Tragedy of the nameless innocents: Identity of 2 children found in bits after years in suitcase has world saddened and mystified

On August 11, a family from Manurewa in Auckland bid in an auction and won a storage unit's contents before discovering human remains inside

Tragedy of the nameless innocents: Identity of 2 children found in bits after years in suitcase has world saddened and mystified
NZ Police Det. Insp. Tofilau Vaaelua (inset) said investigators were working very hard to solve the tragic case (Twitter/@InsideEdition, NZ Police)
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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND: The discovery of children's remains stuffed inside suitcases that were left abandoned in a storage unit has sent shockwaves across the globe. Authorities are working day in and day out to solve the mystifying case and bring justice to the tragic youngsters and their loved ones.

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On August 11, a family from Manurewa in Auckland had bid in an auction and won the storage unit's contents before eventually discovering human remains inside. New Zealand Police Detective Inspector Tofilau Faamanuia Vaaelua revealed on Thursday, August 18, that they believe the remains of the children, who were between five and ten years old, may have been inside the suitcases for three to four years. Here's what we know so far about the case.

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As mentioned, the Kiwi family that stumbled upon the bodies after they blindly purchased the contents of a storage locker at Safe Store Papatoetoe via an online auction on August 11. They loaded the suitcases onto a trailer and took them home before looking through the haul in the front yard of their property. A neighbor said the trailer had a number of household items including "prams, toys, and a walker." However, when the family opened the suitcases, they froze at what they saw inside and immediately alerted the authorities.

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Reporter Chereè Kinnear, host of the 'In the Loop' podcast, recounted the moment journalists showed up at the scene presuming it was a domestic violence incident. "At least two hearses had pulled up as well," she recalled. "We were still unclear as to what had happened. We thought it had something to do with the people living at the house. The rumor that went around was perhaps there was a domestic issue. We knew there had been a body, maybe it had been a murder." Kinnear said a neighbor told her how they smelled a "wicked" odor emanating from next door when the bodies were first exposed. Another neighbor said her son had seen the family remove the suitcases from the trailer and noticed them standing back in a state of shock following the chilling discovery.

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Inspector Vaaelua said detectives were still working to confirm the identities of the deceased children, who he said may have been stored inside the suitcases for three to four years. Nonetheless, he did hint that investigators had an inkling about their identities, saying the kids had relatives living in the country. "The nature of this discovery provides some complexities to the investigation especially given the time lapsed between the time of death and the time of discovery," Vaaelua explained. "A lot of us (in the police) are parents and we have a job to do and we're doing our very best to identify the victims. What I can say is we are making very good progress with DNA inquiries. The investigation team is working very hard to hold accountable the person or persons responsible for the death of these children."

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Speaking to Newshub, former NZ homicide detective Lance Burdett said it was possible the children were killed at one place and their bodies were transported to the storage unit. Burdett, who served as a police officer for 22 years, said detectives would be probing the storage unit and also searching for the place they could have been killed originally. "They'll be looking for another scene," he told the outlet, "That could be well on the cards, that the person or persons have been placed there once they're deceased and have been killed somewhere else." Burdett said the suspect or suspects may have already fled the country. "Probably a likelihood that they would have got out of the country if they could have, because as I understand it, it was an abandoned container where these remains were taken from," he added.

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Inspector Vaaelua noted that the family who purchased the suitcases and discovered the bodies inside were not involved in any way. They are said to have left Auckland due to the growing media storm around the case.

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"We're still on a fact-finding mission and we still have a lot of unanswered questions," Vaaelua said in a press conference Thursday, August 18. "I really feel for the family of these victims, there are relatives out there that aren't aware that their loved ones are deceased, especially two young children." He admitted that the investigation had been particularly hard for officers involved considering the young age of the victims. Burdett expressed his sympathies for the family that discovered the children. "When you are confronted with situations such as this one you can never forget it, you can never unsee it," he told Newshub.

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