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New Zealand Officials ID Children Found Dead In Suitcases Auctioned Off At Storage Unit

New Zealand Police say they are working with overseas agencies to determine what happened to two school-aged children believed to have been dead for several years. 

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Police in New Zealand say they’ve identified the bodies of two children found in suitcases earlier this month.

The remains of two primary school-aged children were discovered by the occupants of a South Auckland address on Aug. 11, according to a press release by New Zealand Police. The residents alerted authorities with the County Manukau District at around 1:30 p.m. after finding the body parts in the suitcases, which they’d collected at an auction during the clearing of a Papatoetoe storage unit, the BBC reported.

Investigators quickly looked into the case as a homicide, though the children’s causes of death have not been released.

The suitcases’ new owners were not investigated as having anything to do with the children’s deaths.

“Early indications suggest these children may have been deceased for a number of years before being found last week,” according to Detective Inspector Tofilau Faamanuia Vaaelua, County Manukau district crime manager.

According to CNN, the children were believed to be between 5 to 10 years old.

On Friday, police announced they identified the children but declined to release their names following an “interim non-publication order” by the coroner.

“This order suppresses the names of the children and their relatives and evidence that may lead to the identification of the two victims,” police stated. “Police are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of the children.”

Coroner reports allegedly indicate the non-publication order was requested by the children’s non-immediate family members to “prevent public speculation of the wider family’s involvement in the children’s deaths,” according to The New Zealand Herald.

The move was supported by local police, who claimed to be at a “critical part” of the investigation.

Inspector Vaaelua previously said authorities were making “very good progress” in following up with DNA inquiries to locate the children’s relatives, confirming they were still in New Zealand, according to the Herald.

Reports circulated that a woman believed to be the children’s mother was found in South Korea, Seoul police officials told CNN. The woman - who was not named - allegedly moved from New Zealand to South Korea in 2018, though New Zealand officials could not confirm the woman’s identity.

Officials from both countries are reportedly working together on the investigation through Interpol.

“We’ve commenced inquiries with overseas agencies,” said Inspector Vaaelua.

In a separate report, the children’s father died of cancer in 2017, before the children disappeared.

“This has been a harrowing episode that has brought intrigue and questions upon an innocent family and the Clendon community where they live,” said Manurewa-Papakura Ward Councilor Daniel Newman, according to the Herald.

Police stated they had yet to establish the when, where, and how of the case, adding the “nature of the discovery” provided “complexities to the investigation.”

“We are doing our best to conclude this inquiry and figure out what happened to these young children,” Inspector Vaaelua continued. “This is no easy investigation.”

Newman discussed how the grisly find had shaken the community, according to the Herald.

“The circumstances of their death needs to be understood, and anyone responsible needs to be held accountable,” said Newman. “But the Clendon community is not responsible. As I talk with residents in Clendon, there is a profound sense of disbelief that two children could be left in that way and a desire for answers as to how they died.”

Police say the investigation is ongoing, and they will continue releasing more information as it becomes available.

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