Who killed Claire?
This week Qantas Award Winning Director Bryan Bruce re-examines the unsolved case of Claire Hills, who was burned to death in her car on Mangere Mountain.
Shortly before 5.45am on the morning of Tuesday the 28th of April 1998, a thin figure dressed in dark clothing poured petrol over the body of Claire Hills as she lay beaten and unconscious in the back of her Mazda hatchback.
Her killer had parked her car behind the Clubrooms in the secluded hill domain on the top of Auckland's Mangere Mountain. No doubt he hoped he wouldn't be spotted as he set fire to the young woman and her car, but as luck would have it, a local woman talking some early morning exercise caught a glimpse of the murderer as he set fire to Claire's car. It was fleeting moment. As soon as the killer saw the witness he ran across the playing fields in the darkness toward the only other exit to the park.
The killer's familiarity with the domain suggested to the police
that he was a local and for many years they held the view that
Claire's murderer was a predatory rapist who had abducted her while
her car was stopped at a set of traffic lights on the route she
took to Auckland Airport where she worked as a shift manager.
The police had a particular individual in mind, who they had locked up soon after on other rape and assault charges.
"When I found out this man's name" says TV ONE's Investigator Bryan Bruce, "I went to see him in Northland Prison. The first thing I noticed was that he is a large man. I doubt he has ever been thin like the man described running away from Claire's burning car. And when I asked him to describe how he selected and raped his victims he described a pattern of offending which did not match what had happened to Claire."
"And when I later spoke with Detective Senior Sergeant David Lynch - the officer now in charge of Claire's case - he informed me that they now had new forensic evidence and very recently had been able to 'eliminate' this particular suspect from their inquiry."
Detective Senior Sergeant Lynch refused to take part in Bruce's programme but Dayle Candy - the former officer in charge of the case and who did the initial investigation - readily agreed to cooperate with Bruce to try to solve what has to be one of the country's most gruesome unsolved murders, and has haunted the former detective for 11 years.
"We've spoken to a lot of people about Claire's case in the last year," says Bruce, "including her family in Australia and her former husband now living in America. What Dayle and I have discovered I think opens this case right up again and I am hopeful that with the public's help we might yet find the person who committed this terrible crime."
"Claire - many knew her as Lisa - may just have been unlucky to cross paths with a predatory rapist and killer that morning" says Bruce. "But I think the new analysis reveals that she may equally have been murdered by someone who knew her."
"Claire died in a horrific way. We need to do everything we can to bring her killer to justice. That's why I have put Claire case on our programme's wiki , which you can get to by going to TVNZ's web page.
"If anyone has any information about Claire or who murdered her
they can send me a confidential message through that website or
they could email me at email@example.com"