The revived investigation into the 1976 murder of 13-year-old Tracey Patient has sparked a tidal wave of public interest.
Within five days of the news that detectives were following new lines of inquiry, posts on the Waitemata District and national Police Facebook pages had reached nearly 380,000 people, with hundreds of shares, likes and comments.
The dedicated phone line – 0800 000 111 – had received hundreds of calls, including suspect nominations and reports of suspicious behaviour from the time.
Detective Inspector John Sutton, who is leading the operation, says Tracey’s family has been overwhelmed by the level of public interest and support.
“Tracey’s death has always been very topical in West Auckland,” he says. “I lived two streets down from Tracey and I can remember seeing her and her sister around.
“You go to a barbecue and people are still talking about it – I’ve never known a murder case to generate such a level of interest.”
John says many callers have theories about the significance of the number – 126040 - left by a caller in 1978. “Those six digits have really caught the imagination of a lot of people.”