New Zealand ‘suitcase murders’: suspect is mother of child victims, court hears

<span>Photograph: Bae Byung-soo/AP</span>
Photograph: Bae Byung-soo/AP

A woman charged with the murder of two children whose bodies were found in suitcases earlier this year is their mother, a New Zealand court has heard as the suspect made her first appearance in the country.

Appearing at Manukau district court, Auckland, the 42-year-old stood quietly in the dock, wearing a light beige hooded jacket, before being remanded into custody without entering a plea.

She had arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday after being extradited by South Korean authorities, who said they had handed over “significant pieces of evidence” along with the suspect.

The woman’s identity will remain secret, at least until her next court appearance, which is scheduled for 14 December. She and the children are both covered by strict interim suppression orders preventing the publication of their names and some identifying details.

In court on Wednesday, she requested, via an interpreter, to speak to the judge but her lawyer intervened, saying: “Thank you, Your Honour. I think it would be best if perhaps she didn’t.” Judge Gus Andrēe Wiltens responded: “I agree.”

The bodies of the two young children, who were aged around five to 10 years, were hidden in suitcases for a number of years before an Auckland family bought the luggage in a storage facility’s online auction. They took the suitcases home in early August, before making the discovery and contacting police.

South Korea’s justice minister, Han Dong-hoon, issued an order for the woman’s extradition this month. The Seoul high court had earlier granted approval for her extradition after she expressed her consent in writing.

The woman has previously denied the charges, after she briefly appeared in public during transit to Seoul. In response to every question as she was transferred by police, the woman said: “I didn’t do it.”