Mounting concern for missing woman

Mounting concern for missing woman

National News

Police are becoming increasingly concerned for 62-year-old Wellington woman Kaye Stewart who has been missing since Monday afternoon after failing to return for a walk in the Rimutaka Forest Park.

More than 40 searchers including helicopters, search dog, police divers, Flir (forward looking infra red) and aerial observers have so far found no sign of the lightly clad woman who was not equipped for nights in the open.

The main tracks, roadbanks and streambeds in the Catchpool and Wainui Coast Road area where Mrs Stewart was last seen have been extensively covered along with aerial sweeps out to the coast.

Sergeant Jo Holden, Wellington Police Search and Rescue Coordinator, say helicopter was used again this morning but has now been stood down. Seven field teams are still out searching including properties adjacent to the Catchpool area. The Police National Dive Squad has cleared the Catchpool Stream and is in the process of combing the Wainuiomata River.

"We're looking in every possible place in the search area to try and find Mrs Stewart or get an indication as to what direction she may have travelled," Sergeant Holden says. "It's been cold, wet and windy and not ideal for someone facing her third night in the open."

This afternoon seven investigators began an area canvass, knocking on doors of properties in the seven kilometre stretch of road between the Rimutaka Forest Park entrance and the coast.

Detective Senior Sergeant Soni Malaulau, head of Lower Hutt CIB, says the investigators are working in tandem with the search teams to try and find Mrs Stewart.

"Our involvement at this stage of the search doesn't indicate anything untoward," Detective Senior Sergeant Malaulau says. "This is a missing persons inquiry and it's standard practice for us to be involved and help firm up on sightings or background inquiries."

He's appealing for people living in the Wainui Coast Road area, or anyone who was walking, working or driving in the area between 10am and 2pm on Monday when Mrs Stewart was reported missing to contact the Lower Hutt duty CIB on telephone 04 560 2600.

"We'd also like people to search their properties and outbuildings in case Mrs Stewart is disoriented and lying injured somewhere."

Mrs Stewart, a keen walker although not a tramper, drove to the Rimutaka Forest Park visitor centre about 10.30am on Monday and spoke to Department of Conservation staff. Her intention was to walk for about an hour before returning to meet family in Wainuiomata.

The last sighting of Mrs Stewart was about 12.30pm when she spoke to a second DOC worker at the department's workshops on the Coast Road, about two 2km from where she had parked her car. Mrs Stewart was given directions of how to find the carpark but did not return to her vehicle.

She's described as 1.73m tall of medium build with grey hair. She is believed to be wearing dark trousers, a pink ribbed jersey, sandshoes and a possibly a dark coloured parka.

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