Thirty years after the mysterious disappearance of Auckland teenager Joanne Chatfield, police are making fresh moves to solve the case.
“Joe” Chatfield, 17, was last seen around midnight on November 19, 1988, when she left a gig at Auckland University in Princes St. A cover story in North & South in November revealed new information in the case, when police disclosed that another young woman at the same concert was abducted at knifepoint and raped hours before Chatfield went missing. They believe the incidents are linked.
Detective Senior Sergeant Shaun Vickers, of Counties Manukau East CIB, says police are determined to do everything possible to confirm Chatfield’s fate and finally bring closure to her family.
“We know there are people out there with information that will help us finally solve this case. Relationships and loyalties change over time and our hope is that someone who has knowledge of Joanne’s fate, whether they were connected at the time or told information later, will do what’s best for Joanne and her family and come forward to police. We have not given up hope, and we have been able to solve similar cases in the past where new information is brought to our attention decades later.”
He says the reward will be paid for material information or evidence which leads to the identity and conviction of any person or people responsible for any crime committed against Chatfield since she was last seen. He says immunity against prosecution will be considered for any accomplice who provides information or evidence to police, who is not the main offender.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush will determine the amount of the reward given, and apportion payment if there is more than one claimant. The reward will remain in force until May 4, 2019.
At an inquest in 2008, Auckland Coroner Murray Jamieson concluded Chatfield had probably met with foul play and was dead. A $50,000 reward offered in 2007 failed to produce any new information.
Detective Sergeant Len Leleni, who was in charge of a reinvestigation of the case that ran for about three years from 2005, believes the man who abducted and raped the woman on the same night is likely to be the same person responsible for Chatfield’s disappearance.
“If we find one, there is a good chance we will find the other. For something like that to happen on that night, at that time, what are the chances? And it’s the most obvious connection. We have to be careful not to say they are one and the same. But you could say with a reasonable degree of confidence that there could be a connection between them.”
The woman had been too traumatised by the attack at the time to go to police, but finally disclosed what had happened when the reinvestigation team were interviewing concert-goers. Friends and family of Chatfield, who was into punk music and animal rights, told North & South the first inquiry into her disappearance had not been rigorous enough, because she was treated as a runaway.
Joe’s mother Claire Chatfield says when police called “out of the blue” to say the inquiry was being reopened in the mid-2000s, they told her it had been “mishandled” and “they had found things that should have been done that weren’t. I felt judgement calls had been made because of how she dressed.”
Anyone with information is urged to contact their nearest police station. Information can also be given anonymously to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111.