A former Christchurch man locked in a legal battle with a New Zealand telecommunications company has been shot dead in Texas, just days before he was to take his former employer back to court.
United States-born Christopher Tiensch, 43, was found shot dead with his body floating face down in water in a remote part of St Joseph's Island, north of Port Aransas, on Thursday.
The father of two had been the chief executive of NZAX-listed Christchurch telecommunications company Plus SMS until he was forced out amid controversy in 2008.
In a lawsuit against the company, Mr Tiensch accused Plus SMS of fraud and wrongful dismissal, to which the company counterclaimed with allegations of fraud and blackmail of board members.
A US court last month awarded Mr Tiensch a US$430,000 settlement but the money remained in the custody of the court, with a hearing set down for Thursday over releasing the money to Mr Tiensch and his family.
News website The Digital Texan reported that court documents showed Plus SMS executives had made threats against Mr Tiensch's life, with one writing in an email:"Put a bullet in Les and Chris (Tiensch)."
Another email said: "Put a bullet in Tiensch."
Mr Tiensch had been on a fishing trip in Port Aransas when he was reported missing on September 11 after his wife had not heard from him.
Police found his wallet and personal items untouched in his hotel room and his Range Rover in the parking lot.
An aerial search found him on the remote island which was only accessible by air or boat.
Police are treating his death as homicide and have ruled out suicide.
"In order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, details about the location of the injuries, type of weapon, ammunition and number of shots will not be released," police chief Scott Burroughs said in a release to US media.
Family friend Dinah Welsh said the family was "devastated".
"He was a good and decent man, an incredible husband and father who will be dearly missed," she told the Austin American-Statesman.
Mr Tiensch loved the outdoors and was an experienced mountain climber, having climbed Mt Everest and Mt Kilimanjaro.
Mr Tiensch joined Plus SMS in 2006, just months before it declared it had made unrealistic statements and a Securities Commission investigation was launched.
He argued in court that the directors had persuaded him to mislead the public to inflate stock prices, and was ousted when he refused.