Black Coast Vanishings: Push for police to reexamine Piha disappearances after TV series

The makers of a true crime documentary are hoping that new information may prompt police to re-open the cases of women who went missing in the coastal community of west Auckland's Piha.

While reviewing the high-profile cases, the series Black Coast Vanishings also spoke with other women who said they'd survived after being hunted like "prey" in the bush by men.

Beyond the black sand beaches and pounding surf, Piha is a community that a new documentary claims is hiding some sinister secrets.

"Someone can't just vanish. We are entering the edge of darkness with these disappearances. What the hell has happened to these people?" former Mayor of Waitakere City Sir Bob Harvey said in the series.

The true crime show Black Coast Vanishings investigates whether there's a link between six mysterious disappearances from Piha over the past 30 years, including missing 25-year-old Iraena Asher in 2004.

"There was a deep investigation into Iraena's case but some of the other cases were perhaps a little bit superficial, they ended too quickly. And it's just so easy to blame the environment," Black Coast Vanishing co-director Candida Beveridge told Newshub.

Those cases involve several women who survived to tell their stories of terrifyingly close calls of being hunted down in the rugged bush by men and stalked.

In early March of 2017, Desislava Stefanova was on her usual run around the Ahuahu/Mercer Bay Loop track when she spotted a man staring at her from the side of the path. 

"I kept walking and he walked past me and went ahead of me. Then I saw him coming back towards me," she said.

"I was very alert and very aware that I was in danger. When he was reasonably close to me, I heard people's voices and also a dog barking. I think at this point he gave up."

Another woman, known as Lisa, bravely spoke of running for her life and hiding from a group of men in 2007.

"I just ran into the trees. There were a couple of points where I hid and I could hear them yelling out, 'Just come back, I want to know what you taste like'," she recalled.

"I came close and I survived and I didn't do anything. I didn't fight for police to take me seriously, I didn't use my survival to ensure that other people would be safe," Lisa added.

Several woman have come forward with terrifying close calls.
Several woman have come forward with terrifying close calls. Photo credit: Black Coast Vanishings

"Historically there's a mistrust, particularly by women when it comes to things like stalking or sexual assault, of how those cases will be handled by police, so they haven't made official complaints," Black Coast Vanishing co-director Megan Jones said.

The series producers want police to re-examine if there could be a common link between the cases of six people who have disappeared from Piha without a trace - Iraena Asher, Cherie Vousden, Kim Bambus, Quentin Godwin, Laurence Wu, and Eloi Rolland.

"It feels like it needs to be looked at in totality. Each of these cases have been looked at individually, but when you hear the other stories around outside of that, then that makes you think it does need a wider and broader investigation," Beveridge said.

And an investigation that takes female testimony seriously.

"The police asked me so many times if I was on drugs, but it was trauma," Lisa said.

The documentary has sparked several tip-offs which will now be shared with police - but they also urge women to contact police with their experiences in the hope they could lead to the answers some families and the community of Piha have been so desperate to find.

Black Coast Vanishings is available to stream for free on ThreeNow.