23 Dec 2008

Police focus on prostitute's last client

6:14 am on 23 December 2008

Police investigating the death of a Christchurch prostitute say they are focusing on the person who picked her up about 10.35pm on Thursday.

The body of Ngatai Lynette Manning, 27, also known as Mellory Manning, was found in the Avon River on Friday morning. She had extensive injuries. Post-mortem results show she was dead before her body was put into the river.

Police believe Ms Manning was dropped at Peterborough Street by a client about 10.20 and picked up again 15 minutes later.

They are interested in sightings of a white saloon vehicle parked on the grass near 73 Dallington Terrace about 11.10pm on Thursday.

They also want to identify an Alltrade-brand pocket knife found on the riverbed close to Ms Manning's body.

Detective Inspector Williams earlier said more than one weapon was used, but none has yet been found.

The last known action of Ms Manning is a text message sent at 10.45pm on Thursday.

Police believe she was travelling with someone at that time and are trying to find out who that person is.

Ms Manning was wearing a short red cotton skirt, a black cardigan, a blue bikini top with white dots and was carrying a black shoulder bag.

Police say the watch Ms Manning was wearing was stopped at 11pm.

Previous killing

The Prostitutes Collective says Ms Manning's death comes as a complete shock.

It is almost three years since the killing of another prostitute, whose body was dumped in the same area of the Avon River.

Ms Manning's death has reignited debate about the Prostitution Reform Act, which Christchurch city councillor Sue Wells says is not protecting sex workers.

Ms Wells says the Act was supposed to provide occupational health and safety for prostitutes, but notes that soliciting on the streets is a dangerous activity and it concerns her the legislation enables it to continue.

Mayor Bob Parker says his personal view is that sex work should be confined to brothels where the workers' safety can be monitored.

But the Prostitutes Collective says that to remove prostitutes from the streets would be to recriminalise them.