Iraena Asher

iraena asher

Iraena Asher was a 25 yr old  Auckland trainee teacher and part-time model who disappeared at Piha, on 11 October 2004.

Iraena Asher makes several calls to the police, she states that she is scared and feels pressured for sex. A patrol car is not sent. Police tell her that they will send a taxi for her. The Taxi went to the wrong address. She disappeared and was never seen again.


In early October 2004, Iraena broke up with her long-term boyfriend to start seeing another man.

On October 10, at 8am, Iraena is picked up by her new boyfriend, a friend of his who has a house in Piha and his girlfriend. They drive to Piha and arrive at the friend’s house about 9am. The four of them begin drinking and listening to music.

Around 12pm, the friends say that Iraena left the house by climbing down a tree and headed to the beach.

At approximately 1pm, Iraena is brought back to the friend’s house by a passerby. She is wet and covered in sand. Her boyfriend says he gives her a shower and a change of dry clothes.

The three state that Iraena spent the afternoon swinging between happy and sad, that she was dancing naked or covering herself with a duvet cover and crying on and off.

Around 7pm that night, Iraena gets upset with her new boyfriend and tells him to leave, which he does.

There is no indication of what Iraena was doing in the next couple of hours.


Iraena Asher makes several calls to the police, she states that she is scared and feels pressured for sex. A patrol car is not sent. Police tell her that they will send a taxi for her. The Taxi went to the wrong address. She disappeared and was never seen again.

Read More…. Missing Person


At 9pm, Iraena makes several calls to the police, she states that she is scared and feels pressured for sex. A patrol car is not sent. Police tell her that they will send a taxi for her. The Taxi went to the wrong address.

At 9:30pm, A concerned resident and her son pick up Iraena and take her back to their house. Iraena is dried off and they put her to bed.

October 11, 1:00am-1:10am, Iraena left the address with no explanation wearing only a dressing gown.

The son of one of the residents at that address calls 111 and reports that he and his mother had picked up “a young woman who was aimlessly walking along the road” about four hours earlier and that she had left the address at about 1.10am. Their concerns were that she had suddenly departed, and a short distance away had discarded her clothing on a cold night and that she may have been under the influence of drugs. In response to this call, a new event was logged as Priority 1 and Police were promptly dispatched to Piha, and other emergency services were activated, including the Piha alarm to alert residents to an emergency.

At 1:30am, Iraena is seen by two dog walkers. She is naked, acting oddly and heading towards the beach. They do not call the police.

This was the last time Iraena was seen….

A police vehicle was sent at 1:25am from Henderson and arrived in Piha half an hour later with immediate checks at an address in Piha.


On October 12, the police release a statement about the search for Iraena;


Officer in charge of the search, Sergeant Mark Fergus says, “The focus of the searchers is to look for any signs or evidence that could assist in locating Ms. Asher. Some of the terrain is steep and difficult to search in the Piha area, but the searchers are highly trained in checking all possibilities and that is what they are doing,” says Sergeant Fergus.


Searchers include Search and Rescue Volunteers, Police, Park Rangers and the Air Force. Dogs are also being used in the search.


Detectives from Waitakere CIB are also assisting with inquiries in the area. Det/Snr/Sgt John Sutton is Officer in Charge of the missing person inquiry.


“There are a number of possibilities that have to be considered as we search for Ms. Asher and people in the Piha area can assist by making regular checks of their properties as Ms. Asher could still be wandering in the area,” says Sergeant Fergus.


There is no sign of Iraena.


October 13, police say Search teams at Piha are continuing to look for missing Auckland woman Iraena Asher and a group of her family are also working with the search teams.


O/C Search, Sergeant Mark Fergus says, “The family have already been searching for Iraena and today have been assigned areas to check so are working with the search teams.”


Uniform staff are also going door to door this morning talking with Piha residents.


O/C of the missing person inquiry, Det/S/Sgt John Sutton says, “Property searches have already been done in the past two days but the aim of the area canvas by staff is to find out any more information that could assist the inquiry team as part of the search for Iraena.”


On October 17, Police say they have worked with the family of Iraena Asher to establish a profile of her behaviour.


Police and Iraena’s family say there are strong similarities in her behaviour the night she disappeared with other times when she had been sick because of her bi-polar condition.


On the night Iraena disappeared police say statements indicate there was some strange behaviour. Iraena’s family have told police when she is sick Iraena will hide and have no contact with her family, she will convince others of her manic behaviour, does not sleep, has mood swings, has excessive amounts of energy, gives the appearance she is on drugs and has an aversion to light.


Detective Senior Sergeant Sutton says, “On the night she disappeared Iraena is described as having erratic behavior including mood swings, a strong purposeful walk and an aversion to light. She also told people she was with that she had been given hard drugs but then later said she had not. Iraena’s family says she does not take drugs. One witness who believed she may have been on drugs came to a later conclusion she may be suffering from a mental illness,” says Detective Senior Sergeant Sutton. Police believe Iraena was not complying with the regime of medication that was prescribed for her.

October 19, the police say they are trying to locate four people who stayed at the Piha Camp Ground that night.

That includes two French tourists and a man who was asked to leave the camp due to his anti-social behaviour described as upsetting to other campers. Police have also released an identikit picture of the man who went by the name Scott, but Police are unsure if this is his name. He left the camp at about 11pm on the night Iraena disappeared.

Detective Senior Sergeant John Sutton says, “This man is not a suspect but is one of a number of people Police need to identify and speak to. The man is described as

caucasian aged between 40 and 50

178 cm in height (5’10), medium build with a shaven/bald head

a fat face, brown beard to chest, brownish possibly false teeth

bush style clothing

a distinctive wart on the left rear of his head

carried a canvas kitbag with a water bag tied to bag worn over the shoulder with a homemade strap.

If anyone believes they know the identity of the man or of other people at Piha yet to be spoken to by Police they should contact the Henderson Police on 09 839 0600. END

All over the country, people were talking about what happened that night, how did the police get it so wrong? What happened to Iraena? If the police sent a patrol car in the first instance, would Iraena be alive?

The Investigation

On October 20, 2004. Police reveal that an inquiry has been conducted and a report has been completed for review by the Police Complaints Authority, into the triple one call Iraena Asher made to police.


Some key points: (link to full report below.)


Sending a taxi in response to her call was wrong in these circumstances.

Iraena’s inwards call was handled in a highly professional way. Throughout the call, Iraena made it clear she wanted assistance.

A Sergeant on duty that night made a decision based upon the information before him that police would not attend but a taxi would be called.

The dispatcher rung Iraena back telling her a taxi would be called. During this call, Iraena expressed fresh concerns about her position including a belief that she may have been given drugs.

The dispatcher called the taxi, called Iraena back to advise her that the taxi was on its way. Iraena indicated concern that police were not attending and the dispatcher indicated that he would get the Sergeant to call her back.

The dispatcher called the Sergeant who reaffirmed his original view that Iraena was capable of leaving the address and seeking assistance. During that conversation, the dispatcher used language that was inappropriate and disrespectful to Iraena.

The dispatcher and a night shift dispatcher made several attempts to make contact with Iraena. We now know that Iraena had left the address and discarded the phone.

Superintendents Lyall and Carson say considering all the information Police had, a police patrol car should have been sent to Piha.


When Iraena called it took some time to establish whether it was an emergency or not. The conclusion of Police is that it was not an emergency but comments made by Iraena should have been triggers to the staff that a patrol car should still have been sent. Iraena told Police she was scared, this does not constitute an emergency but a car should have been sent.


“We are here not to offer excuses for the actions of our staff but rather an explanation. We are here to explain what happened, we have the report and the procedures are found to be deficient,” say Superintendents Lyall and Carson.


A recommendation is being made to the Commissioner of Police that disciplinary action be taken regarding the conduct of some Police members involved in this incident.


Police continue their efforts to find Iraena and have apologized to the family for the initial handling of her call to Police.


Clearly, this issue has exposed a deficiency in Police practice around arrangements of taxi services for callers to Police Communication Centres. As a result, the Communication Centres have today been advised of interim changes to standard operating procedures to assist in the making of such decisions. END


No signs of Iraena were found during any searches.


On November 30, Police reveal that an anonymous call was received by a media organization. Following the call Police Search and Rescue conducted a search of bush area between Kerekere and Piha. Nothing was found.


The case of Iraena’s disappearance remained open but the trail went cold. The questions however never stopped.




On October 10, 2005, Iraena’s family speaks to reporters at one news. (link to full article below)


One year on and despite an apology from the police, the 25-year-old Auckland model’s parents say justice has not been done and now they want to sue the police.


Iraena’s mum and dad, Betty and Mike Asher, are still struggling to explain their daughter’s sudden disappearance.


“We just wanted to hold her a few more times but we can’t now. We never will,” says Mike.


Police have said sorry for bungling 111 calls Iraena made – sending a taxi rather than a police car to collect her from a Piha address.


Now they say they need to stand up and fight for a civil case they can’t afford to take against police.


The Asher case triggered a review of the police emergency call system and disciplinary action was taken against the officers involved.


But Betty says the system has still not improved. “There’s no accountability… the system closes ranks and protects their own.”


No legal proceedings were ever brought against the police by Iraena’s family.


2006 – Report From the Police Complaints Authority on the Police Response to an Emergency 111 Call Made From Piha by Iraena Asher on Sunday 10 October 2004


This is an extremely long and detailed report on all aspects of that night. It includes transcripts of the 111 calls made from and to Iraena. The police responses to the calls. details of the members investigated, police analysis and the investigation and review by the Complaints Authority. The full document can be downloaded HERE


In July 2012, a Coroners Inquest began.


It was nearly 8 years after Iraena’s mysterious disappearance and it would have been her 33rd birthday.


During the inquest, the coroner would hear from Asher’s family and friends, police, the people who tried to help her on her last night, and the two who watched her disappear.




Day one, the friend of Iraena’s boyfriend whose house she was at during the day of the 1O October 2004, spoke to the court. He told the court that when they got to the house in Piha that Iraena began crying but wouldn’t say what was wrong. He told the court that “She walked into the lounge like a zombie, and she was spaced out”.


From there, her behaviour got increasingly “out of it”, he said. He tells the court that at one point, she disappeared down to the beach and came back soaking wet. They gave her new clothes, but she took them off, instead wearing a duvet and occasionally dancing naked around the room.


“She was seductive,” he said. “But didn’t want to do anything because she wanted to wait to have sex after marriage.”


He says that Iraena got into bed with him and his girlfriend, then got out again. At some point, Asher’s boyfriend left, and then while he was still in bed, around 8pm, Iraena got up and left herself.


He heard her talking on the phone, then the door slam, and she was gone. That was the last he heard until the police came knocking early the next morning, he said.


Asked by the Coroner if he thought he should have got her medical help, he said no. “I’d never met her before. I thought that was just the way she was.”


The former boyfriend:

Iraena had broken up with her boyfriend of four years ‘Mr. Dyson’ only a week before her disappearance, to be with her new boyfriend.


Dyson said their relationship had been “full-on” from the start, but he was aware of Iraena’s bi-polar. “She was really aware of her condition.”


He described how Iraena was impulsive and could be emotional. He said that he had been working nights and hadn’t seen Iraena often in the month before they broke up, she told him she missed a couple of her lithium pills. To make up, she’d take extra.


Despite all of that, Dyson said he didn’t believe Iraena would have killed herself.


“I don’t think she committed suicide. I’d like to think it was accidental.” He told the court about Iraena being a surf lifesaver at one time, how much she loved to swim. “She knew rips and she knew how to navigate them,” Dyson said.


Police had told the court earlier how Iraena’s behaviour grew increasingly bizarre and erratic in the days before she disappeared, which they said likely culminated in her death by drowning.


Police counsel Simon Moore told Coroner Peter Ryan that Iraena was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in her mid-teens.

Though Iraena kept the condition under control with Lithium tablets, it could be exacerbated by stress, causing a “relapse” of unpredictable and bizarre behaviour, Moore said.


Officer in charge of the original investigation, Detective Senior Sergeant John Sutton, told the court how during that day Iraena began to act strangely. She was picked up by passers-by, Ms. Woodhouse, and her son, and taken to their home. They gave Asher a shower and some food, then put her to bed. But at 1am she fled the house.


Asher was last seen naked, under a streetlight by Mr. Nixon and his girlfriend Ms. Ross. They hid and watched her “address” the streetlight, Sutton told the court. She then appeared to kneel down, and kiss the ground, before turning towards the beach.


“They followed her. The last they saw her as she moved toward the beam of the last streetlight near the beach. They were astonished she seemed to disappear into the darkness,” Moore said.


A “massive” search found no sign of Asher. Police suspected she may have been “self-medicating”, but could not establish that fully, Sutton said.


However, he believed her erratic behaviour was the sign of a full manic episode.


Sutton said the most likely scenario was that Asher had walked into the sea and drowned. Two other possibilities – that she had gone into the bush, or met with foul play – could not be substantiated, he said.


The inquest continues.


The information from this part of the inquest was taken from an article on, click the link below to read more.

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