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Advances in DNA testing bring Cormack Case to Court
Teresa Cormack. The Napier schoolgirl that disappeared on June 19 1987, the day after her sixth birthday. No doubt one of most well known, unsolved murders in New Zealand. A woman walking her dog on the Whirinaki Beach, 8 days later discovered her body. At the time police were not able to place anyone at the crime site, nor were they able to match the forensic specimens they obtained from the scene to any one person. Now in 2002, finally a trail is taking place after new DNA advancements connected a Lower Hutt sickness beneficiary, Jules Pierre Nicholas Mikus, to the murder of Teresa Cormack.
Teresa had been reluctant to go to school that day on June 19 1987. She had turned 6 years old the day before and it’s possible she had wanted to stay at home and play with her new toys or maybe she had wanted to wait to see her father who was coming to visit her that day, no one will ever know. Regardless of her reluctance she pulled on a large red oversized raincoat over her red corduroy dress and headed off on what should have been the same walk she made every day to Richmond Primary School.

When Teresa didn’t return to her home at the normal time of 3.30pm, her mother, Kelly Pigott was not too worried as this normally meant that she had gone to play at her best friend’s house Maria Taukamo. When the six-year-old still had not returned at 4.30pm, Kelly called Maria’s mother and was dismayed to be told that Teresa was not there. She rung the police and was told to call again if the child had not reappeared in 2 hours. Kelly then walked the streets down to the school to look for Teresa. Upon her return to the house she again rang Mrs. Taukamo, who then told her that Teresa had not been at school that day. Before long a large search party had gathered, involving police and 600 volunteers. However no one located Teresa Cormack until 8 days later when a woman walking her dogs found her half buried body at the bottom of a bank under a tree on Whirinaki Beach.

It is believed that the accused man, Jules Mikus took Teresa Cormack around 10.15-10.30am of June 19 1987. Following this he took her to Whirinaki Beach, where he ripped off her underwear and violated her before he placed one hand over her mouth and the other was used to hold her head down. As she struggled the pink headband that she was wearing was squashed against her head leaving a cut on her temple. She falls into unconsciousness approximately 1 minute after her airways were blocked. There is strong evidence based on the state of her lungs and the swelling of her brain that suggests that she did not die for 30-60 minutes after she was suffocated. This indicates that she would have been alive as she was buried in the shallow grave, although she would not have been conscious.

When Teresa’s body was retrieved, semen and pubic hairs were taken from her mouth and from her underwear. However at this time DNA was still in it’s early days and although Jules Mikus was one of hundreds that gave samples, no profile could be obtained. Mikus had also been excluded as a suspect due to a confirmed alibi for 9am in the morning, the time that police first believed Teresa Cormack disappeared. Now it is believed it was closer to 10.15am-10.30am that she went missing.

In 1998, the police decided on a make it or break it look at the Teresa Cormack case and reopened it. All the latest breakthroughs in DNA research were used to match a suspect to the blood and saliva samples that had been taken in the past. The pubic hairs that were found on the child were sent to the United States to under go a new Mitochondrial testing. The outcomes were pleasing with 840 samples compared and 839 excluded. The blood of Jules Mikus had matched. The semen that was found on the body showed the results that it was 60 million times more likely to belong to Mikus than to any other New Zealand male. The results from the Mitochondrial testing also linked the pubic hairs that were found at the scene to Mikus directly.

The arrest of Jules Pierre Nicholas Mikus was finally made on 26 February 2002 at the house of the accused. During early questioning Mikus admitted to hand painting his estranged wife’s Vauxhall Viva shortly after the disappearance of Teresa Cormack. Although he pleaded not guilty.

He was committed to trail on 12 July 2002 and was charged with the following:
  • Murdering Teresa Cormack in Napier on or about June 19 1987
  • 2 Charges of sexually violating her
  • A charge of detaining her without her consent for sexual connection
The trail began in the Wellington High Court on the 30th September 2002, with a jury of 9 men and 3 woman. It lasted until the 8 October 2002, when it took the jury only 2 and a half hours to find Mikus guilty on all accounts.

Back to Murder Index

Teresa Cormack. The Napier schoolgirl that disappeared on June 19 1987, the day after her sixth birthday. One of most well-known 'unsolved' murders in New Zealand.

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