Baby may have been in stream for days

By James Ihaka

Corpse found near home of country's most successful harness driver. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Corpse found near home of country's most successful harness driver. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The body of a newborn baby found dumped in a plastic bag in a stream in a rural area in South Auckland may have been there for two days, a local man says.

Police say an autopsy will be held this morning to determine how the baby died. The body was found on Saturday night wrapped in a red plastic bag in a stream on Burnside Rd, Ardmore.

The site of the grisly discovery is near the home of the country's most successful harness racing driver, Tony Herlihy, who was yesterday in Australia.

Five police officers were yesterday scouring the stream and surrounds at Burnside Culvert about 9km east of Papakura.

Police and security staff were also stationed at the driveway to the Herlihy home also on Burnside Rd about 400m away.

Locals spoken to by the Herald said they saw a number of police cars racing towards a small cottage at the front of the Herlihy property with their sirens blaring on Saturday afternoon.

The Herald understands the cottage is home to some of the stablehands and staff.

A man, who lives in the area and asked not to be named, said people "came and went" from the house with different employment arrangements but he believed five people lived in the house including a young woman in her early 20s.

He said police inquiries were focusing on locals seeing any suspicious behaviour in the area on Thursday afternoon, which is when he believes the body was ditched.

"That must be when it happened but I didn't see anything," he said.

"You probably would notice if you saw someone with a red plastic bag walking towards a stream."

Police were last night refusing to answer questions but Inspector Bruce Burd said earlier that the main investigation was focused on Burnside Culvert.

Asked if it was linked to the Herlihy home, he told the Herald on Sunday: "We need to determine the facts and see what the connections are." It is unclear what the baby's sex or ethnicity is.

Mr Burd said the body had been discovered by someone who had seen the plastic bag in the creek. Papakura CIB recovered the baby's body about 9pm on Saturday. The man who found the body was interviewed at Papakura police station on Saturday night.

Mr Herlihy last night told TV3 he employed trainers and groomers who helped on the property. "It's got nothing to do with my family. I don't know the details. It's in the hands of police and that's all that I can say."

Mr Herlihy rose to harness racing mastery after almost a decade working from the Ardmore property, which he moved to with his brother-in-law Mark Purdon in 1990.

Mr Herlihy has driven more than 3000 horses to victory, more than any other New Zealand reinsman.

Police have said they are following "strong lines of inquiry".

- NZ Herald

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