Korean woman arrested in case that shocked world after remains of 2 children found in suitcases bought at auction

The 42-year-old suspect, believed to be the mother of the two minors, was arrested in South Korea on September 15 in connection to their murders

Korean woman arrested in case that shocked world after remains of 2 children found in suitcases bought at auction
The woman, who is yet to be identified, was arrested in the early hours of Thursday in the southeastern city of Ulsan in S Korea (YouTube/Reuters)
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SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA: A woman has been arrested in connection with the discovery of two children whose bodies were found in suitcases in New Zealand.

The 42-year-old suspect, believed to be the mother of the two minors, was arrested in South Korea on Thursday, September 15, in connection to their murders following the discovery of their remains last month. “South Korean authorities arrested the woman on a Korean arrest warrant pursuant to two charges of murder relating to the two young victims,” New Zealand Police Detective Inspector Tofilau Faamanuia Vaaelua said in a statement. ”NZ Police have applied to have her extradited back to New Zealand to face the charges and have requested she remains in custody while awaiting the completion of the extradition process. In the meantime, there is a number of inquiries to be completed both in New Zealand and overseas.”

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The woman, who is yet to be identified at the time of publication, was arrested in the early hours of Thursday in the southeastern city of Ulsan, located about 180 miles from the capital Seoul, a South Korean police source told CNN. The suspect was seen in a video covering her face with her coat as she was escorted from an Ulsan police station to a car to be driven to the capital city. During her arrest, the woman vehemently denied any involvement when asked by local media if she would confess to the murders. “I didn’t do it,” she repeatedly told reporters, per Yonhap News Agency.

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Vaaelua confirmed that the apprehended suspect is the same woman who was believed to be the children's biological mother and who had arrived in South Korea several years ago and hadn't left the country since. The children's remains were found by an Auckland family in early August inside suitcases they had purchased at an auction among other contents of a storage locker. The victims were thought to be a girl and boy born in Auckland in 2009 and 2012 respectively. Investigators found the children's parents were both from Seoul, South Korea, and married in New Zealand.

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Vaaelua previously revealed the children were likely to have been between five and 10 years old when they died. He said investigators believed the children had been dead for three or four years and had been in the storage unit for a number of years. Police said last month that the storage company that sold the luggage in the auction had been fully cooperating with the investigation and assisted with inquiries into other items that may be linked to the suitcases. Authorities have repeatedly stressed that the family who purchased the suitcases had nothing to do with the children's deaths.  

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While extradition processes can take years, University of Canterbury law professor Neil Boister told Stuff that this case might move quickly. “I expect in this instance, because Korean authorities appear to be cooperating fully with NZ Police, the extradition will happen quite quickly and we’ll see her arriving in New Zealand soon,” he said. 

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Meanwhile, Auckland Councillor Daniel Newman told the NZ Herald he was extremely relieved by the development and lauded international police efforts. “The story of what happened to those young children needs to be told, and I’m hopeful that that will happen soon,” Newman, who oversees Manurewa-Papakura ward where the bodies were found, said. “It was an appalling situation and it was a great slight on the family and the community of Clendon (Park). So I’m very, very hopeful that this matter will be brought to a speedy conclusion because people need closure and our community needs to move on," he added.
 

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