Ira leaves 'big hole' in family

By Amy McGillivray

A 29-year-old found dead in Tauranga Harbour has been described as a "hard out" family man.

Ira Shepard was spotted by a tug boat near the Mount Maunganui Port about 2.50pm on Saturday.

Charlie Shepard said his brother loved his large family and his 3-year-old daughter, Maddison.

"He had a big family about 10 brothers and sisters in all ... It will be a big hole in our family and a familiar face missing in Tauranga."

Mr Shepard, an arborist, made the most of life, his brother said.

"He was a pretty fun-loving sort of a dude. He was pretty adventurous he'd try anything and he loved to have a Waikato on the weekend."

He enjoyed skateboarding, writing lyrics and Ford cars.

The family found out about Mr Shepard's death on Sunday afternoon and had no idea what happened to him, his brother said.

Detective Sergeant Iain Chapman said an autopsy had been done but police were still working to determine what happened.

"It's very much unexplained. It's not suspicious at this stage," Mr Chapman said.

"We're just interviewing family members and friends. We're just going to go around to see as many people as possible."

Mr Chapman said the police appeal for information had already helped the investigation.

"We now know that he was spotted by an old school friend in downtown Tauranga around 10am on December 1.

"Every little piece of information like this helps us to build up a picture of his last movements. More importantly, it will help us to establish how and when he died so that we can provide some answers and some comfort to Ira's family."

Mr Chapman said he believed there were two or three days between that sighting and Mr Shepard's death.

"We're interested in speaking to anyone who may have seen him after that date and time ... we need to try and pin down his movements."

Mr Shepard was identified by his distinctive tattoos after police issued an appeal to the public for help.

He had the word SCORPIO tattooed across his stomach, the word FORD on his right shoulder and a tribal design on his left forearm.

The funeral for Ira Shepard will be held at 1pm on Friday at Tauranga Park, 383 Pyes Pa Rd.

Anyone with information about this investigation is asked to contact Mr Chapman at Tauranga Police on (07) 577 4300.

Alternatively, information can be provided anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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