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The Featherston Murder of Coral Burrows – Sep 2003
6 year old, Featherston girl, Coral Burrows went missing after her stepfather dropped her and brother Storm off at South Featherston school at around 9am, Tuesday 9th September 2003.
Her disappearance was not noticed until 4pm when she failed to get off the school bus to her waiting mother. Returning to the school to collect her daughter, her mother was then told that she had not attended school that day.

A search was started a matter of hours later and a helicopter was brought in to support the ground search of waterways and farmland in rural areas. Coral’s natural father, Ron Burrows arrived soon after from Te Puke to join the search. As the night wore on the search was cancelled - to be resumed the next morning. There was an outstanding amount of support offered to police and the family. A 30 square kilometre area of farmland, tree lines, buildings and properties were combed. As darkness came and the rain continued to fall, the search was again called off for the night.

Detective Inspector in charge of the case, Rod Drew spoke to almost everyone in the community and requested “to hear from people who were travelling through the South Wairarapa”.

Coral was said to be a friendly, independent wee soul.

Please contact the police if you have any information at all:
0508 667 333
or 0508 OP REEF Updates:

10 September 2003 - Coral’s School bag found
During an aerial search of Abbott’s Creek last this afternoon, the backpack belonging to Coral was found. The bag was said to contain Coral’s uneaten lunch and some schoolbooks when recovered from below the Featherston rail bridge.

The discovery of the bag is significant in regards that it reduces “the likelihood of Coral simply wandering off because of the distances involved.” It is believed that the bag may have travelled some distance. Aerial and ground searches will be directed into the areas from the double bridges at the base of the Rimutaka Hill Road downstream towards the edge of Featherston township.

The police are now appealing for any sightings of people seen in the area or vehicles parked on Tuesday along the main highway, near Double bridges, scenic lookouts or adjoining roads.

12 September 2003 – Coral’s stepfather remanded in custody
It has been revealed that the police had paid a visit to the family home the day that Coral went missing. The Dominion Post claimed it was a drug-related raid. Cars related to the property have also been impounded. Unemployed Stephen Roger Williams, 29, of Featherston appeared in Masterton District Court charged with 2 charges - one of assault and one of the using white Lada motor vehicle as a weapon. The incidents occurred on 2 September and the assault was related to Coral’s mother’s brother.

13th September 2003 – Mannequin displays Coral’s clothes
Hoping to prompt more public help, the police released a more detailed visual and written description of the clothes Coral was last seen wearing, including a mannequin dressed in the same clothes she was wearing. Police have also lowered Lake Wairarapa’s water level from 4m to 2m to continue search using a jet boat.

14th September 2003 – Forensic search of Coral’s home, Rest day for searchers
Although searchers have been given a rest day, the family and friends of Coral are still out there searching and calling her name.

Meanwhile police and forensic experts are searching Coral’s home in what they describe as standard procedure. Coral’s mother and 2 brothers moved out of the home they shared with Stephen Williams and the home is being guarded. It has not been revealed if the family are still in Featherston.

15th September 2003 – Williams appears in Court as search continues
Steven Roger William appeared in Masterton District Court and agreed to be remanded in custody. Meantime forensic search continues on the stepfather’s car and home.

16th September 2003 – Coral’s disappearance most likely 'an abduction'
police revealed today. "I am led to the inevitable conclusion that Coral has been abducted and taken from the immediate area by another person." Says Inspector Drew as he appealed for more sightings of a beige/fawn coloured Lada sedan in the Featherston, Greytown, Martinborough or South Wairarapa on Tuesday last week between the hours of 12.30pm and 3.30pm. However searches have by no means been called off. Divers, helicopter and search teams continue to various areas, including a tented off area at Coral’s house.

17 September 2003 - Coral's stepfather jailed for eight months
Steven Williams pleaded guilty in the Masterton District Court to assault, threatening to kill a 16-year-old in Featherston and causing grievous bodily harm in July. In addition he crashed a car into a power pole while extremely intoxicated and will serve a further two months for that. His lawyer Jock Blaythwayt says Williams accepts his sentence and is willing to stand up when he has done something wrong - however while handcuffed and being led to a prison van Williams yelled to media that his sentence was a joke.

18 September 2003 - Police request burnoff info
Police investigating Coral Burrows disappearance seek information about rubbish fires or burnoffs in the south Wairarapa area in the week Coral went missing. Inquiry head Detective Inspector Rod Drew says there is nothing unusual in the request, describing it as simply 'exploring all possible information sources'.

19th September 2003 – Coral’s body recovered and stepfather charged
As police cordoned off a 30 to 40 metres square area in bush near Lake Onoke (Ferry), Coral’s family learnt of the death of the six year old and the arrest of Steven Roger Williams (Coral’s step-father).

The police waited until daylight to begin their search of the area. Coral’s body was discovered at 9.15am and recovered early in the afternoon. A preliminary post mortem was started and is expected to be complete later in the weekend. Meantime the police and forensic expects will remain at the discovery site to conduct a “thorough and meticulous examination of the scene”.

29 year old Steven Roger Williams appeared in Masterton District Court charged with the murder of his stepdaughter. Coral’s family stood quietly during the hearing but others outside hurled abuse and food as Williams left. He will be held on remand until October 17.

The family came out to make a public plea for time and space to mourn their daughter’s death. In a statement issued through the police, parents Jeanna, Ron and extended family want to thank the police, volunteers and public for the support given in the search for Coral. “Our plea to all New Zealander is to treasure your children and help keep safe”

Back to Murder Index

6 year old Coral Burrows went missing at around 9am, Tuesday 9th September 2003

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