Local News

The mystery disappearance of Napier schoolgirl Kirsa Jensen

In 1983, Napier schoolgirl Kirsa Jensen went missing after taking her horse for a ride on the beach. For her mother Robyn, the search has never ended.

“If she’d been found, I could have cradled her in my arms and touched her and talked to her… done all the things a mother would do for her dead child. And I’d know she was dead.” – Kirsa’s mother, Robyn.

It was the first day of spring in 1983 when Kirsa Jensen saddled up her horse, Commodore, in the paddock by her family’s house in Napier and headed for the beach. The sky was velvet blue it was one of her favourite places to ride. But this time, only Commodore would come home.

The 14-year-old’s disappearance has become one of New Zealand’s most disturbing unsolved mysteries, placing her next to Mona Blades – the teenager who vanished hitchhiking home to Hastings – on that terrible roll call of lost girls.

Operation Jensen remains an open investigation and Kirsa’s mother Robyn has never given up believing that one day her daughter will be brought home.

“That’s the hope, that she will be found one day,” she says. “I hope it’s while I’m still alive. And as I get older, there’s an urgency about it… How much time have I got left to find her? As you’re racing through the years, you wonder, is time running out?

“Common sense tells you it’s 99.9 per cent likely that she is dead. I don’t think she’s been kidnapped and taken on a boat overseas, which was the kind of nonsense some people suggested in the early days. But there’s no proof she’s dead. None whatsoever. She is lost. And she’s still lost, after 33 years.”

In the latest issue of North & South, Joanna Wane – who grew up in Hawke’s Bay – revisits the scene of the crime that marked the end of what seemed a more innocent time in New Zealand, when families still trust the communities they lived in to keep their children safe.

Plus, senior writer Mike White talks to police and forensic scientists about the potential for new technology to solve cold cases, and profiles 10 of our most famous unsolved murders.

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