Woman held in S Korea over bodies found in New Zealand suitcases

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Police say the woman is believed to be the mother of two children whose remains were found in suitcases in New Zealand last month.

Police in South Korea have arrested a woman believed to be the mother of two children whose bodies were found in abandoned suitcases in New Zealand last month.

The National Police Agency said the Korean-born New Zealander was taken into custody in the southeastern city of Ulsan on Thursday, after global agency Interpol issued a red notice. The woman, who is in her 40s, has been charged with murder.

The woman is suspected of fleeing to South Korea in 2018 after killing her then seven-year-old and 10-year-old children in Auckland, authorities said.

A South Korean court will now review whether to extradite her to New Zealand.

New Zealand police launched a homicide inquiry in Auckland last month after the remains of the children were found by a family going through the contents of a storage locker they had purchased unseen.

The family who found the bodies were not connected to the deaths.

The children had been dead for a number of years, and the suitcases had been in storage for at least three or four years, according to police.

Authorities say the woman arrested in South Korea could be the mother of the two victims, as her past address in New Zealand was registered to the storage unit where the suitcases were kept. The Yonhap news agency said the woman’s husband had previously died of a disease while in New Zealand.

New Zealand police said they have asked South Korean authorities to keep the woman in jail until she is extradited.

“To have someone in custody overseas within such a short period of time has all been down to the assistance of the Korean authorities and the coordination by our New Zealand Police Interpol staff,” Detective Inspector Tofilau Fa’amanuia Vaaelua said in a statement.

He said the investigation had been “very challenging” and that inquiries were continuing in New Zealand and abroad.

Vaaelua said police were not going to comment further as the matter was now before the courts. Authorities in New Zealand typically do not comment on pending court cases in order to avoid the possibility of influencing the outcome.

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