Linda Woods homicide: The 'sexually motivated burglary' that's shaken Kaikohe

It was just before 7am on Friday when police announced a homicide investigation in the quiet Far North town of Kaikohe - and four days on, no one has been arrested.

On that Friday morning, police said they'd been called to a Taraire St address the night before, at about 11:30pm. They said a struggle had occurred between occupants of the home and an intruder.

One of the occupants had been "seriously injured", police said in a statement. "Sadly, despite efforts from emergency services, the victim has died at the scene."

Detective Inspector Rhys Johnston from Northland CIB confirmed no arrests had been made - meaning the intruder was still at large.

I left for Kaikohe from Auckland that morning with Newshub camera operator Nick Estelrich. We arrived at the crime scene a few hours later. It was a quiet street and locals were clearly rattled.

"It's pretty sad, really," Patsy Lawrence, who lived a few houses away, told Newshub. "A bit of a shock to wake up and find out that somebody's been injured you know? And they've lost their life."

After speaking with locals, we began to paint a picture of who the victim was. The name "Linda" was often mentioned. She was described as elderly and a dialysis patient.

Forensics at the scene.
Forensics at the scene. Photo credit: Newshub

Nick suggested we observe the property from a different perspective. We drove a few streets away to get a view from the back of the section. We noticed a forensic team focusing on something in the backyard.

Later that day, police announced a "number of items of interest" had been left behind at the address, which were "undergoing forensic testing".

Police said the offender "fled the scene on foot, leaving behind a pair of shoes and another item of clothing" and was "last seen running away barefoot".

Police also revealed the first details about the victim. They did not give a name, but confirmed the victim was a woman, who died "attempting to intervene to assist her family members who were also inside the property at the time".

The following Saturday morning, more details emerged from an interview the victim's niece gave to the New Zealand Herald.

"He ripped out... those tubes up her nose, the breathing ones," she told the paper. "He was beating her up. She took a lot, you know, she took quite a bit of a beating."

By midday, police had released the victim's name, confirming it was 71-year-old Linda Woods, who lived at the property with four generations of her whānau - all female.

That last detail would become central to the investigation.

The shorts the offender left behind.
The shorts the offender left behind. Photo credit: NZ Police / Supplied

Later that day, the "items of interest" left behind at the crime scene were revealed publicly. Police were appealing to the people of Kaikohe for help.

A pair of shoes were located outside the property - size US13 New Balance sneakers - along with a pair of faded black cut-off jean shorts, which police said came off during the struggle as the intruder tried to leave.

Police also confirmed the intruder was male, described as Māori or Polynesian, aged between 40 and 60, and solidly built. He had dark short hair speckled with grey, possibly, curly.

"The offender has fled from the property with bare legs and feet," the police statement said.

There was talk on the streets that gangs were after him.

"It's better for the guy to hand himself in, 'cos I kind of think that if he doesn't, we're gonna find him, and no matter what gang it is, we wanna find him," Kaikohe local Piripi Whare told Newshub.

"What happened to an old kuia like that, that's not cool man."

Then on Sunday, police dropped a bombshell.

In a 5pm update, police said they "now believe this to have started as a sexually motivated burglary".

Police said the belief was founded on the evidence gathered, and the fact that all occupants of the house were female.

"We anticipate the offender has targeted the property for this reason."

And it came with another chilling revelation: "The offender was discovered hiding in one of the occupant's bedrooms."

Police also revealed that, during the interview process, they discovered a pattern of odd occurrences at the property in the lead-up to the intrusion, including interference with sensor lights and porch light bulbs.

Last year, police received a report that someone had reached through a bedroom window at the house. Though they couldn't confirm if it was connected.

In the latest breakthrough on Monday, police announced that DNA collected at the scene of the crime was believed to be linked to the offender.

They'll be requesting DNA samples from men who fit the age range and description of the offender to narrow down who it could be.

It's an important development - but four days on, the family of Linda Woods are still waiting for someone to be held responsible for her death.

Zane Small is a Newshub reporter.