The human remains of two young children have been found in two abandoned suitcases that were bought at an auction in New Zealand, police have confirmed.

Detective Inspector Tofilau Faamanuia Vaaelua told reporters on Thursday that the children were aged between five and 10 when they died and had likely been deceased for several years before being found.

Police opened a homicide investigation on August 11 after a family in Manurewa, South Auckland unsuspectingly bought the suitcases from an online auction held to sell abandoned goods left at a storage facility.

The family discovered the remains when they opened the suitcases after taking them home. Police say the family is not connected to the deaths.

According to the New Zealand Herald newspaper, a neighbor of the family who was on the scene when the auctioned items were unloaded from a trailer, said that the apart from the two suitcases, there were also toys, prams and a walker.

DI Faamanuia could not confirm if police had spoken to the previous owner of the storage unit, but said police were working with Interpol and overseas agencies.

The family that made the shocking discovery had asked for privacy, police said.

“We’re doing all right. As long as everyone leaves us alone we’ll be all right,” said a relative of the family who spoke to the New Zealand Herald. The family that found the remains of the children has now reportedly left Auckland, he added.

“Formal identification procedure are still ongoing which means that police are not yet able to comment on the identities of the children. Once this is completed, our priorities is to contact the next of kin,” said DI Faamanuia.

“We want to reassure the community our investigation is continuing to ascertain the full circumstances around the death of these children.”

He added that discoveries of this nature “provide some complexities of the investigation”, especially given the time lapse between the time of death and their discovery.

“However, the investigation team is working very hard to hold accountable the person or persons responsible for the deaths of these children,” he stressed.

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