Ariki Rigby’s young life was cut short by a homicide that shocked the country – thrown into a car that was set on fire in a rural parking lot in Hawke’s Bay. As the police track down those responsible, the New Zealand HeraldNeil Reid recounts his dream of making it musical and his tragic death.
As a schoolgirl at Whanganui Girls’ College, Ariki Rigby entertained classmates, friends and family through the power of music and laughter.
While at the school – one of New Zealand’s oldest single-sex schools – the teenager was a regular poster on social media channel TikTok, posting short clips of herself singing snippets of her own songs, or dancing and singing to whatever was hot In the charts.
And, tragically, just weeks before her remains were belatedly discovered by police in a burnt-out car in the parking lot of the River Rd Recreation Reserve on the outskirts of Havelock North, the 18-year-old appeared to be trying to aspire to his former college mantra “Aim High” when it comes to his musical aspirations.
Shortly before his disappearance, Ariki posted his musical dream online, writing, “I’m going to do a [sic] album for my raps and my songs”.
The young woman wrote that she hoped her friends and family would like her musical creations and added: “Actually I’m really good with flow bars… I’ll give it a really good studio shot and stuff. “
Ariki – who had spent time in Auckland before returning to Hawke’s Bay where her body was later found – wrote how a room in her mother’s house was to be turned into a “studio”.
Ariki’s mother lives in Manukau.
The album had a working title of Hustlaa.
“These are raps/songs about anything…help me with topics and stuff, but yeah, I hope I make a lot of money one day…the only goal is to get SLEEPING RICH. “
His musical article contained numerous references to terms synonymous with Mongrel Mob.
And one of Ariki’s social media accounts includes a photo of her posing with Mongrel Mob Flaxmere patched members on August 27 – it was one of the last posts she ever posted.
“We are so worried sis”
On the afternoon of September 8, Anahera Rigby made a very public appeal to anyone who had seen her younger sister.
There she shared the final text she received from Ariki – sent at 4.36am on August 23, with the teenager saying a friend had given her and her boyfriend a place to stay before they later return to Auckland.
Ariki jokingly asked for “money”, adding that she had “so much fun” and loved it.
But the call in Anahera’s message was devoid of the optimistic sentiments of her sister’s text message.
In it, she wrote that she was “so worried sister” because she hadn’t seen or heard from her since.
“Please come home. Call me. Text me. Whatever, let me know you’re ok,” she wrote.
“For days I’ve been looking for you. I need to know where you are sister. I need to know you’re safe. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. If he please come home.”
Tragically, the post was posted around six days after Ariki’s body was thrown into a car which was then set on fire in a gravelled car park on the outskirts of Havelock North. Police believe the car was driven there between 10 p.m. on September 2 and 7 a.m. on September 3.
It was not until two days later that the police realized that a body inside the car was human; initially believing the remains were of an animal.
As police investigated what they initially described as an “unexplained death”, friends told Anahera of their latest sightings of Ariki.
One person posted that the last place they met someone before they went missing was Dockery St in the Napier suburb of Maraenui.
Another person recounted how Ariki showed up “randomly” at her parents’ house after returning from a visit to Wairoa shortly before her disappearance.
“She was angry,” the woman wrote.
She said she received the last message from Ariki on September 1.
“I’m also worried about her too.”
‘Hey, there’s a body in the back’
Launching a homicide investigation was the last thing Kevin Monrad thought he would be at the center of when he emerged from his Hastings home last Monday morning.
He got into his car with his dog and then drove to the River Rd Recreation Reserve; one of Hawke’s Bay’s popular destinations for dog walkers, families going on picnics and also cyclists.
While there, Monrad decided to check out the burned-out car that had been sitting in a corner of the parking lot since Saturday.
“I started picking up all the pieces of melted aluminum around the car. As I was doing this, I noticed inside the car what to me looked like a dead body,” he said. he told the Herald.
“Instantly I yelled at the first person near me who was also walking a dog, ‘Hey, there’s a body in the back’.”
Two other dog walkers came to see him, one saying the burnt remains were those of a dog. Police had been present two days earlier and a tow truck was due later that day to take the charred vehicle to a wrecking yard.
Unconvinced, Monrad decided to take a closer look and discovered a woman’s body lying “face down behind the driver’s seat”.
She had shoulder-length hair and wore a silver necklace.
The man said it was clear the woman had “multiple bone fractures”.
He immediately called the police and urged them to rush to the scene. But when they got there, they told her they were aware of animal remains in the car.
“They waltzed [to the carpark] and it was like, ‘We’ve heard of this before. He’s a sheep,” Monrad said.
“I lost him, I had already exposed his face, and I said, ‘Does a sheep have shoulder-length hair? Does a sheep wear a collar?’
“It was then that the two officers went to take a look and asked me to step back.”
“Number of Lines of Inquiry”
Once police realized the remains were those of a human – confirmed to be those of Ariki eight days later – forensic experts gathered at the River Rd Recreational Reserve.
A tent was pitched over the burning wreckage as the young woman’s body was removed and police searched for any evidence of what they believed at the time to be an ‘unexplained death’ investigation.
The evidence would then have been exposed to the elements for two days, along with the immediate area around the car that is traveled by the many dog walkers who visit the area.
A day after Monrad’s grisly discovery, police said they were first alerted to the burnt-out car at 10 a.m. on September 3.
“Staff were present and, due to the condition of the vehicle and the debris from the fire, did not immediately identify that human remains were in the cabin of the car,” a spokesperson said.
“A subsequent inspection of the vehicle revealed suspected human remains.”
Eastern Police District Commander Jeanette Park also revealed that police would review the initial response.
“Our priority at this time is to identify this person and notify his family,” she said.
It would take eight laborious days from the launch of the “unexplained death” case and four days after it went to a homicide investigation until Ariki was officially identified.
Last Thursday, Detective Inspector Dave De Lange called on anyone who might know his identity to come forward.
Police had been reviewing the missing persons cases, but “to see if they are relevant to our investigation. At this stage, they have not been”.
“The community can rest assured that we are working hard to identify this woman and establish what happened to her,” De Lange said.
Police were also reviewing CCTV footage from the area to see if it would help their investigation.
Last week, they set up their community bus on the reserve in a bid to speak to anyone who might have relevant information.
Yesterday morning the police broke the news which shocked Ariki’s family and friends.
“Our thoughts and sympathies are with his family and the wider whanau,” a spokesperson said. “The police and victim assistance will offer them support during this difficult time.”
In confirming the murder of the teenager, police said they were “following a number of investigative leads”.
They continue their appeal for more information, a position echoed by Ariki’s family.
“We take this time to thank everyone who has shown love and concern in helping us find our Ariki Rigby,” the family said. “All of your efforts are greatly appreciated.
“If you have any information and details regarding his death, please contact Hastings Police Station in relation to Operation Sphynx.”
– Anyone with information is asked to contact the police on 105 quoting case number 220905/1265. Information can be provided anonymously to Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.