Police searching for the owner of a car found abandoned in bushland in Wollongong's northern suburbs discovered the woman's body lying in the vehicle's boot several hours later.
Homicide squad detectives are investigating the death of the 41-year-old woman who was found inside her car in bushland off Foothills Road in Corrimal on Thursday afternoon.
A member of the public spotted the white 2003-model Kia Rio sedan parked in the bush about 2.45pm and phoned police, who arrived at the scene a short time later.
Officers attempted to make contact with the vehicle's owner, but initially were unable to find her.
Police returned to the vehicle about 7.20pm and searched the vehicle, and found the owner's body lying in the boot. She is believed to be a mother with a 10-year-old son.
Detectives set up a crime scene at the end of Foothills Road, which leads up to the Illawarra Escarpment Conservation Area.
A second crime scene has been set up at the woman's unit in Bligh Street in Wollongong.
Resident Melissa Cruickshank said the woman, who she knew only as Linda, was "a lovely neighbour".
Ms Cruickshank has known Linda for 3.5 years and said their sons were best mates.
"She's a lovely person, never done anything wrong, she was always quiet, just dropped off her little boy to school and picked him up," she told the Illawarra Mercury.
Homicide Squad and Wollongong Local Area Command detectives are investigating the woman's death, but have not revealed any details about the woman or how she died.
They have appealed for anyone who saw a white Kia Rio sedan driving erratically in Wollongong's northern suburbs before 2.45pm on Thursday to come forward.
Detectives also have appealed for anyone who saw pedestrians in the Foothills Road area in Corrimal on Thursday afternoon to come forward.
Anyone with information has been urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000