A Waikato woman has been reunited with the family she never knew existed growing up.
Karen Denge, now 56, met her sisters for the first time during filming for the latest episode of David Lomas Investigates, which aired on Tuesday night on Three.
The Waitoa grandmother was 42 when her mother, burdened by a secret she'd been carrying for decades, revealed she had been adopted. Karen was told her biological mother had adopted her out due to money concerns stemming from her divorce.
The revelation came as a bombshell for Denge, who had enjoyed a normal upbringing alongside two older brothers and loving parents.
Until she was told, she had never considered the possibility she might have another family - but the signs were there when she was growing up. Denge's parents were significantly older than her, for one, and the age gap between her and her older brothers spanned many years.
And there was another big giveaway she missed - twice she had been told she was spotted in cities she hadn't visited.
"Mum had a deja vu event at a dance evening in Tauranga," Denge told investigative journalist David Lomas.
"Her and her friends were there, and they said to her 'oh look, there's Karen'. And of course, she looked up, and there was this lady who looked like me - like a twin."
After tracking two of Karen's biological sisters down using birth records and the business register, Lomas learned she wasn't the only one who'd been told they had a doppelgänger. Her sister Colleen told him she too had been seen in Tauranga when she hadn't been there.
Karen later drove to Rotorua to meet Colleen and her other biological sister Tracy, where the trio were able to talk about their respective upbringings and their biological parents, both of whom had sadly passed away years prior.
She also got the opportunity to meet two half-sisters and a half-brother.
"I'm very happy; I've gone from a little family to a very big family," Karen said.
"They're lovely people. It's nice that I've caught up with them now, and we can carry on from there. And we'll learn some more family history - which is quite a lot apparently."
The pleasure was mutual.
"She's our sister. There's been a good connection," said Colleen.
Karen and her sisters have kept in touch since the episode was filmed, and have now visited one another's families.
Watch the full episode of David Lomas Investigates at ThreeNow. The next episode airs at 7:30pm next Tuesday on Three.