’s laptop to a shop in Hastings who were able to access it in five minutes.
Information on the laptop included Jamie’s movements from the last few weeks because of her phone’s GPS data uploading on to her computer.
It showed some long drives, one to Hawke’s Bay and another to Te Araroa, where Jamie would only stay for around five minutes at each location.
Jamie had also searched the internet for midwives in Uawa a few months before she went missing, although Jonique does not know if this meant Jamie was pregnant or not.
Jonique said she passed all this information to police.
Jamie’s eftpos card also turned up at a different Tolaga Bay beach from where her car was found.
There is also a missing blanket. It is an old-school orange wool blanket with an Auckland Farmer’s Trading label on it.
“She asked our Nan for this blanket because she was cold at the inn. My Nan had two of these blankets,” said Jonique.
The one she lent Jamie has never been found.
Police searched for 10 days around Tolaga Bay Wharf and the national dive squad was brought it to do a sonar search of the sea in that area.
A rahui was put in place for the whole of Tolaga Bay until the end of November 2019.
Jonique believes Jamie is dead. “She would not just go missing. She loved her family, she loved her son.
“None of us believe she committed suicide. In our heart of hearts we believe something has happened to her by someone else.
“This was Jamie’s life. It is not about who is right or wrong, just please re-investigate. But that’s not what is happening.”
Jonique knows that even when Jamie’s case does eventually get passed to the coroner it could be more than a year before the coroner makes a ruling.
“We don’t know what happened to Jamie but we don’t think she committed suicide. There is no way in a small town she could have just disappeared and no one knows anything.”
The weekend Jamie went missing coincided with the arrival of six ships in Tolaga Bay for the Tuia 250 Voyage. The ships arrived early on the morning of Sunday, October 13. There was an influx of people at the wharf and surrounding areas, and Jamie’s car was in the carpark all weekend.
Jamie and Jonique’s grandparents Eru and Elaine Kaiwai live by Uawa River. Jamie went to live with them when she was at high school and finished her schooling at Tolaga Bay Area School.
Jamie’s father died when she was a child and she was estranged from her mother.
■ Tairawhiti police Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Ford said Jamie Kaiwai’s case was still open, and being treated as a missing person. Her case was being prepared to be passed on to the coroner but Snr Sgt Ford could not give a time frame of when that would happen.
■ If anyone can offer any information about Jamie Kaiwai’s disappearance please contact police by calling 105 and quoting the case number 191014/3116.