Under Investigation

CRIME & INVESTIGATION – Thursdays from 3 September, 8.00pm

Series revisits high profile cases still under investigation by the police.

Wednesday 21 May, 9.30pm

Two Auckland brothers, aged 16 and 15, are diagnosed with an identical but very rare cancer within one day of each other. Reporter Rob Harley goes on a quest to find out why the brothers may have both become ill at the same time.

Izzie and Sam O’Dea were both diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer – an extremely rare form of cancer – within 24 hours of each other in mid-2005. The tumours were inoperable and could only be treated by the harshest-known forms of chemo and radiotherapy available.
How come two brothers get exactly the same cancer at almost exactly the same time? The answer may be that they were both exposed to glandular fever at around the same time and it’s known that this can be a pre-cursor to nasopharyngeal cancer. Under Investigation’s Rob Harley examines this and other theories.

Wednesday 7 May, 9.30pm

Under Investigation is a series of local documentaries exploring medical dilemmas.

This is a story about an astonishing international connection that has seen a little boy in Washington DC provide the answer to a riddle that has baffled one New Zealand Maori tribe for generations.
Lorenzo Odone was just starting school in Washington when his behaviour started to spiral out of control and his health deteriorated rapidly. He was diagnosed with Adrenoleukodystrophy, which causes a steady loss of all senses in the body.

His father, Agusto, set about trying to find answers. He came up a special oil, which seemed to slow down Lorenzo’s decline.

The oil discovery caused huge controversy in the medical world, but grateful families whose children had the disease started asking for the product – from all over the world, including New Zealand.

The experience with the disease in this country is very sad. Sometime in the 19th century – and no-one is yet sure why – a genetic twist of fate saw a Taranaki Maori woman called Rawinia develop a rogue blip in her DNA and ALD started to affect her family line.

It’s a condition that causes the coating on nerve cells to decay, and it affects males in the family line. Females carry the gene that causes it, but aren’t actually affected by it. The males who get ALD experience the steady loss of every sense in their body, requiring 24-hour care before they finally die.

Fourteen years ago, TVNZ carried a story looking at how the complex family tree of this disease has spread throughout the New Zealand community and the research being done among Maori by Dr Shirley Tonkin, to try to track down the carriers.

The 1993 report left the stories of four Kiwi families confronted with ALD hanging in various ways. One Maori woman was pregnant and had refused a termination of her unborn son because she was pinning her hopes on “Lorenzo’s Oil”.

Under Investigation reporter Rob Harley picks up the story where he left it in 1993. He investigates whether the condition is being brought under control in New Zealand, and also travels to Washington to find Lorenzo Odone.