Mona Blades – Lost Highway

Earlier this week I managed to drag myself out of bed at 6.40 am on a surprisingly mild winters morning as part of my plan to get to Napier before dark with a little detouring along the way. It’s still winter (sadly) as I sit here writing this with a bad head cold. An invitation from a friend to stay with him in Napier while he house sits his parents 1920s bungalow seemed like to much of a good opportunity to pass up a potential blog entry.

I first read about the Mona Blades case when I was about 15 or 16 in one of those mini true crime omnibuses libraries always seem to have. If your a fan of reading books on true crime you will know exactly what kind of book I am talking about. About 10-12 stories, paperback size, almost light reading despite the gory subject matter.

If you’re from New Zealand and reading this you might remember hearing about the Mona Blades case on the news in 2012, when police dug up under a house for possible clues, which sadly revealed nothing. If you’re from New Zealand and were around in the seventies you may remember hearing about Mona Blades on the news or in the paper around the time of her disappearance.

Mona Blades.
Mona Blades.

Mona Blades was last seen on Queens birthday weekend 1975 hitchhiking from Hamilton to Hastings to surprise her family. Another family member, her older brother Chris, had dropped Mona off on Cambridge road, Hamilton – the main road out of town if your heading south. The disappearance of Mona Blades was widely reported in the media at the time and is one of New Zealand’s most well known missing person cases.

I booked a ticket the night before to Hamilton online (tickets don’t go fast during New Zealand’s bleak winter season if you’re not heading to a ski town) and arrived in Hamilton with no idea how to get to Cambridge street (wi fi wasn’t working). Luckily I was on the phone to the local bus company when I realized I was actually standing right in front of the bus stop that goes to Cambridge street.

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Cambridge street in winter is bleak and grey, but in a charming, nostalgic kind of way, like many growing cities most of the scruffy, old charms been pushed towards the end of town.

As I walked down Cambridge Road to find a good spot to hitchhike, I wondered what kind of day it had been when Mona had set off. I tried think about about how she may have felt. Had Mona felt a sense of adventure with the road stretching out before her? Excitement over surprising her family? I didn’t have much time to wonder before a Mercedes was pulling up.

Cambridge Street, Hamilton- 2014.
Cambridge Street, Hamilton, New Zealand- 2014.

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A slim blonde lady looked up from the drivers seat, I climbed into the passengers seat and she told me she was commuting between Hamilton and Napier while her husband finished up his work contract. “We’re setting up a dental surgery business in Hamilton” she told me between sucking on mints. I told her about my blog and after a bit she offered to pull over for me later on to take some pictures.

Mona was last sighted on May 31st, 1975 getting into a orange Datsun 120y station wagon and was later seen as a passenger on the highway between Taupo and Napier. A vehicle of the same description was spotted parked up on Matea Road off State Highway 5 later that morning. My ride kindly pulled over when we reached Matea Road, “I’ll do a u-turn and come back for you” she offered, as I jumped out to take a few pictures.

Even today Matea Road, back then a dirt road, appears lonely and isolated. Aside from my ride returning to collect me, I saw no other cars in the area. I wondered what the killer did with Mona, did he drive her to the hills in the distance, or did he take her back to his house? Did he pick her up intending to kill her or did he proposition her and fly into a self entitled rage when she rejected him? It’s hard to imagine the type of person who could take the life of an innocent 18 year old girl.

Orange Datsun 120y station wagon, same model of car Mona Blades was last seen as a passenger in.
Matea Road sign, State Highway 5, Rangitaiki, near Taupo.
Matea Road sign, State Highway 5, Rangitaiki. Near Taupo, New Zealand.
Matea Road, Rangitaki.
Matea Road, Rangitaki, New Zealand.

Mona Blades’s body has never been found but she was most certainly abducted and murdered during her hitch hiking trip. She has never been seen or heard from again since that fateful day. A young, attractive girl with her whole life ahead of her, what happened to Mona was most certainly a tragedy. Unfortunately as of today, the secret of what happened to Mona Blades remains lost along the lonely Taupo-Napier highway.

Sources of information.

Williams, Tony. Unsolved murders in New Zealand. Auckland: Hachette. (1999)

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