17 Aug 2011

Boyfriend in court on 2003 murder charge

11:23 pm on 17 August 2011

The boyfriend of a woman who went missing in Waikato eight years ago has appeared in court charged with her murder.

Mark Edward Pakenham, 49, was arrested on Kawau Island on Tuesday after police reopened an investigation into the disappearance of Sara Neithe, 33, a mother of three, on 30 March, 2003.

Ms Neithe failed to return to her home in Kerepehi, near Thames, to celebrate her child's birthday.

She was last seen on CCTV in a shop in Ngatea on her way to visit a male friend at Kaihere on State Highway 27.

Police never discovered what happened to her or the car she was driving.

Mr Pakenham appeared in the North Shore District Court on Wednesday when lawyer Ian Tucker applied for bail.

However, the judge said she won't consider the application until Thursday, so she can ask Ms Niethe's family for their views.

Mr Pakenham has not entered a plea.

Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Whitehead says the accused was questioned as part of the original inquiry in 2003.

The case was reviewed last year and a team of detectives was assembled in May this year to continue working on the case.

Senior Sergeant Whitehead says the family is going through a mix of emotions, glad that progress has been made but fully aware of the lengthy prosecution process ahead.

He says the family hasn't been able to grieve properly and still holds out hope of a proper funeral for Ms Niethe one day. Mr Whitehead says the familly has asked for privacy.

Police say no one else is sought in relation to the case, but more information is wanted.