A Moment In Crime: Christchurch schoolgirl murder – the shocking tragedy of Louisa Damodran

In October 1986 Christchurch schoolgirl Louisa Damodran went missing as she walked home from school.

Her family lived just 800m from Bromley School and when the child failed to return home they panicked.

A massive search of the school, suburb and surrounds failed to find any sign of Louisa, who was just days off turning 7.

For days police appealed for information, and searchers and members of the community scoured the city in a desperate bid to find her.

Tragically though, she was already dead.

A prolific child sex offender recently released from prison had seen Louisa, followed her, and snatched her just 150m from her front door.

Peter Joseph Holdem soon became the number one suspect and during an interview with police, confessed to kidnapping and killing Louisa.

He molested, gagged and throttled the schoolgirl and threw her tiny body in a river north of Christchurch.

In today’s episode of A Moment In Crime, senior journalist Anna Leask looks back at Louisa’s short life and horrendous death.

Holdem remains in prison but has recently appeared before the Parole Board and admitted – for the first time – remorse over Louisa’s murder.

This killer has been refused an early release from prison over and over since he became eligible for parole in 1997.

He has been deemed – repeatedly – too dangerous and too much of a risk to the community to be allowed out and free.

But at his latest hearing it was indicated he is ready to do the “significant” work needed to move back into the community.

Louisa’s family have fought for decades to keep him behind bars, terrified he will harm more children.

Their story is also covered in this episode of A Moment In Crime.

A Moment In Crime is written and hosted by Leask, senior crime reporter for the Herald.

The podcast is produced by the talented team at NZME Sound, Vision and Creative.

Leask has been covering crime and justice for the Herald for more than a decade and has reported on most of the major incidents and events over that time.

“Each month I’ll take you inside some of our most infamous incidents, notorious offenders and behind the scenes of high profile trials and events to show you what’s really happening in your backyard,” she said.

“Heroes and villains battle for justice to be done, and it seems no matter how horrifying the story, we always want to know more.

“If you want to know more about the cases that have shocked and shaped our nation – from murders and massacres to violent villains and the utterly unbelievable – join me for A Moment In Crime.”

In our first episode, we looked back at the Christchurch terror attack – what unfolded on March 15 and how it changed New Zealand.

The podcast has also delved into the death of West Auckland toddler Aisling Symes, the cold case murder of Kayo Matsuzawa, the murder of Feilding farmer Scott Guy and double killer Jason Somerville, infamous for the Christchurch House of Horrors.

In 2017, Leask wrote and hosted Chasing Ghosts – a six-part podcast series on the Amber-Lee Cruickshank case.

The South Island toddler disappeared almost 27 years ago from a small town on the shore of Lake Wakatipu.

Despite exhaustive and repeated searches, there has never been any sign of the little girl.

To mark the 25th anniversary of Amber-Lee’s disappearance, Leask investigated the famous cold case in a bid to generate some answers for the toddler’s family.

It was the Herald’s first true-crime podcast.

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If there is a case or crime you want us to consider covering in A Moment In Crime – email [email protected]

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