The New Zealand Herald

‘I think she got into the wrong car’

Cousin believes missing Kaitaia woman is dead

- Meghan Lawrence

Family of missing woman Theres’a Urlich are full of questions and anxiety more than two months after the Kaitaia woman disappeare­d. Urlich, 45, has not been seen since February 4 and her family are increasing­ly concerned for her safety.

Two of her cousins told the Herald they were dismayed at the lack of informatio­n and accountabi­lity surroundin­g her missing person’s case.

Vervies Barnes said family found out Urlich was missing after a phone call from a mental health facility that had been providing services to her.

Urlich had been supported by Te Mana Oranga Trust in Kaitaia, which provides adult community support for mental health and addiction.

Barnes said her cousin had suffered from mental health issues for several years, and was on medication.

She said Urlich was among patients at Te Mana Oranga who struggled to look after themselves, which made Barnes extremely worried about Urlich’s ability to survive for two months unaided.

“It is coming up to 10 weeks since she went missing, so I am guessing she hasn’t had any of her medication. I am not sure if she will be able to fend for herself.”

Barnes said it was time someone was held accountabl­e and police stepped up their search.

“My fears for her safety and wellbeing started to kick in early on but I have tried to remain positive.

“But the police have told us diddly squat. They have basically just said she is missing, but why are they not out there finding her?”

Barnes said Urlich had disappeare­d in the past, but this time she hadn’t accessed her bank account.

“It is a bit scary that she has not touched any money since the end of January,” she said. “And no one has seen her around Kaitaia, but everyone knows who she is.”

Barnes said Urlich has always been free spirited, hitchhiked a lot, and has lived a transient life.

Urlich was not close with family, but would call in on different members now and then. She also has an adult son she normally keeps in contact with. However, she didn’t feel as if Urlich was gone.

But cousin Cheryl Rush was much less hopeful and has all but lost hope that Urlich will be found alive.

According to police Urlich was last seen hitching south from Awanui on February 4, but Rush said she had arrived at her home in Kaeo that day.

She had a shower, changed her clothes, had something to eat and left, heading south. That was the last her family saw or heard of her.

“I think she’s dead,” Rush said. “I think she got into the wrong car.”

Ian McKenzie from the Northland DHB said Urlich was living in a rental property and receiving community support from Te Mana Oranga.

As general manager of mental health and addiction services, he said the DHB was notified by Te Mana Oranga that Urlich was not at home on February 5. Urlich then missed a pre-arranged appointmen­t on February 7 and a missing person’s report was filed with police on February 8.

McKenzie said the DHB and Te Mana Oranga were still actively helping to locate Urlich and any help or informatio­n the public can provide would be extremely helpful.

Detective Sergeant Mark Dalzell of Northland police said police were very concerned for Urlich’s wellbeing and have made a number of efforts in an attempt to locate her.

“Police have spoken to family members and to health services. The focus of the inquiry has been a public appeal using both mainstream, local and social media.

“We have had members of the public come forward and the informatio­n provided has been followed up but unfortunat­ely it has not led us to Theres’a,” he said.

“Given we have no real starting point for where she may be, no physical search of a specific area has been conducted.

“We have also made inquiries around her bank account [and got] our partner agencies to circulate informatio­n throughout some of Auckland’s drop-in centres.”

Dalzell said every missing person’s case was treated seriously.

Anyone with informatio­n can contact Acting Sergeant Elton Braithwait­e on 09 405 6500. RoyalBlue3­000. “It has been an extremely eventful year for us,” she said. For the full itinerary, visit Tickets for part one of the tour on sale now. Part two on sale in May.

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