Bodies in suitcases suspect extradited to New Zealand

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea extradited a 42-year-old woman to New Zealand, two months after she was arrested following the discovery of the bodies of two long-dead children in abandoned suitcases.

New Zealand police said the woman arrived at Auckland Airport on Tuesday after they sent three officers to South Korea to bring her back.

They said she will be held in jail overnight and is to appear Wednesday at Manukau District Court, where she will face two murder charges.

The case horrified many people in New Zealand after the children’s bodies were discovered in August when an Auckland family bought abandoned goods, including two suitcases, from a storage unit in an online auction.

“The investigation team would like to acknowledge the assistance from agencies both in New Zealand and South Korea, which has meant we have been able to put an alleged offender before the court,” Detective Inspector Tofilau Fa’amanuia Vaaelua said in a statement.

South Korea’s Justice Ministry said the unidentified woman was handed over to New Zealand authorities on Monday evening at the Incheon international airport near Seoul. The ministry said it also provided New Zealand with unspecified “important evidence” in the case.

“With the extradition, we hope that the truth of the case, which has garnered worldwide attention, will be revealed through the fair and strict judicial process of New Zealand,” it said in a statement.

South Korean Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon issued an order for the woman’s extradition earlier this month. The Seoul High Court had earlier granted approval of her extradition after she expressed her consent in writing to be sent back to New Zealand.

South Korean police arrested the woman at a southern port city in September, based on a domestic court warrant issued after New Zealand requested her provisional arrest. New Zealand’s Justice Ministry then submitted a formal request for her extradition to the South Korean ministry.

New Zealand police said the South Korean warrant for the suspect’s arrest was in connection with two murder charges.

The children were between 5 and 10 years old, had been dead for years, and the suitcases had been in storage in Auckland for at least three or four years, according to New Zealand police.

South Korean police say the woman was born in South Korea and later moved to New Zealand, where she gained citizenship. Immigration records show she returned to South Korea in 2018.

South Korean police have said it was suspected she 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. A New Zealand coroner has put in place a temporary order preventing the publication of the names of the two victims.

___

Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.