THE LES­LEY CALVERT COLD CASE: 40 YEARS OF TOR­MENT

Forty years ago, Les­ley Calvert’s body was found on a steep hill­side within sight of the farm­house she shared with her hus­band and three young chil­dren. She had dis­ap­peared seven months and 10 days ear­lier. Ex­ten­sive searches had failed to find her. Suspi

North & South - - Cover Story - CHRIS BIRT IS A NORTH & SOUTH CON­TRIBUT­ING WRITER. PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY KEN DOWNIE.

Lind­say Calvert is a man of the land – a farmer and pos­sum trap­per, a one-time chain­saw-rac­ing cham­pion. For years, he ran sheep and cat­tle on the rugged, wind- scoured hills of North Taranaki. His back story is one many ru­ral folk can re­late to: long hours turn­ing steep, un­for­giv­ing hill coun­try into pas­ture; re­lent­less fi­nan­cial pres­sure and iso­la­tion.

Lind­say Calvert, 78, is also a man tor­mented by the past and ag­grieved by the present. For al­most as long as he’s been tam­ing those bluffs, he’s been trapped in a quag­mire of grief, bit­ter­ness and frus­tra­tion. He’s a stoic man, used to hold­ing back emo­tion, but real anger sur­faces from time to time. And it’s had 40 years to smoul­der.

Lind­say’s real-life hor­ror show be­gan on Fe­bru­ary 2, 1977, when his wife Les­ley walked out of their farm­house at re­mote Waikawau, north-west of Awakino, and into cold-case his­tory. It’s a sad saga that in­volves the loss of a wife and mother in bizarre cir­cum­stances and po­lice ef­forts to pin the crime on Lind­say, although the ev­i­dence led to some­one else.

Les­ley Yeates and Lind­say Calvert were mar­ried in 1962. She came from Eg­mont Vil­lage, south of New Ply­mouth, while he grew up in Waikawau, with a sin­gle road in and out. Pros­per­ity had largely eluded the Calverts, as it had many in that post-war era.

They met through a love of ta­ble ten­nis, a sport at which Les­ley ex­celled, ris­ing to na­tional ju­nior cham­pi­onship level. Their first en­counter wasn’t promis­ing: the young Calvert later learned Les­ley had found him “too old” for her lik­ing (there was a four-year age dif­fer­ence).

Three years later, they mar­ried. Their wed­ding night was spent in the tiny Urenui Ho­tel, a stopover on their way to Taupo, where they made a home to­gether. Daugh­ters Denise and Sandra were born in the lake­side set­tle­ment, where life re­volved around Lind­say’s role man­ag­ing a farm­ing and forestry equip­ment shop, and rais­ing a fam­ily. Les­ley took time out to hone her tableten­nis skills and Lind­say learned to fly, se­cur­ing his pri­vate pi­lot’s li­cence. En­dur­ing friend­ships were made.

Back at Waikawau, the health of Lind­say’s fa­ther, Doug, was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. Chronic arthri­tis hin­dered his abil­ity to work the dry-stock prop­erty he’d spent his life carv­ing from the bush. Lind­say and Les­ley felt they had no choice but to move back to the fam­ily farm. They ar­rived in 1968, and the fol­low­ing year, son Greg was born. With hind­sight, Lind­say can see their re­turn was likely to pose prob­lems. The fam­ily farm was run­down in parts, with few bound­ary fences, and those that ex­isted were of­ten not stock­proof. And there wasn’t enough cash flow to feed one fam­ily, let alone two.

The farm prop­er­ties at Waikawau then, as now, could be counted on one hand. Among them, Nukuhakari Sta­tion – once owned by early 20th-cen­tury Taranaki en­tre­pre­neur and mer­chant New­ton King – stood out as a bea­con of what real money could achieve. Sur­round­ing this coastal spread stood a num­ber of smaller fam­ily-owned, hill-coun­try runs, one of them be­long­ing to the Calverts.

Lind­say and Les­ley made ends meet as best as they could, sup­ple­ment­ing their skimpy farm in­come with pos­sum trap­ping and fenc­ing jobs; Lind­say also re­paired equip­ment and ma­chin­ery for neigh­bours. So­cial life cen­tred on Whare­orino School, the com­mu­nity hall and the pony club; once a month, they’d drive to New Ply­mouth to pay bills and

buy sup­plies – if the sin­gle-lane, un­sealed road to Awakino wasn’t blocked by slips or floods, as it of­ten was.

In 1970, Lind­say helped es­tab­lish the Tainui Lions Club, where he served as char­ter pres­i­dent. His work for the fledg­ling club was recog­nised: in 1972 he was named an in­ter­na­tional Lion of the Year, the first time this had been awarded to any­one in the South­ern Hemi­sphere. Dark clouds were loom­ing, how­ever.

As Lind­say tells it, the ex­pec­ta­tion that the fam­ily farm would be­come one of the best in the dis­trict al­ways weighed heav­ily upon him. “Dad had this dream about the farm,” he says. “He put the farm first, sec­ond, through to 10th and ev­ery­thing else came after that. I tended to do the same, be­cause the farm had to sus­tain two fam­i­lies.”

Long days on the farm, late nights in Awakino at­tend­ing Lions’ meet­ings and a fail­ure to pay enough at­ten­tion to his wife took a toll. In early 1975, Lind­say learned Les­ley was hav­ing an af­fair with the man­ager of Nukuhakari Sta­tion, John Gray. He says now he should have recog­nised the signs ear­lier.

In her his­tory of 100 years of Nukuhakari Sta­tion, Adri­enne Tatham records that, early in 1975, Gray made a move into quar­ter horses, buy­ing a stal­lion he named Nuku Hua­rau. Tatham, a grand­daugh­ter of Taranaki mer­chant New­ton King, writes that Les­ley Calvert was one of the first in the dis­trict to line up her mare for a ser­vice from the new ar­rival. It wasn’t long after that Lind­say learned of the af­fair be­tween Gray and his wife.

To­day, Gray might be de­scribed as a se­rial wom­an­iser. As long-time res­i­dents of the dis­trict re­count, Nukuhakari Sta­tion was his fief­dom. He worked hard to de­velop the prop­erty for its own­ers, but also spent many hours drink­ing at the Awakino ho­tel, of­ten boast­ing of his con­quests.

Lind­say is still ag­i­tated by the af­fair. He makes no se­cret of the anger and hurt that came from hav­ing to sign doc­u­ments agree­ing to a ter­mi­na­tion after Les­ley fell preg­nant to Gray; his con­sent was legally re­quired at the time. And the af­fair con­tin­ued, de­spite Les­ley’s res­o­lute as­sur­ances to her hus­band that it would end.

“I have to ac­cept some re­spon­si­bil­ity for what went on be­tween Les­ley and Gray,” he says. “I do think Les­ley felt ne­glected… that she was play­ing sec­ond fid­dle to the farm. She was a so­cial per­son. I wouldn’t say that be­ing on the farm in­hib­ited her in­ter­ests, but some­thing was ob­vi­ously miss­ing in our re­la­tion­ship.”

Lind­say says the af­fair, the preg­nancy and the mis­trust led to ar­gu­ments. “We’d talked of sep­a­rat­ing. It’s not a se­cret. It was an un­ten­able sit­u­a­tion for me. I could have left her, but I thought things would set­tle down, and we had three kids.”

On the morn­ing of Fe­bru­ary 2, 1977, the cou­ple had a dis­agree­ment over whether to buy a new lawn­mower.

“I do think Les­ley felt ne­glected… She was a so­cial per­son. I wouldn’t say that be­ing on the farm in­hib­ited her in­ter­ests, but some­thing was ob­vi­ously miss­ing in our re­la­tion­ship.”

Lind­say in­sists it was noth­ing sig­nif­i­cant and re­jects any con­tention it was the cat­a­lyst for what fol­lowed.

The day had be­gun as nor­mal. Les­ley got the chil­dren, then aged 11, 10 and seven, ready for school and dropped them off there, a few kilo­me­tres down the road to­ward Awakino. When she re­turned, she and Lind­say drank cof­fee to­gether.

When neigh­bour Tom Moetu ar­rived around 10am to get a trac­tor tyre punc­ture re­paired, Lind­say left the house and walked down the drive­way to his im­ple­ment shed. Les­ley was stand­ing in their son’s small bed­room. He says that was the last time he saw her alive.

When Lind­say and Moetu re­turned to the house around 11am, Les­ley was nowhere to be found. At lunchtime, there was still no sign. Lind­say drove up Man­ga­toa Rd to where a bull­dozed track led to Nukuhakari Sta­tion, think­ing his wife might be head­ing there. At 3pm, he col­lected the chil­dren from school – some­thing that usu­ally Les­ley would do – and, as dusk de­scended on the lit­tle val­ley, he phoned the po­lice at Awakino.

Over the next five days, po­lice, search and res­cue, lo­cal farm­ers, friends and fam­ily combed the dis­trict. A search cen­tre was es­tab­lished in the old cot­tage next to the Calvert fam­ily home. A dog squad was brought in. A light air­craft spent two days sweep­ing the dense bush­land sur­round­ing the Calvert farm and along the coast­line.

Po­lice be­lieved, in those early days of what was to be an ex­ten­sive search oper­a­tion, that Les­ley Calvert was some­one who did not want to be found. The source of this be­lief ap­pears to be a state­ment from Gray’s wife, Nancy, who re­ported that the day she dis­ap­peared, Les­ley had phoned her at 10.15am to apol­o­gise for the hurt she’d caused and to say she was “go­ing”.

Three days ear­lier, Nancy said, she’d told Les­ley – a woman with whom she was oth­er­wise on “good neigh­bourly terms” – that the af­fair had to stop.

Nancy’s de­po­si­tion to coro­ner Arthur Middleton in Novem­ber 1977 about Les­ley Calvert’s state of mind the day she dis­ap­peared is re­veal­ing. “Les­ley sounded her usual, nor­mal self and I spoke with her in a friendly man­ner. I did not hon­estly be­lieve Les­ley meant what she said to me on the phone about leav­ing. Apart from any­thing else, I be­lieved she loved her chil­dren too much to do any­thing like that and, in fact, she made the com­ment on the phone that she loved her kids.”

Nancy, her un­faith­ful hus­band John, and the se­nior Calverts were all sub­ject to po­lice scru­tiny while the of­fi­cial ground search went on, day after day, with no re­sult. Lind­say Calvert, how­ever, came un­der the most pres­sure.

Two days into the search, he drew the wrath of po­lice bosses. Dur­ing the evening de­brief, they were ad­vised that a good friend of his, Taupo he­li­copter pi­lot Rusty Nairn, would be there at 7.30 the next morn­ing with enough fuel for a day’s fly­ing – at no cost – to as­sist in the search. The po­lice re­sponse angers Lind­say to this day.

“[Dis­trict Com­man­der Su­per­in­ten­dent Jim] Waugh started shout­ing and told me this was a po­lice con­trol zone and no he­li­copters would be al­lowed in. Things got pretty heated and I think that’s where I got off­side, but I did phone

Rusty to tell him he couldn’t come.”

By Sun­day of that week, six days after Les­ley’s dis­ap­pear­ance, the of­fi­cial search was over. The big po­lice con­tin­gent headed back to New Ply­mouth, leav­ing a sergeant in the Calverts’ cot­tage, a few me­tres down the drive­way from their house. The lo­cal farm­ers and search and res­cue vol­un­teers dis­persed, and life re­turned to nor­mal in the Waikawau val­ley – for ev­ery­one but the dis­tressed and be­wil­dered Calverts.

New Ply­mouth’s Daily News re­ported that 40 peo­ple had been in­volved in the ground search. Lind­say says this was only the of­fi­cial con­tin­gent. With fam­ily mem­bers, friends and vol­un­teers from all over Taranaki, the num­ber was more like 100. But to all in­tents and pur­poses, Les­ley had van­ished, tak­ing no pos­ses­sions, no money, no per­sonal items, no food and only the clothes she was wear­ing.

The in­quiry ap­pears then to have moved to a much lower gear. While friends and re­la­tions kept search­ing the farm and sur­round­ing ar­eas, the Calverts cam­paigned to have what was then a miss­ing per­son in­quiry el­e­vated to a homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tion. When Taranaki MP David Thom­son be­gan get­ting heat from the se­nior Calverts, the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Branch be­came fully en­gaged.

In April, two months after Les­ley dis­ap­peared, New Ply­mouth de­tec­tives drove into Waikawau and spent a week tak­ing state­ments from ev­ery­one with any con­nec­tion to the miss­ing woman. Among those in­ter­viewed were John and Nancy Gray, those who had seen and talked with Les­ley in the days be­fore she dis­ap­peared, and a very reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to the fam­ily home, a worker from a nearby farm who had sud­denly and in­ex­pli­ca­bly stopped com­ing.

It ap­pears po­lice dis­missed this lo­cal farm worker from the in­quiry quickly. A state­ment from lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor De­tec­tive Bob Stevens ob­serves he was a “weak char­ac­ter” and had noth­ing to do with Les­ley’s dis­ap­pear­ance. (For a more de­tailed ex­am­i­na­tion of the man we’ll call X, see the sup­port­ing ar­ti­cle, A Stone Un­turned?, on page 56.)

Lind­say be­lieves the orig­i­nal squad of de­tec­tives came with a fix­a­tion that he was the likely mur­derer, and that this had been per­pe­trated by CIB boss Bruce Ramsay (who died in 2009). An old-school cop, Ramsay had only just be­come the top de­tec­tive in Taranaki. “I’m bloody sure Ramsay de­cided very early on that I’d killed Les­ley,” says Lind­say.

Po­lice tac­tics in the in­quiry that fol­lowed seem, at best, ques­tion­able, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing a fam­ily was still griev­ing for a miss­ing wife and mother.

Sev­eral months after Les­ley dis­ap­peared, the King Coun­try Chron­i­cle re­ported her body had been found washed up on a lo­cal beach. When Lind­say con­tacted the news­pa­per, he was told the in­for­ma­tion for this re­port – which was un­true – had been pro­vided by the po­lice. Fu­ri­ous at this dis­clo­sure, he drove to the New Ply­mouth sta­tion. There, he says, Ramsay told him he had po­lice watch­ing the farm as he was con­vinced Lind­say would lead them to his wife’s body once he read the news­pa­per re­port.

The fo­cus on Lind­say – and what he claims was a dis­tinct lack of ac­tion on in­for­ma­tion about other po­ten­tial sus­pects – was re­vealed by two par­tic­u­lar po­lice op­er­a­tions.

On July 12, 1977, a con­tin­gent of 17 that in­cluded po­lice with dogs, a fire en­gine and crew from the New Ply­mouth brigade and a lo­cal doc­tor ar­rived at the Calvert farm. Prompted by a re­port from the coun­cil hy­datids of­fi­cer that flies had been seen swarm­ing around the Calverts’ of­fal pits, the squad brought in a 20-tonne dig­ger and spent most of the day ex­ca­vat­ing. Fences were pulled down and the yard left a sod­den mess, with no at­tempt to re­pair the dam­age. The pits of­fered no ev­i­dence of Les­ley. Ap­par­ently blood-stained light­shades were then seized from a bed­room dur­ing a search of the Calvert house. Test­ing showed the “blood” on them was not blood at all.

Some weeks later, a dawn raid was ex­e­cuted. More de­tec­tives ar­rived, with a wa­ter-di­vin­ing ex­po­nent in tow. Lind­say says he was never told the rea­son for the wa­ter diviner’s pres­ence. He’d been to Bulls for a sem­i­nar for hon­orary fish­eries rangers the day be­fore and ar­rived back at Waikawau in the early hours of the morn­ing. “I’d only had a few hours’ sleep and was still in bed when they turned up. I of­fered to help but [De­tec­tive] Bob Stevens told me in no un­cer­tain terms I wasn’t wanted, so I went back to bed. They headed up the hill be­hind the house and came back after search­ing the bush for most of the day, with no re­sult.”

On Septem­ber 12, there was a dra­matic de­vel­op­ment. “I’d been over at Kirite­here fur­ther up the Man­ga­toa Road, skin­ning pos­sums,” Lind­say re­calls. “I got home and a lo­cal pos­sum trap­per, Dar­ryl Hicks, walked out from my house and asked what sort of a day I’d had. I said I’d had a bas­tard of a day as the pigs had found my [ pos­sum] line and eaten them all, leav­ing just the skins. Dar­ryl said he’d had a bas­tard of a day, too – he’d found Les­ley.”

Amid a fresh surge of grief came dis­be­lief. Lind­say learned that Hicks, who’d been lay­ing cyanide baits for pos­sums up the south­ern bound­ary fence on the Calvert farm, had found Les­ley’s re­mains within 700m as the crow flies of the house – and in an area that had been re­peat­edly searched. She was clad in the rem­nants of the clothes that she had been wear­ing the day she dis­ap­peared, in­clud­ing a bright or­ange­coloured jumper. What stood out – yet was bizarrely dis­missed by po­lice – was the footwear on the body: two size-nine men’s gumboots, one old and one new. Les­ley never wore gumboots, and the brown leather shoes Lind­say says his wife had on the day she dis­ap­peared were never found.

Grief and dis­be­lief soon turned to anger. “The kids were asleep so I de­cided I’d tell them in the morn­ing. It was the hard­est thing I’ve ever done in my life. Then I sent them to school. I wanted them at school be­cause I knew the place was go­ing to be over­run by cops.”

On Novem­ber 15, two months after Les­ley’s re­mains were re­cov­ered from the hill­side over­look­ing the farm­house,

coro­ner Arthur Middleton con­vened an in­quest in New Ply­mouth.

Sworn state­ments were re­ceived and wit­nesses cross-ex­am­ined. At the end of that day, Middleton de­liv­ered his find­ing: “That Les­ley Mary Calvert died in a pad­dock off the Man­ga­toa Road, Waikawau near Awakino on or about the sec­ond day of Fe­bru­ary 1977 from causes which can­not be demon­strated.”

The ev­i­dence put be­fore the coro­ner on that day was con­tra­dic­tory. His find­ing has caused anger in the Calvert fam­ily ever since. De­tec­tive Sergeant Bert Lowen told the in­quest: “Up­set over her af­fair, Les­ley had gone to the rear of the prop­erty with no food. Worry and lack of food caused her to come out of the bush on the [im­me­di­ately ad­join­ing] Anselmi Block along the cat­tle track. She was so weak­ened she slipped and col­lapsed or sim­ply laid down and died.”

This state­ment ap­pears to be at odds with the thrust of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion prior to the find­ing of Les­ley’s re­mains. From April to Septem­ber, in­ves­ti­ga­tors had homed in on Lind­say, us­ing all means avail­able to pres­sure him into a con­fes­sion. Lowen’s state­ment also runs counter to ev­i­dence avail­able be­fore the coro­ner opened his in­quest, some of which was not put in front of him by po­lice.

Sev­eral weeks after be­ing forced to stand down, Rusty Nairn had flown his he­li­copter from Taupo to the Calvert farm, with the fuel re­quired to spend the day search­ing. With the doors off and Lind­say by his side, he flew the farm for five hours. The fence line that marked the south­ern bound­ary be­tween the Calverts’ pas­ture land and the Anselmi bush block came in for spe­cial at­ten­tion, as the search con­troller in Fe­bru­ary had ex­pressed the view that had Les­ley in­tended to hide out in the bush, she would have crossed this fence line.

Re­call­ing the he­li­copter search, Lind­say says: “We flew up that steep fence line low and slow. I was look­ing straight down from just above the height of the manuka. I can tell you that Les­ley was not there, just as the orig­i­nal searchers and oth­ers told the coro­ner later.”

Over suc­ces­sive weeks and months, oth­ers had also crawled their way up the same hill, an ex­haust­ing process given the one-in-three gra­di­ent.

Lo­cal farmer Grant Thomp­son and his for­mer po­lice dog stood within five me­tres of the ex­act lo­ca­tion twice in one day on March 17, 1977, watched by Lind­say and a friend. Bob Calvert, Lind­say’s un­cle, walked the bound­ary fence in April. Lo­cal res­i­dent Naw­ton Telfer was an­other: “Two or three months at least after she went miss­ing, we again went up that fence line and she wasn’t there.”

It’s ac­cepted that the coro­ner did not have the ben­e­fit of tes­ti­mony from th­ese wit­nesses. But Middleton did have the sworn state­ments of three of the orig­i­nal searchers.

Alec Draper was a 40-year vet­eran of search and res­cue op­er­a­tions and a Taranaki Alpine Club leader. He served as search ad­vi­sor and field con­troller at the Calvert farm for the five days of the ini­tial, mas­sive hunt. “I’m now aware of where the body was fi­nally dis­cov­ered and it is cor­rect to say this area was con­sid­ered to be the sec­ond great­est area of prob­a­bil­ity dur­ing the search,” records his de­po­si­tion to the coro­ner in Novem­ber 1977.

“To that end, I had di­rected searchers to cover that area on more than one oc­ca­sion. On the first day of the search, Fe­bru­ary 3, 1977, the fence line where the de­ceased was later found was searched, as it was on the sec­ond and third days. Staff were in­structed to walk all the bound­ary lines of the Calvert farm, to look for signs where the de­ceased may have left her own prop­erty to go into the bush. I am of the opin­ion that dur­ing the search, the de­ceased was not in the po­si­tion where her body was later found. There is no doubt in my mind that if she had been, she would have been found.”

Vol­un­teer searcher Martin Hawkes and Con­sta­ble Pete Saun­ders also climbed the same fence line and tes­ti­fied sim­i­larly to the coro­ner. So, mul­ti­ple, metic­u­lous searches by po­lice and vol­un­teers up and

down this fence line in Fe­bru­ary, March, April and the mid­dle of June found no sign of the miss­ing woman. Lind­say also searched the area dur­ing this time, some­times alone, some­times with oth­ers.

In a sworn state­ment pro­duced for the coro­ner’s in­quest, De­tec­tive Bob Stevens pro­vided sce­nar­ios that con­tinue to be questioned. New Ply­mouth-based Stevens joined the Calvert in­quiry on April 11, 1977, trav­el­ling to Waikawau and spend­ing a week on in­quiries in the dis­trict. After that, his state­ment records, he was ac­tively en­gaged in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The three pos­si­bil­i­ties po­lice ini­tially con­sid­ered were this: that Les­ley Calvert had left the dis­trict of her own free will and was liv­ing in parts un­known; that she had re­moved her­self to some place where she had ei­ther taken her own life or died from ex­haus­tion; or that she had been mur­dered.

“It has not been pos­si­ble for the po­lice to reach a def­i­nite con­clu­sion as to how the de­ceased died,” Stevens con­cluded. “There are two likely prob­a­bil­i­ties that could be reached from re­con­struc­tion of what has been found upon dis­cov­ery of the de­ceased’s body. The pathol­o­gist has sug­gested the de­ceased chose this spot, where she died and took her own life by use of some rapidly-act­ing poi­son. [The de­po­si­tion of Dr Den­nis Allen, who per­formed the post- mortem ex­am­i­na­tion, was per­func­tory at best, with no ev­i­dence pro­vided as to what this poi­son might be.] This is of­fered as a hy­poth­e­sis and is cer­tainly one that is con­sid­ered a prob­a­bil­ity by the po­lice.

“The only al­ter­na­tive to that would be the de­ceased died from ex­haus­tion and ex­po­sure, or she was mur­dered. There was no ev­i­dence of homi­cide, there­fore the first two pos­si­bil­i­ties are con­sid­ered the most likely.”

The Min­istry of Jus­tice says that no pathol­ogy re­port was pre­sented to the coro­nial in­quest in Novem­ber 1977 and Lind­say says he was re­cently ad­vised by po­lice that none ex­ists. It seems in­con­gru­ous for there to be no of­fi­cial pathol­ogy re­port – only a de­po­si­tion re­lat­ing to the post mortem car­ried out on Septem­ber 14, 1977, two days after Les­ley’s re­mains were found.

Con­tra­dict­ing the “sui­cide” sce­nario is that the body was not in the ad­vanced state of de­com­po­si­tion one would ex­pect had it lain out­side through that hot sum­mer and on through au­tumn and win­ter. A lo­cal farmer told North & South stock that die in the sum­mer in this area are re­duced to a skele­ton within weeks. Les­ley’s soft tis­sue, though dis­in­te­grated, was still present. And if she had killed her­self closer to the time her body was dis­cov­ered, where had she been since early Fe­bru­ary?

Coro­ner Middleton de­ter­mined, nev­er­the­less, that Les­ley died where she was found, in the Anselmi bush block, on or about Fe­bru­ary 2, 1977. This prompted the in­evitable ques­tion: given the lo­ca­tion had been re­peat­edly searched and was in sight of the farm­house, how had it taken seven months and 10 days to find her body?

Stevens sought to ex­plain this in a state­ment dated Oc­to­ber 5, 1977. “There was plenty of ev­i­dence to show that within a few days im­me­di­ately prior to her be­ing found, stock had been graz­ing around the area of Les­ley Calvert [and so ex­pos­ing the body].”

Stevens, who was present at the post mortem, also records that there was no ev­i­dence to suggest foul play. “The

pathol­o­gist was able to find all skele­tal re­mains ex­cept a small por­tion of the hyoid bone. In view of the move­ment of stock and the clear ev­i­dence the head had been knocked by a beast (and this is sup­ported by hoof marks around the body) the pathol­o­gist did not con­sider this par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant,” he wrote.

Allen, the pathol­o­gist, is no longer alive, but Stevens’ state­ment raises a new raft of is­sues. Lind­say be­lieves it points strongly to mur­der, not away from it.

Ev­i­dence col­lected by po­lice through­out the seven months of the Calvert in­quiry in 1977 re­veal a woman who, while caught up in her on­go­ing af­fair with Gray, showed no signs of be­ing sui­ci­dal. Nancy Gray ob­served that Les­ley was her nor­mal self the day she dis­ap­peared. Oth­ers who spoke with her in the days im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing her dis­ap­pear­ance made sim­i­lar ob­ser­va­tions. Her mother, Eileen Yeates, told the coro­ner that while her daugh­ter may have been con­sid­er­ing a break from Waikawau with her chil­dren, there was no hint what­so­ever that she in­tended killing her­self.

Dam­age to, or the ab­sence of, a hyoid bone is recog­nised as a po­ten­tial symp­tom of man­ual stran­gu­la­tion. This U-shaped bone is frac­tured in one-third of all homi­cides by stran­gu­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to the Jour­nal of Foren­sic Sci­ences. A re­cent study by Y.M. Jehng, pub­lished by Sci­ence Di­rect, a web­site ded­i­cated to sci­en­tific, tech­ni­cal and med­i­cal re­search, records that “hyoid bone frac­ture is usu­ally the re­sult of di­rect trauma to the neck be­cause of man­ual stran­gu­la­tion, hang­ing, blunt force trauma or pro­jec­tiles. How­ever, hyoid bone frac­ture caused by a fall has sel­dom been re­ported.”

Lind­say in­sists that rather than con­firm­ing the pres­ence of cat­tle in the lo­ca­tion where his wife’s re­mains were found, photographs that cap­tured the scene the fol­low­ing day, on Septem­ber 13, 1977, prove the in­ac­cu­racy of po­lice state­ments in this re­gard.

After strug­gling to se­cure ac­cess to th­ese photographs, Lind­say was able to view them for the first time in April 2011. He was ac­com­pa­nied by Cinna Smith, an Auck­land TV pro­ducer who had worked on a Sens­ing Mur­der pro­gramme on the Les­ley Calvert case two years ear­lier.

“Th­ese de­tailed photographs, some of them ex­treme close-ups, show no ev­i­dence what­so­ever of stock move­ment… no ev­i­dence of hoof prints, cat­tle ma­nure or re­cently eaten fo­liage,” says Lind­say. “The grass is long and ap­pears undis­turbed. There’s no ev­i­dence an an­i­mal stepped on Les­ley’s throat – or that cat­tle were ever present in the area where Les­ley’s body was found.”

North & South has also viewed the orig­i­nal scene photographs taken in Septem­ber 1977. Th­ese clearly show the po­si­tion in which Les­ley was found, ly­ing on her back on an an­gle away from the fence. Some of th­ese photographs pro­vide mea­sure­ment from the fence line tra­versed by nu­mer­ous searchers, in­clud­ing ex­pe­ri­enced po­lice of­fi­cers, in the seven-and-a-half months she was miss­ing. One hand was within a me­tre of the fenc­ing wire at ground level, her head less than a me­tre away.

There ap­pears to be no clear ev­i­dence stock were in that vicin­ity in the days be­fore the body was found. Thick, wiry manuka in this lo­ca­tion, just in­side the bound­ary fence, would pre­vent cat­tle move­ment. And the “cat­tle track” re­ferred to in De­tec­tive Sergeant Lowen’s state­ment doesn’t ex­ist, ei­ther.

Lind­say be­lieves po­lice with­held ev­i­dence of the miss­ing part of Les­ley’s hyoid bone from the coro­ner. “They deemed this in­signif­i­cant and chose not to put it forward in ev­i­dence. But to me, it’s a mat­ter that should be ex­am­ined through a new coro­nial in­quiry.”

It is clear bad blood ex­ists be­tween Lind­say and Stevens, who re­tired from the po­lice 26 years ago, although Calvert con­cedes, “Stevens only car­ried on down a path that oth­ers had es­tab­lished.”

Calvert has a litany of griev­ances against the po­lice: for the way that they han­dled the in­quiry into his wife’s dis­ap­pear­ance and their un­will­ing­ness to pur­sue ev­i­dence he be­lieves points to an of­fender. One par­tic­u­lar in­ci­dent is etched into his mem­ory.

“Stevens ac­cused me of killing Les­ley and did so in front of my daugh­ter, Sandra. His words were, ‘No mat­ter what hap­pens, you will al­ways be the num­ber one sus­pect for mur­der.’ I’ll never for­give him for that,” says Lind­say. “It had a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on Sandra. She was 10. She used to wake up in the night scream­ing in her board­ing- school dor­mi­tory. Hear­ing from a po­lice­man that her daddy had mur­dered her mummy had a pro­found ef­fect on her for many years.”

Sandra also seems to re­mem­ber the in­ci­dent keenly: in­ter­viewed on the 2009 Sens­ing Mur­der pro­gramme, she said she heard the po­lice­man telling her fa­ther he knew he did it and was go­ing to prove he did it.

Lind­say’s strong ob­jec­tion to th­ese re­marks al­legedly made by Stevens was put to the de­tec­tive as part of a wide-rang­ing com­plaint to the om­buds­man, re­lat­ing to the po­lice in­quiry. How­ever, chief om­buds­man Ge­orge Lak­ing ac­cepted the po­lice re­sponse on all counts. His writ­ten re­port to Lind­say, dated June 8, 1982, in­cluded this from Stevens:

“There is no doubt that I made it clear to Mr Calvert that he had to be con­sid­ered a sus­pect, as did other peo­ple who had been nom­i­nated as such un­til the in­quiry had been suc­cess­fully con­cluded. If I made such a com­ment to him in the pres­ence of his daugh­ter and that has in any way up­set the child, then I would be the first to re­gret it.”

By the early 80s, Lind­say was a bro­ken man. He still is. He says he was driven off his fam­ily farm by stress, false ac­cu­sa­tions and ru­mours, cou­pled with the agony of look­ing up, day in and day out, to where his wife’s re­mains were found. His hopes of be­ing a Jus­tice of the Peace and an in­ten­tion to seek elec­tion as a Wait­omo County coun­cil­lor dis­solved be­fore his eyes.

By then, John Gray was also dead. On Oc­to­ber 21, 1981, he dis­ap­peared in the Tas­man Sea while fish­ing off the rocks alone. The of­fi­cial find­ing was one of ac­ci­den­tal drown­ing in “rough seas”, but ques­tions re­main over the cir­cum­stances. Lind­say says the Waikawau ru­mour mill soon had him re­spon­si­ble for Gray’s death, but his cast-iron al­ibi

DAM­AGE TO, OR THE AB­SENCE OF, A HYOID BONE IS RECOG­NISED IN­TER­NA­TION­ALLY AS A PO­TEN­TIAL SYMP­TOM OF STRAN­GU­LA­TION.

came in the form of the lo­cal fish­eries in­spec­tor. The two of them were 10km to the south that day, fish­ing from a tiny dinghy on a sea Lind­say de­scribes as be­ing flat as a pan­cake.

Leav­ing the farm in the con­trol of his par­ents and a farm man­ager, Lind­say moved first to Waitara and then to New Ply­mouth ( by then Denise and Sandra were at board­ing school in Strat­ford, Greg in New Ply­mouth). He se­cured a job he was good at and that gave him a new sense of pur­pose: tu­tor­ing stu­dents at Taranaki sec­ondary schools on how to be safe around farms, par­tic­u­larly when us­ing chain­saws.

“I’d fi­nally found my cho­sen path in life,” he says. “For the first time since Les­ley had dis­ap­peared, I felt a real sense of ease and con­tent­ment. I felt I was mak­ing a real con­tri­bu­tion to the com­mu­nity.”

When the branch man­ager from Agri­cul­ture New Zealand (now closed) in­formed him the or­gan­i­sa­tion could not af­ford to have a “sex­ual preda­tor” any­where near stu­dents, he was dev­as­tated. There had been no warn­ings, no con­vic­tions, not even al­le­ga­tions. He blames po­lice for covertly spread­ing the ru­mours that de­stroyed his ca­reer.

North & South in­vited Stevens to re­spond to Lind­say’s al­le­ga­tions. It ap­pears age has soft­ened his at­ti­tude to­ward the man he once ac­cused of be­ing a mur­derer. Pressed for com­ment, Stevens po­litely opted out, say­ing the an­swers could be found within the po­lice file on the Calvert case.

“I have no de­sire to re­turn to that in­quiry that took longer than any other I was in­volved with,” he says. “I have al­ways been up­front with Lind­say and he didn’t al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate what I said, but I was a de­tec­tive and those peo­ple have to of­ten ask di­rect ques­tions... This mat­ter has been on­go­ing and will re­main on­go­ing for so long as Lind­say is alive. If he is in­no­cent, as he may well be, I would not blame him... I have no re­grets about my 30 years as a po­lice of­fi­cer. Of course there are things I would have done dif­fer­ently on oc­ca­sions, but that ap­plies to all of us.”

Forty years after po­lice de­vel­oped their hy­poth­e­sis that Les­ley Calvert com­mit­ted sui­cide or “sim­ply lay down and died” on that windswept hill­side, they have none­the­less made one ma­jor con­ces­sion. Cur­rent Taranaki CIB head Brent Matuku ac­cepts Les­ley’s body was not in that bush-block lo­ca­tion when po­lice searched the area in Fe­bru­ary 1977. He also agrees the only ex­pla­na­tions are that she was mur­dered and placed there by some­one, or that she took her­self to the hill­side months after dis­ap­pear­ing from the farm­house and com­mit­ted sui­cide.

On the ev­i­dence now avail­able, the lat­ter seems im­plau­si­ble. What mother, Lind­say asks, would kill her­self within sight of her chil­dren? And where was she from Fe­bru­ary 2 un­til at least June 12, 1977, when the last recorded search of that fence line took place? After all, his wife was found in the clothes she was wear­ing when she went miss­ing, apart from gumboots that didn’t be­long to her.

The ex­act sta­tus of the Calvert in­quiry to­day is un­clear. Matuku says it’s an “in­ac­ti­vated miss­ing per­son in­quiry”. It’s an in­ter­est­ing de­scrip­tion, as Les­ley Calvert is not miss­ing: her re­mains were in­terred at the Waitara ceme­tery on Septem­ber 17, 1977, five days after they were lo­cated. Taranaki Po­lice Area Com­man­der In­spec­tor Keith Bor­rell has an­other in­ter­pre­ta­tion. He de­scribes the case as “an ac­tive po­lice file”.

Po­lice de­nied North & South ac­cess to that file, cit­ing the pri­vacy of those who have given state­ments over the years. This cri­te­ria was not, how­ever, ap­plied to an iden­ti­cal re­quest from Sens­ing Mur­der’s Cinna Smith in 2009.

She was al­lowed to spend al­most five hours – mostly un­su­per­vised – go­ing through its con­tents.

Speak­ing pub­licly for the first time, Denise Calvert – the old­est of Lind­say and Les­ley’s three chil­dren – cat­e­gor­i­cally re­jects the no­tion of her mother com­mit­ting sui­cide. Nor will she en­ter­tain the pos­si­bil­ity of aban­don­ment.

Aged 11 at the time, Denise’s mem­ory of Fe­bru­ary 2 1977 is clear. It was her last year at Whare­orino School and she was ex­cited to be back in class after the long sum­mer hol­i­days. “Mum dropped us off at school that morn­ing as she al­ways did,” she re­counts. “I don’t think there was any­thing out of the or­di­nary. There was noth­ing dif­fer­ent to any other day. What I do re­call was Dad came to pick us up from school. That was un­usual; it was al­ways Mum who did so.

“Any sug­ges­tion of sui­cide or sui­ci­dal be­hav­iour does not sit right with me. I think there would have been some sort of sign and we would have no­ticed. I’d have thought, ‘Oh, she was funny this morn­ing’, but there was noth­ing like that.

“I’m also sure Mum wouldn’t aban­don us kids. I al­ways be­lieved that, but it was re­in­forced when I be­came a mum my­self. The ma­ter­nal bond is strong. I can imag­ine her maybe tak­ing us to stay with Nana and Grandad, yes, but not aban­don­ing us.”

Denise says po­lice por­tray her fa­ther as a slightly loony old man ob­sessed with the dis­ap­pear­ance of his wife. That at­ti­tude, which she in­sists pre­vails to this day, over­looks the fact the three Calvert chil­dren and wider fam­ily also want to know what hap­pened to their mother, sister, aunt and grand­mother.

“This has af­fected us all pro­foundly,” says Denise. “How could it not? We lost our mother and also lost a good deal of our fa­ther. My kids have missed out on a grand­mother. When­ever there’s a spe­cial oc­ca­sion, there is an aware­ness that some­one is miss­ing. I think all of us kids have man­aged not to let this de­fine us or wear the vic­tim la­bel too much, but it’s un­re­solved and there can be no clo­sure un­til it is. Hav­ing the po­lice ac­knowl­edge that their orig­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion was a fail­ure would be a wor­thy first step in that process.

“The orig­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion was flawed and peo­ple know that. It’s not just us bleat­ing… That’s why they’re thwart­ing ev­ery­thing. That’s how I see it.”

A sci­en­tist now liv­ing in Aus­tralia, Denise is trained in form­ing a hy­poth­e­sis and then look­ing for the ev­i­dence to sup­port it, or al­ter­na­tively, to dis­prove it. “If it [the ev­i­dence] is there, it’s there. But that is not how you should do po­lice work. You should look at the ev­i­dence first and see what it sug­gests, not the other way round.”

She is res­o­lute in her view that her mother was mur­dered – and equally adamant in her be­lief that the neigh­bour­ing farm worker who spent so much time at the Calvert house knows a lot more than he has ever ad­mit­ted.

“You can’t dis­re­gard the ev­i­dence that doesn’t fit your hy­poth­e­sis. You can’t be se­lec­tive about what you choose to have weight. You must use the ev­i­dence you have avail­able. In Mum’s mur­der, the ev­i­dence points in one di­rec­tion. The

con­cept of un­re­quited pas­sion seems to fit in this in­stance.”

On a clear, crisp day in May 2017, Lind­say re­turned with North & South to the spot where his wife’s re­mains were found. He had planned to visit ear­lier but spent two years re­cov­er­ing in hos­pi­tal and then re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing after be­ing crushed by the branch of an old pine he was cut­ting up.

The jour­ney, across gul­lies and up a steep slope, was ag­o­nis­ing, both for Lind­say and those wit­ness­ing the progress of a frail man who could barely walk on the flat with the aid of a crutch. On reach­ing “ground zero”, he col­lapsed on his back, star­ing up­wards as wispy clouds slid across the sky. Ly­ing only a me­tre or so across the fence from where his wife’s body was found, he said noth­ing for a long time. His shal­low breath­ing was the only sound.

It seemed a cathar­tic mo­ment, not one to be hur­ried, a chance per­haps for a fi­nal farewell. And then, as the breeze be­gan to build and the late af­ter­noon sun dipped be­hind the hill to the west, he said: “I’ve waited 40 years for this mo­ment.” It was time to leave this place, for the last time.

Any­one watch­ing him wind gin­gerly down that steep de­cline would won­der, what guilty man would put him­self through four hours of this hell just to prove a point? An an­swer emerged the next day when North & South spoke with a for­mer Waikawau res­i­dent who knew the com­mu­nity and its dy­nam­ics. When Les­ley went miss­ing, this one- time neigh­bour thought Lind­say may have been in­volved in some way. Now she’s con­vinced he was not. “Lind­say goes on and on about this case and has never let it go, which makes me think he is in­no­cent,” she says. “It has ru­ined his life.”

The per­sonal state­ment that Lind­say in­sisted on writ­ing for this story un­der­scores the pain and frus­tra­tion of th­ese past decades: “Over the last 40 years, I have been vil­i­fied and vic­timised... My fam­ily and I have lived un­der a cloud. I am still branded a ‘mur­derer’ by some in our com­mu­nity. Not long ago, a young man hurled abuse at me in the street in New Ply­mouth, shout­ing out, ‘Mur­der­ers should be hung.’

“My wife’s death and the sub­se­quent botched po­lice in­quiry have ru­ined my life. I’m now 78. I have had sev­eral health scares, but while I have breath in my body I will con­tinue to fight to clear my name and re­store my rep­u­ta­tion,” he writes. “For the sake of my chil­dren, grand­chil­dren and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of our fam­ily, I want the record to be set straight. Above all, I want jus­tice to be done for Les­ley. She did not de­serve to die at that age. Our chil­dren did not de­serve to have their mother taken from them in such di­a­bol­i­cal cir­cum­stances, or to be robbed of 40 years with their mother at their side.”

Lind­say Calvert’s plea for jus­tice – for a new coro­nial in­quiry – cer­tainly begs the ques­tion: who would spend 40 years draw­ing such at­ten­tion to their claims and their cause if they were guilty, when they had ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to slip silently and sur­rep­ti­tiously into the back­blocks?

Cru­cial ques­tions re­main as to why the po­lice did not pur­sue a “likely sus­pect”. In 1977, a farm worker in the Waikawau dis­trict car­ried a torch for Les­ley Calvert. The man we’ll call X was 33 when Les­ley went miss­ing. He was sin­gle and had few, if any, close friends. Those who knew him say he was a loner. Some distrusted him and men­tion his lik­ing for books on “as­saults and weird things”.

Po­lice files re­veal X had a strong in­ter­est in Les­ley and was a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to the Calvert home. State­ments he made to po­lice later down­played the fre­quency of those vis­its, many of which were made when Lind­say Calvert was away. How­ever, state­ments made by po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors at the time clearly record this in­ter­est:

“By all ac­counts X car­ried a torch for Mrs Calvert though there was no ev­i­dence that she re­turned his af­fec­tion.” – De­tec­tive Sergeant Brendan Mcfad­den.

“X was known to have had a crush on Les­ley.” – De­tec­tive Bob Stevens.

This was sup­ported by Les­ley’s brother, Ross Yeates, who gave a state­ment to po­lice. “As soon as Lind­say left the house, X would ar­rive. X would get a shock if I was there.”

And fur­ther: “I did no­tice X hang­ing around a lot. He al­ways seemed to be there. He gave me the im­pres­sion of just hang­ing around watch­ing. I gained the def­i­nite im­pres­sion that he had some at­trac­tion for Les­ley, but I don’t think she had any for him. In fact when he’d turn up she would com­ment, ‘Not him again.’”

Lind­say knew of X’s at­trac­tion to Les­ley and says he was told by a lo­cal pig hunter that the farm worker reg­u­larly used to ride through the ad­join­ing bush block and tether his horse out of sight be­fore walk­ing down the hill to the house. “This usu­ally hap­pened when I was out the back of the farm,” he says.

X’s be­hav­iour im­me­di­ately after Les­ley’s dis­ap­pear­ance raised flags with lo­cals, in­clud­ing his em­ployer, the man­ager of a nearby farm.

“For about a month after Les­ley went miss­ing, X was very quiet, like a closed book, and it has been only re­cently that he has come out of his shell,” the farm man­ager told po­lice on April 14, 1977.

Po­lice learned that on the day of Les­ley’s dis­ap­pear­ance, X had been late for work, and had asked to take a week’s hol­i­day. In five years with a pre­vi­ous em­ployer, he’d never asked for a hol­i­day.

Oth­ers liv­ing in the dis­trict at the time tell of dis­turb­ing be­hav­iour by X. An­i­mal cru­elty is the pri­mary al­le­ga­tion. “He is a prob­a­ble sus­pect only be­cause of his al­leged cruel streak, ob­ser­va­tions of peo­ple in re­spect of his cru­elty to an­i­mals,” De­tec­tive Sergeant Mcfad­den recorded at the time of the orig­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

X no longer lives in Waikawau, but this al­leged cru­elty to an­i­mals is still fresh in the mem­o­ries of lo­cals who lived there at that time. A lo­cal farmer had cause to re­gret tak­ing on X as a worker. He says he asked X to feed his dogs while he was away for a week­end. He re­turned to find his hunt­away writhing in pain on its chain. He rushed the dog, weak and in agony, to the vet in Pio­pio. A rub­ber ring used for re­mov­ing lambs tails had been put on the dog’s tes­ti­cles. The vet had to com­plete the cas­tra­tion and the dog sur­vived.

The vet made a re­port to the po­lice, who later told Lind­say that X had ad­mit­ted the in­ci­dent but was not pros­e­cuted. His em­ploy­ment on that farm, how­ever, came to an end soon after. The Calverts also ex­pe­ri­enced a se­ries of an­i­mal cru­elty in­ci­dents in the pe­riod im­me­di­ately prior to Les­ley’s dis­ap­pear­ance. Their house cow was shot through the eye, and three sheep were shot and left to die in agony. In each in­stance, a .22 firearm was in­volved (X had a .22 ri­fle). Then their chil­dren’s pet goats – two adults and two kids – dis­ap­peared from their back yard, never to be seen again.

“Stock worth $30,000 also went miss­ing from our farm,” says Lind­say. “In one in­stance, when X was work­ing on the neigh­bour­ing farm, seven of my beef calves dis­ap­peared. I found rare 00 horse prints at the scene of the theft. X’s horse had size 00 shoes.”

Lind­say says he re­ported th­ese in­ci­dents to the po­lice, as he be­lieved they could have been con­nected with Les­ley’s mur­der, but ini­tially they re­fused to in­ves­ti­gate. He says two de­tec­tives later trav­elled from Hamil­ton to in­ves­ti­gate the stock thefts, but po­lice now claim there is no record of this visit ever oc­cur­ring. The thefts re­main un­re­solved.

A link be­tween an­i­mal cru­elty and more se­ri­ous crimes against peo­ple is well es­tab­lished. “Acts of cru­elty to an­i­mals are not mere in­di­ca­tions of a mi­nor per­son­al­ity flaw in the abuser, they are symp­to­matic of a deep men­tal dis­tur­bance,” says Robert K. Ressler, who de­vel­oped pro­files of se­rial killers for the US Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion. “Re­search in psy­chol­ogy and crim­i­nol­ogy shows that peo­ple who com­mit acts of cru­elty to an­i­mals don’t stop there, many of them move on to their fel­low hu­mans.”

Re­jec­tion can be a pow­er­ful mo­tive, as has been demon­strated in any num­ber of high-pro­file tragedies in New Zealand over re­cent years. In an anal­y­sis of the pro­file of the killer of Jeanette and Har­vey Crewe at Pukekawa in 1970, po­lice crim­i­nal pro­filer David Scott ex­am­ined this is­sue: “When an in­fat­u­ated in­di­vid­ual fi­nally re­alises the fu­til­ity of their love, they can be­come dan­ger­ous to them­selves or oth­ers. Some be­come de­pressed and sui­ci­dal. Oth­ers act vin­dic­tively, de­stroy­ing what they can­not have.”

Fol­low­ing Les­ley’s dis­ap­pear­ance, X pro­vided dif­fer­ing ac­counts of his

move­ments to po­lice and oth­ers. He is al­leged to have told mem­bers of his fam­ily he could not at­tend a re­union be­cause he was in­volved in the search. This con­trasts with ev­i­dence from those in­volved in that huge ground and air oper­a­tion. His ab­sence from the search par­ties was noted by the Calverts, lo­cals and po­lice.

“It ap­pears un­usual that although he [X] saw Les­ley just days be­fore she went miss­ing, he was late for work on the day she did go miss­ing and then asked for his hol­i­days on that date and never of­fered any as­sis­tance in searches which took place,” De­tec­tive Stevens recorded on the po­lice file dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “From the dis­crep­an­cies in his state­ments, we are in­ter­ested in chart­ing his ex­act move­ments whilst he was on hol­i­day.”

It’s not known if fur­ther in­quiries were made into th­ese mat­ters. But Lind­say is adamant X never came to his house again, de­spite the hun­dreds of vis­its – of­ten three or four times a week – he had made in the nine pre­ced­ing years.

Les­ley’s re­mains pro­vided a clear lead, one her hus­band be­lieves es­tab­lishes a link be­tween X and the dis­ap­pear­ance of his wife. When she was found, Les­ley was wear­ing two size- nine men’s Red Band gumboots, mis­matched in that one was old and had no grip and the other was new. Th­ese gumboots are shown clearly in the photographs taken by po­lice pho­tog­ra­pher Don But­ti­more.

Po­lice noted Les­ley only ever wore brown leather shoes that pro­duced a dis­tinc­tive tread pat­tern; their state­ments record she didn’t wear gumboots. Her brown leather work­ing shoes have never been lo­cated. So, how did she come to be wear­ing mis­matched men’s gumboots when she was found seven months later? And who did they be­long to?

In De­cem­ber 1977, two months after her body was dis­cov­ered, the farm man­ager who em­ployed X at that time re­cov­ered four gumboots: two were stuffed be­hind the wash­ing ma­chine in his farm­house and two oth­ers in the cot­tage oc­cu­pied by X.

The farm man­ager’s wife told North & South she found the gumboots be­hind the wash­ing ma­chine. “I showed them to my hus­band and he got two more from the ve­randa at the cot­tage where X lived, just down the road. We thought they were im­por­tant as we had heard Les­ley was wear­ing men’s gumboots when she was found. We took the four gumboots down to Lind­say and told him where we’d found them.”

Lind­say in­sists that among the four gumboots, two were a match for the two odd (mis­matched) ones found on his wife’s body. He sent them into the New Ply­mouth po­lice on the ser­vice coach from Awakino with a note about where they’d been found.

Lind­say claims the fol­low­ing en­counter hap­pened as he was driv­ing to­ward Awakino a few days later. “The po­lice car I recog­nised as the one used by [De­tec­tive] Bob Stevens came around the cor­ner. We both stopped and had a con­ver­sa­tion on the side of the road. Stevens seemed an­gry. He told me he in­tended charg­ing me with break­ing and en­ter­ing and theft for tak­ing the gumboots. He told me to re­turn the four gumboots to X and to sign an author­ity for the de­struc­tion of Les­ley’s cloth­ing and the two gumboots she was wear­ing when found, claim­ing they were a health haz­ard.”

Lind­say says he reluc­tantly agreed and signed the de­struc­tion or­der. How­ever, he did not re­turn the gumboots as in­structed, in­stead throw­ing them in a drain near X’s cot­tage. The farm man­ager’s wife con­firms this chain of events: “Ab­so­lutely cor­rect… what Lind­say says. Lind­say never broke into any­where.”

North & South put this to De­tec­tive Stevens, who chose not to re­spond.

Our at­tempts to lo­cate X have also been un­suc­cess­ful. How­ever, when a pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor com­mis­sioned by Sens­ing Mur­der in­ter­viewed X in April 2009, he de­nied any in­volve­ment in the dis­ap­pear­ance of Les­ley Calvert. +

Above left: Les­ley Yeates and Lind­say Calvert were mar­ried in 1962. Above right: Lind­say’s ded­i­ca­tion to the lo­cal Lions Club was recog­nised when he was named an in­ter­na­tional Lion of the Year in 1972. He be­lieves his long hours work­ing on the farm and Lions’ com­mit­ments caused Les­ley to feel ne­glected.

Above left: Lind­say at home. He now lives in Ra­hotu, south of New Ply­mouth. Above right: New Ply­mouth’s Daily News re­ports on Les­ley’s dis­ap­pear­ance on Fe­bru­ary 4, 1977, two days into the search.

The kitchen in the old fam­ily home, where mem­o­ries of Les­ley still haunt Lind­say.

May, 2017: After Lind­say’s painful, two-hour trek up the bluff to the spot where his wife’s body was found, and an equally slow de­scent, his son Greg fer­ries him by quad bike to the old fam­ily home.

Les­ley on her wed­ding day. The Calverts spent that night at the tiny Urenui Ho­tel on their way to Taupo, where they started mar­ried life.

Dr Den­nis Allen’s one-page de­po­si­tion re­lat­ing to the post mortem car­ried out on Septem­ber 14, 1977. It seems no of­fi­cial pathol­ogy re­port was pro­duced.

The Calvert farm, look­ing back up the val­ley from where the body was found. The Calverts’ house is hid­den be­hind trees op­po­site the small white build­ing.

Lind­say lays flow­ers at Les­ley’s grave in Waitara.

De­spite be­ing frail and suf­fer­ing chronic pain, Lind­say was de­ter­mined to make this fi­nal pil­grim­age to where his wife’s body was found. His son, Greg, helps him over the steep ter­rain.

“I’ve waited 40 years for this mo­ment,” says Lind­say, after reach­ing the place where a pos­sum hunter found Les­ley’s re­mains in 1977. Lind­say’s par­ents’ house is vis­i­ble on the val­ley floor be­hind him.

Calvert se­niors’ house Calvert fam­ily house 678.62 me­tres Les­ley’s body found here X of­ten teth­ered his horse on the bound­ary be­tween the Calvert farm and the neigh­bour­ing bush block, be­fore walk­ing down the hill to the Calvert farm­house to visit Les­ley.

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