Double murder breakthrough: Wynarka suitcase girl identified along with her mother

UPDATE: Police have made a breakthrough in two suspected murder investigations in New South Wales and South Australia, identifying ‘Angel’ and the ‘child in a suitcase’ as a young mother and her daughter

South Australia Police have a name for the little girl whose remains were found in a suitcase alongside Karoonda Highway near Wynarka in July this year.

She is Khandalyce Kiara Pearce, born in Alice Springs in 2006.  Her identity was confirmed through DNA technology.


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In a double murder breakthrough, police have also determined that remains found in Belanglo State Forest in New South Wales in August 2010 are those of Khandalyce’s mother – Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson.  The unidentified woman had been dubbed “Angel” by police and media as she was found with a t-shirt bearing an angelic motif.

A joint investigation has now been launched by SAPOL’s Major Crime Branch and the NSW Homicide Squad, with assistance from police in the Northern Territory and ACT.

The circumstances and place of the murders is yet to be determined.

This significant development began on October 8 when a call to Crime Stoppers nominated Khandalyce as possibly being the little girl in the suitcase. The caller had not seen Khandalyce or Ms Pearce-Stevenson for some time and believed they were missing.

Major Crime Detectives obtained Khandalyce’s records which showed she was immunised at 18 months.  There was no further record of her receiving medical treatment or being enrolled in school.

Investigators then located a witness who had seen Khandalyce and her mother at Marion Shopping Centre, Adelaide in November 2008. She had taken photos of Khandalyce wearing a pink dress.  That dress is identical to that found with the remains in the suitcase.

Police were also provided with photos of Khandalyce in a stroller with the handmade quilt that was also found in the suitcase.

Finally a blood sample from Khandalyce’s medical records was analysed by Forensic Science South Australia and conclusively matched the DNA profile extracted from the skeletal remains in the suitcase.

Blood samples from Ms Pearce-Stevenson medical records were also used to develop a DNA profile.  This was sent to police in NSW who confirmed that they matched that of “Angel”.

The last known sighting of the pair was on Saturday, 8 November 2008 when Ms Pearce-Stevenson was driving on the Stuart Highway near Coober Pedy.

At that time Ms Pearce-Stevenson was 20 and Khandalyce was aged two.

SAPOL’s head of Major Crime, Detective Superintendent Des Bray said family and friends of the victims have been informed and are devastated by the news.

“They are naturally grieving and it is important for us all to respect their privacy as they come to terms with this loss,” Det Supt Bray said.

“Ms Pearce-Stevenson and Khandalyce are from a loving family.  Both were born in Alice Springs but we know that during 2008 they moved away from their family and started to travel.

“Contact with the family became less over time and on 4 September 2009 Ms Pearce-Stevenson’s mother raised a Missing Person Report with the Northern Territory Police.

“It is understood that report was closed on 10 September 2009 after it was believed Ms Pearce-Stevenson was safe and well but did not want family contact.

“This is one of the most shocking crimes imaginable and has torn apart and devastated a loving family.

“Those responsible for this crime are truly evil and remain amongst us in the community and must be held accountable for what they have done.

“We are calling on every community across Australia to provide any information they have to Police that may help solve this crime.  If you know something, please contact police now.”

Police are specifically looking for information from friends and associates of the victims since 2006. They also want to hear from landlords, motels and caravan parks where they could have stayed since that year.

“If you operate once of these businesses please check your records from 1 December 2008,” Supt Bray said.

“It is with everyone’s assistance we have reached this very important breakthrough, but it is important to note the identification is only the beginning of the investigation,” Det Supt Bray said.

SAPOL and NSW Homicide Squad are working closely to complete the picture of Karlie’s life, particularly since the birth of Khandalyce in 2006.

NSW Police Homicide Commander, Detective Superintendent Mick Willing explained there are now numerous lines of enquiry to follow.

“While we will do our best to keep the community informed, we need to first establish fact from fiction and ensure we avoid speculation, which could damage our investigations,” Det Supt Willing said.

Det Supt Bray reiterated this message: “It is with community assistance that we have reached this very important breakthrough, but it is important to note the identification is only the beginning of the investigation.”

Statement from the family of Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson and Khandalyce Kiara Pearce

Statement from the family of Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson and Khandalyce Kiara Pearce

Karlie (1)

EARLIER:South Australia Police and New South Wales police are expected to announce a major breakthrough linking two current murder investigations.

Detectives have revealed that they have discovered a link between bones of a young woman found in the Belanglo State Forest and the bones of a young girl found in a suitcase in South Australia.

DNA analysis has lead detectives to believe that the pair were mother and daughter.

The bones of the woman, dubbed “Angel” due to the shirt she was found with, were found in the Belanglo State Forest south of Sydney in 2010.

The bones of the young girl, believed to have been born in 2005 or 2006, were discovered in a suitcase just off a South Australian highway on July 14.

NSW Police Force Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Mick Willing, and South Australia Police Head of Major Crime, Detective Superintendent Des Bray, will conduct simultaneous media conferences to announce an investigative link between the two major investigations.

Police believe the woman and child both died violent and horrible deaths.

PHOTO: Image of what woman whose remains were found in the Belanglo State Forest would have looked like. Photo: NSW Police

PHOTO: Image of what woman whose remains were found in the Belanglo State Forest would have looked like. Photo: NSW Police

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