Coroner’s jury investigating unusual New Zealand disappearance

Seven years after the disappearance of Iraena Asher from Piha, New Zealand, she has been declared dead and a three-day inquest has been set up to try and figure out what happened to her. Iraena, a 25-year-old college student and part-time model (she was certainly beautiful enough) “was last seen standing naked under a streetlight during a blustery storm. Her case created an uproar when it was revealed police sent a taxi to respond to her 111 call rather than police officers.”

Iraena had bipolar disorder and her boyfriend said she’d been acting weird, “like a zombie”, prior to her disappearance. She’d been on lithium, a mood stabilizer commonly used to treat bipolar disorder (I myself take Depakote) but hadn’t been taking it as directed: “She told [her boyfriend] she missed a couple of her lithium pills. To make up, she’d take extra.” And even she was taking it as she should, stress in her life could cause an episode anyway.

(Sad but so typical: with mental illness of any kind, even if you take your meds as directed you can still struggle and have episodes. It often takes months, years, even decades to get your medicine right. Sometimes they never get it right. In the four months after I finally started getting serious treatment for my depression, I followed all my doctor’s instructions but I had to be hospitalized three times and had some other serious episodes where I could have been hospitalized. In the three years that followed, my medication helped greatly but I still had episodes of extreme depression and suicidality, several times a month and lasting perhaps a few days or a week at a time, and just accepted it as something I would have to deal with forever. It wasn’t until over a year ago that I was finally diagnosed with mild bipolar disorder and started taking Depakote. And let me tell you, the difference is stupendous. Great Headache Crisis and all, I haven’t had a black day since then. But it took almost three years to get it right, and that was with good medical help and supervision and a very cooperative patient. But anyway…)

According to one witness, the night Iraena vanished she became giddy and irrational: changing out of her pajamas into a dressy skirt, “like something you would wear to a fashion show not the beach,” she began crying but refused to say what was wrong. Then she ran out into the thunderstorm and got soaked. They gave her some dry clothes, but she wouldn’t keep them on and instead wore a duvet (my WordWeb program says that’s Brit-speak for a quilt) or “occasionally dancing naked around the room.” The guy she was with said she was acting “seductive” but when Iraena called the emergency phone number, she said she was being pressured for sex and was scared. The cops thought it was not an emergency and she was just wanted a free ride home. As noted above, they sent a taxi instead of a police car. It didn’t matter: Iraena walked out of the house before the taxi arrived and vanished into space.

As with Shannan, the police believe Iraena probably died in an accident. Quoting from this article:

“At the time of her disappearance it is believed Iraena Asher was suffering from a manic bi-polar episode,” officer in charge Detective Senior Sergeant John Sutton told the inquest.

“She wandered into the surf at Piha beach and drowned. In my view this is the most probable explanation.”

[…]

[After she left the house] Asher was taken in by a Piha couple when they discovered her in distress on the road but later panicked and ran away. Police say given her state, they should have acted… She was last seen wandering naked toward the Piha surf.

About the “Piha couple,” they testified as well:

Asher was last seen naked, under a streetlight by Zachary Nixon and his girlfriend Simone 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.

They think she either walked into the ocean intentionally or, more likely, was dragged out into the water by a wave or something. Iraena was apparently a really good swimmer and surfer who knew how to deal with riptides, but these were quite dangerous conditions. There’s no evidence to support any other theories in her disappearance, and I agree that this seems to be the most plausible explanation. Most people who drown in the ocean wash up on shore, but some bodies are swept out to sea.

This case totally sounds just like Shannan Gilbert‘s disappearance and death. Shannan freaked out in the middle of the night for some reason and called 911, and they only sent one police officer who took his sweet time cause they thought the call was not an emergency. Shannan ran outside and vanished without a trace, only to turn up in a nearby swamp more than a year and a half later. The police think it was probably an accident (understandable), the family is saying murder (also understandable) and the media are still speculating about how she died and why and who’s to blame. Like Iraena, Shannan was bipolar and apparently having a breakdown at the time of her disappearance.

A very sad story.