Body in torched car: Teen homicide victim’s journey to ‘final resting place’


Police return to the scene of the body-in-car discovery in the Hawke’s Bay homicide investigation. Video / Supplied

The grieving family of slain Hawke’s Bay teen Ariki Rigby have begun their heart-breaking journey to take her to her “final resting place”.

Hundreds of people farewelled the 18-year-old during a “celebration of life” ceremony in Hastings yesterday. The funeral was preceded by a motorbike ride in her honour.

Today is two weeks since Rigby’s body was shoved behind the driver’s seat of a car which was then torched in a carpark on the outskirts of Havelock North.

Rigby’s cousin and family spokesperson, Michael Ngahuka, this morning revealed she was today being driven to Tauranga which would be “her final resting place”. She will be laid to rest alongside other family members.

About 700 people packed the Ascend Global Church on Friday for Rigby’s funeral.

Those to speak included her older sister Anahera Rigby, who said the family would “overcome this”.

A haka is performed during Ariki Rigby's funeral in Hastings on Friday. Photo / Warren Buckland
A haka is performed during Ariki Rigby’s funeral in Hastings on Friday. Photo / Warren Buckland

“We are going to live for you,” Anahera Rigby said. “We are going to live and smile and be happy because you will be telling us this.

“Every time I called you that is what you would say… you would pick me up every time I called you.”

She said the family loved Ariki “very much”.

She said everyone knew the teen was “hard” – “she was a hard woman but that was why we loved her”.

Ariki Rigby's older sister said the teen was "hard", but her family loved her for who she was. Photo / Supplied
Ariki Rigby’s older sister said the teen was “hard”, but her family loved her for who she was. Photo / Supplied

“We loved her for who she was – every bad and every good,” she said.

“Our family is all together just like you would have wanted, sister.”

Ngahuka also spoke at the funeral, paying tribute to his younger cousin and said he also prayed that those that were suffering would know “the peace that surpasses all understanding” which comes from God, and for justice for Ariki.

“We the community want to say we love you, we the nation say we love you today, and want to embrace you.”

He also called on anyone close to the perpetrators to speak up.

“I hate this. Hate is a strong word – but for this occasion, it is not strong enough. It is gross. It is inhumane. It is traumatic. This is pure evil. This is demonic.”

Pastor Michael Ngahuka takes a prayer session with the group before leaving Napier to escort the hearse for Ariki Rigby's funeral. Photo / Warren Buckland
Pastor Michael Ngahuka takes a prayer session with the group before leaving Napier to escort the hearse for Ariki Rigby’s funeral. Photo / Warren Buckland

On the eve of the funeral, the well-known Hawke’s Bay pastor told whoever was responsible for the 18-year-old’s death that “you reap what you sow”.

Ngahuka published a lengthy post on social media, which also features a picture of his beloved younger relative, with the words: “My little cousin – to whom ever did this you reap what you sow. I pray God is merciful to you.”

The 18-year-old’s body was found by a dog walker in a burnt-out car in a rural Havelock North carpark on September 5 – two days after police had initially checked out the wreck.

At first the case was treated as an “unexplained death”, before being upgraded to a homicide investigation late last week.

Police confirmed on Tuesday that the body of a woman found in a car which had been torched in the Riverside Road Recreational Reserve’s gravel carpark was that of Ariki Rigby.

Officers were first alerted to the wreck on the morning of Saturday September 3 but they did not realise that burned remains inside it were those of a human, instead believing they were of an animal.

A dog walker who had a closer look at the car two days later realised they were human and called police.

Family members and friends had been searching for the 18-year-old since they last had contact with her in late August.

Several floral tributes laid at the spot where a car including Ariki Rigby's body was torched on the outskirts of Havelock North. Photo / Neil Reid
Several floral tributes laid at the spot where a car including Ariki Rigby’s body was torched on the outskirts of Havelock North. Photo / Neil Reid

According to a friend, Rigby had last been seen on September 2 in the Napier/Hastings area.

One of her social media accounts includes a photo of her posing with patched Mongrel Mob Flaxmere members on August 27.

Several bunches of flowers have been laid over recent days where Rigby’s body was found.

One bunch in a white plastic bowl has the words “We’re sorry”.

Balloons and flowers at the carpark in Havelock North where the body of Ariki Rigby was found in a burnt-out car. Photo / Neil Reid
Balloons and flowers at the carpark in Havelock North where the body of Ariki Rigby was found in a burnt-out car. Photo / Neil Reid

Red and black balloons have also been tied to a pole in the carpark.

Rigby is a former student of Whanganui Girls’ College. She told friends shortly before her death that she was planning to record an album.

Police today said they were “following strong lines of enquiry” and they again renewed calls for anyone with information to come forward.

Police hunt for any evidence three days after they were first notified of a burnt-out car at River Road Recreational Reserve. Photo / Neil Reid
Police hunt for any evidence three days after they were first notified of a burnt-out car at River Road Recreational Reserve. Photo / Neil Reid

That includes wanting to hear from anyone who saw a mid-90s dark grey Toyota Corona or people in the River Rd area between 10pm on September 2 and 7am on September 3.

The burned-out vehicle that contained the woman’s body was discovered on Saturday September 3.

The car remained there over the weekend until the following Monday, September 5, when the dog walker, Hastings man Kevin Monrad, took a closer look and found the body, alerting police to take a closer look.

Police said an initial report from a member of the public was that the burned-out car contained animal remains.

Monrad took a closer look at the vehicle when he was walking past last Monday, and said it was obvious the body in the back was human after noticing shoulder-length hair and a silver necklace.

The carpark at the centre of the homicide investigation is located near some of Hawke's Bay's top vineyards. Photo / Neil Reid
The carpark at the centre of the homicide investigation is located near some of Hawke’s Bay’s top vineyards. Photo / Neil Reid

He said it appeared she had suffered multiple bone breaks and fractures.

The Hastings man when he had inspected the vehicle he had “noticed inside the car what to me looked like a corpse”.

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On closer view he discovered a woman’s body which was lying “face down behind the driver’s seat”.

He said it was clear that she had multiple bone fractures consistent with someone who had been badly “beaten”.



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