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Private investigator Bruce Currie speaks to Kaihere locals about Sara Niethe’s case. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Search reopens for Sara Niethe

The mystery surrounding Sara Niethe and the events following her murder on March 30, 2003, could all be solved with one phone call, a private investigator has said.
The Hauraki Plains mother-of-three was killed by Mark Pakenham at his home in Kaihere almost two decades ago. In 2013, Pakenham pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter after police recorded him saying he had fatally injected methamphetamine into Sara.
Three years later, he was released on parole but has refused to reveal where her body is, claiming that he cannot remember.
Bruce Currie, a private investigator and former Waikato CIB senior detective, said at a public meeting on December 15 that there were two main theories to the case.
The first was that Pakenham disposed of Sara and the vehicle she was driving, a 1987 Honda Civic hatchback, on his own.
“If he did it himself, he had to dispose of the vehicle and of Sara and get back home and be ready to go to work just after 7am on the Monday, so it doesn’t give him a lot of time,” Bruce said. “Based on that theory, the vehicle is somewhere local in Kaihere, close enough for him to walk home afterwards.”
The second theory was that someone helped him, and if that was the case, Bruce encouraged that person to anonymously contact him, saying “this could be solved with one phone call”.
“There’s a strong likelihood that Sara will be with the car. The car was Pakenham’s huge problem on the night,” Bruce said.
“What did he do with it? There’s not a lot of options. Dump it over the side of a bank? He’s still got to get home, and he’s still got to get to work by 7.20am.”
Back in the 1990s, Bruce was in charge of the Waikato Criminal Investigation Branch. After finishing up in 1999, he became a full-time rugby coach before starting a career in private investigation, working on cases throughout New Zealand.
When Covid-19 hit, Bruce picked up the threads of Sara’s case and, with the support from her family, reopened the search for her body. He is hoping to enlist help from Search and Rescue but will need the Kaihere community to come on board and assist behind the scenes.
He is also appealing to farmers, hunters, and former residents who may know a place Pakenham would be able to conceal a body for 20 years.
Sara’s daughter, Simone Niethe, attended the public meeting and said the renewed interest in her mother’s death was at times hard to overcome.
“It just opens up so much that you want to lock away,” she said. “We don’t want to open it up and find nothing again.”
DETAILS: Contact Bruce about the case: Ph 027 844 1349, email, or visit Information can also be provided to The Profile.