Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Authorities in New Zealand have launched a homicide investigation into the deaths of two children whose bodies were recently found in suitcases that were left for years in storage.
Police were notified of the bodies Aug. 11 by residents of the Auckland suburb of Manurewa who had brought the suitcases home after buying them with other household and personal items from a storage facility.
Anna Thompson, senior media advisor with New Zealand Police, confirmed in a statement Thursday that the those who bought the abandoned suitcases are not connected to the deaths of the children.
"They are understandably distressed by the discovery, and they have asked for privacy," she said. "We are ensuring there is support in place."
Post-mortem examinations are currently underway but initial findings indicate that that children may have been dead for several years before their discovery, authorities said.
Detective Inspector Tofilau Faamanuia Vaaelua told reporters in a press conference Thursday evening that they had been dead about three to four years and the children ranged in age from 5 to 10 years old at the time of their deaths.
He told reporters that he was "very reluctant" to reveal any identification about the victims at this stage of the investigation.
He added that they have, however, contacted Interpol and other international partners about the investigation.
Thompson said formal identification procedures are still ongoing and "[o]nce this is completed our priority is to contact the next of kin."
Faamanuia added that he "really feels" for the families of the victims.
"Right here, right now, there are relatives out there that aren't aware that their loves ones have deceased, especially two young children," he said. "This is no easy investigation and no matter how long or how much you investigate horrific cases like this it is never an easy task."