This month marks the 40th anniversary of one of New Zealand’s most enduring murder mysteries – the disappearance of Napier schoolgirl Kirsa Jensen.

Fourteen-year-old Kirsa went missing while riding her horse Commodore after school along the beachfront in Awatoto, Napier, on September 1, 1983.

Her disappearance sparked a large police investigation.

She was last seen with her horse at an old gun emplacement on Napier’s waterfront.

Kirsa’s body has never been found and no-one has ever been charged in relation to her disappearance.

To this day, her file remains open, and is held by Detective Sergeant Daryl Moore.

He said they still receive information about the case from members of the public two to three times a year.

“Someone might think of something, or finally come forward after feeling like something doesn’t sit right with them,” Moore said.

“We investigate all the information to see if it helps the case.”

Three years ago, Kirsa’s file, along with several other cold cases, were digitised by Eastern District Police.

Moore said putting all the data in an investigation into the Information Management Tool saves it in one place for centralised access.

“We can then easily cross-reference new information to see if it is in fact new, or links to other information we already have.”

Retired Assistant Commissioner Ian Holyoake led the original inquiry and from time to time visits the memorial to Kirsa at the last place she was seen. 

Holyoake, along with Moore, Detective Inspector Ross Pinkham, who was OC Suspects, and other officers who worked on the case planned to meet at the memorial on September 1 to remember Kirsa. 

Holyoake said it was a case that has really affected him. 

“I have never forgotten Kirsa Jensen, and I never will. I always live in hope that someone, someday will say something that will lead us to where she is, which would bring some relief and closure for the family.”

The memorial was originally built by Kirsa’s family and friends only a few months after her disappearance.

It is a simple plaque positioned near the place where her horse was left tied up that day at a gun emplacement long since demolished.

A young Pohutukawa was planted alongside it.

In 1999 Holyoke returned to Napier on his retirement, joining the Rotary Club of Ahuriri Sunrise a few years later.

In 2013 to mark the 30th anniversary of Kirsa’s disappearance, the Club decided to make over the Memorial, clearing the surroundings and planting more trees.

Napier City Council provided a variety of materials and a grant from Keep Napier Beautiful paid for four Pohutukawa trees.

Since then, Former District Governor Ian and fellow club members from Ahuriri Sunrise have carried out regular maintenance around the Memorial, sometimes in an organised group or sometimes just in passing.

It is in a spot on the beach front, just outside the city. Clearly visible from SH 2, it is a landmark to many who pass by regularly, by car or on foot or bicycle on the Rotary Pathway.

Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air


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