A woman who was extradited from South Korea this week after the bodies of her two long-dead children were found in abandoned suitcases over the summer made her first court appearance in New Zealand Wednesday.
The 42-year-old suspect has been charged with two counts of murder.
She was not required to enter a plea during the brief hearing at the Manukau District Court in Auckland.
The presiding judge imposed a temporary gag order that keeps many details of the case secret, including the names of the woman and the children. The judge allowed it to be reported that the suspect was the victims’ mother, according to the New Zealand Herald.
If found guilty, the woman would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years.
In court, the woman wore a tan jacket over a black T-shirt. According to the Herald, the woman, through an interpreter, asked the judge if she could speak with him, before the woman’s lawyer stepped in to say it would be better if she didn’t, with which the judge agreed.
The woman left the courtroom after less than five minutes and will remain jailed until her next court appearance on Dec. 14.
The case horrified New Zealand after the children’s bodies were discovered in August when an unsuspecting Auckland family bought abandoned possessions, including two suitcases, from a storage unit in an online auction.
The children were between 5 and 10 years old, had been dead for years, and the suitcases had been in storage in Auckland for at least three or four years, according to New Zealand police.
South Korean police say the murder suspect was born in South Korea and later moved to New Zealand, where she gained citizenship. Immigration records show she returned to South Korea in 2018.
South Korean police first arrested the woman at the southern port city of Ulsan in September. The Seoul High Court then granted approval of her extradition after she expressed her consent in writing to be sent back to New Zealand.
Earlier this month, South Korean Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon issued an order for the woman to be extradited.
The woman was handed over to three New Zealand police officers Monday evening at the Incheon International Airport near Seoul. South Korea’s Justice Ministry said it also provided New Zealand with unspecified “important evidence” in the case.
The mother has previously denied any wrongdoing. As she was being transported by police to Seoul ahead of her extradition, she was heard saying in response to reporters’ questions: “I didn’t do it.”
With Post wires