30 May 2013

Missing Wellington woman declared dead

8:52 pm on 30 May 2013

A Coroner has found that a Wellington woman who went missing in the Rimutuka Forest Park eight years ago is dead and says he can't rule out foul play.

Margaret Kaye Stewart, known to family as Kaye, went for a walk in the park on 13 June 2005 and despite extensive searches involving at times 100 people, no trace of her has ever been found.

Robert Stewart remains convinced his wife was killed.

Robert Stewart remains convinced his wife was killed. Photo: RNZ

Wellington Coroner Garry Evans says foul play cannot be ruled out, but it is also possible Mrs Stewart got lost in the bush and died of hypothermia, or that she committed suicide, or for an unknown reason staged her own disappearance.

Mr Evans said on Thursday he is satisfied that the woman died in the park or surrounding area on or about the day she disappeared.

However, her husband Robert Stewart said he is sure that she was murdered and refuses to accept the other possible reasons for the death.

"Kaye was killed rather than any other alternative. I simply rule out the others because I knew and loved my wife. I know exactly what she would and wouldn't have done that day."

Mr Stewart said the Coroner's finding isn't closure for him because his wife's body has never been found. "It's an indignity, it's an insult to this family that Kaye's remains lie somewhere - we don't know and we can't visit."

Detective Sergeant Mike Sears gave evidence at the inquest and told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint progamme he is not discounting any theory about the disappearance, but police would have found Mrs Stewart if she had been in the park.

The investigation into her disappearance remains open.