Otari-Wilton’s Bush would have been irresistible to young botany student Jean Marie Martin.
So it wouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone that she went for a hike there on April 8, 1945.
But what happened next was extraordinary.
She vanished. Without a trace.
Yes, people go missing all the time but often something is known or suspected.
But Jean Marie was just gone. Nothing of her was ever found.
Jean Marie was born in 1922 to Waipawa dairy farmer Montague Martin and his wife Ethel.
She was the eldest of six children and had moved to Wellington where she was working as a laboratory technician and studying botany part-time at Victoria University.
She had been living in Glenmore Street, near Wellington’s beautiful botanic gardens.
On April 8, 1945, she and a companion went for a walk in the native reserve of Otari-Wilton’s bush.
About 3pm her friend left and she kept going.
A little later in the afternoon, near a farm, Jean Marie spoke to someone and indicated an interest in the Crow’s Nest, a 166m hill. It wasn’t considered a simple walk and it was already late in the afternoon.
She was never seen again.
Jean Marie was five foot two with short curly black hair and prominent teeth. She had been wearing a blue jumper, grey skirt, fawn overcoat and a green scarf. She was also supposed to have been carrying a black patent leather handbag.
Not a single piece of that was ever found.
The search that followed was huge. Police and search and rescue style teams began and were augmented by 70 police recruits and students from Victoria. The search extended as far afield as Makara and Ohariu Valley. Students from the Teachers Training College also joined in, Jean Marie’s sister was going to the college at the time.
Her father offered a £100 reward for any information.
There was concern because Jean Marie had a breakdown the November before and her family was worried she had lost her memory.
Police eventually decided she had died of exposure.
Months later however there were two sightings of women in Ponsonby who looked like Jean Marie in Auckland - but neither sighting came to anything.
Many years later in 1967, there was another sighting which turned out not to be her.
And since then nothing more is known.
Both Montague and Ethel died never knowing what happened to their eldest daughter. Both are buried at the Waipawa Cemetery.