Pathologists are due to begin a post mortem on the body of toddler Aisling Symes as support poured in from around New Zealand for her grieving parents.
Her body was discovered in a drain last night and removed at 1.30am local time this morning.
Police who last week said they had searched the area thoroughly now face questions about how they missed the drain, which is on a west Auckland property adjacent to where the two-year-old girl went missing.
Inquiry head Inspector Gary Davey today confirmed the body found was that of Aisling.
He said police believe the death of the toddler is a case of misadventure.
She was found 36 metres away from a manhole into the drain and 1.5 metres underground. Concrete cutters and a digger were required to open the drain up and retrieve her body.
Mr Davey said: “I believe it is more likely than not she was there from the start and it is a case of misadventure”.
However, police would still keep an open mind that there was a possibility of foul play.
Sadness at the discovery of the body of Aisling is giving way to criticism that police should have found her in their original search over a week ago.
Neighbours in the west Auckland suburb of Henderson, where the two-year-old’s body was found, were asking how a child missing for a week and feared taken by kidnappers could be found only metres from where she disappeared.
“They reckon they searched everything twice, but she’s right under their noses,” one resident said.
He believed more questions would be asked of police.
Another resident, Deborah Gregory, wanted to know why it had taken police so long to find Aisling when she was so close.
The neighbourhood had been really quiet over the past week, and the police presence had been incredible, she said.
Mr Davey said a manhole into the drain was seen to be 8 to 10 centimetres ajar on the night Aisling went missing.
However he said: “I’m sure we would not have been able to save her on the night”.