Body-in-suitcases suspect appears in New Zealand court

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A woman who was extradited from South Korea this week after the bodies of her two children were found in abandoned suitcases made her first court appearance in New Zealand on Wednesday.

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The 42-year-old woman has been charged with two counts of murder. She was not required to enter a plea during the brief procedural hearing in the Manukau District Court.

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The judge imposed an interim order that keeps many details of the case secret, including the names of the woman and the victims. The judge cleared to report that the suspect was the children’s mother, according to the New Zealand Herald.

If convicted, the woman faces a mandatory life sentence, although she becomes eligible for parole after a minimum of 10 years.

In court, the woman wore a beige jacket over a black t-shirt. According to the Herald, the woman, through an interpreter, asked the judge if she could speak to him, before the woman’s lawyer intervened to say it would be best if she didn’t, which the judge accepted.

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The woman left the courtroom after less than five minutes and will remain in jail until her next court appearance on December 14.

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

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

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

South Korean police first arrested the woman in a southern port city in September. The Seoul High Court later approved her extradition after she expressed her written consent to be returned to New Zealand. Earlier this month, South Korean Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon ordered the woman’s extradition.

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The woman was handed over to three New Zealand police officers Monday night at Incheon International Airport near Seoul. South Korea’s justice ministry said it had also provided New Zealand with unspecified « significant evidence » in the case.

« With the extradition, we hope that the truth of this case, which has captured the attention of the world, will be revealed through a fair and strict New Zealand judicial process, » the ministry said in a statement. a statement.

South Korean police had said it was suspected the woman could be the mother of the two victims, as her old address in New Zealand was recorded in the storage unit where the suitcases were kept.

New Zealand authorities have said the family who ended up buying the abandoned suitcases and other storage items had nothing to do with the case.

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