Mystery death in Rotorua park

Police investigate the scene where a body was found in Rotorua's Kuirau Park overnight. Photo / Ben Fraser
Police investigate the scene where a body was found in Rotorua's Kuirau Park overnight. Photo / Ben Fraser

Police are confident the death of a man whose body was found in Rotorua's Kuirau Park is not gang-related but they are exploring whether it is related to family violence, drugs or robbery.

A team of about 38 police staff are working on a homicide investigation which was launched in Rotorua following the discovery of the body in the park at about 1:30am today.

The Bay of Plenty Police District Field Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Mark Loper, said the body was found by members of the public who notified police and medical staff. The victim was wearing shorts and a t-shirt when he was found.

Mr Loper says the man had suffered serious injuries, however, it was too early in the investigation to be able to provide further details about the nature of those injuries or the potential cause of death.

During a press conference in Rotorua today, Mr Loper said the victim had suffered serious injuries to his head and body but would not comment on whether police were looking for any weapons.

He said ESR staff arrived at the scene just before midday and would undertake a forensic examination over the next 24 hours. He said the body may be removed by this evening.

Mr Loper said a post-mortem examination will be undertaken in Auckland tomorrow to determine the cause of death and to potentially confirm the identity of the man.

"Police have some strong leads in relation to the man's identity, however, it may be that it is not possible to formally confirm this until the post mortem is undertaken.

"We can say that the man is Caucasian and aged in his 60s. We believe that he had temporarily moved to Rotorua and that he was not a tourist."

Mr Loper said an extensive cordon was in place around Kuirau Park while police and Search and Rescue volunteers carried out a comprehensive search of the area. He said police staff were also undertaking a wide canvass of Kuirau Park and its surrounding areas.

"We are keen to hear from anyone who may have been in the Kuirau Park area last evening or during the night, or from anyone who may have noticed something suspicious around the area or amongst their friends, family or acquaintances overnight or today.

"If anyone has any information, no matter how small it may seem, please contact Rotorua Police on 07 348 0099. People can also provide information anonymously via the independent Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111."

Mr Loper said police were keeping an open mind about the possible motives and circumstances that may have led to the homicide.

"We are confident that the incident is not gang-related, but we are exploring all possibilities, including whether the incident is related to family violence, robbery or drugs."

Mr Loper said Kuirau Park will remain cordoned off for most of today. However, he said police will reduce the size of the cordons as soon as possible over the coming days.

"It is critical that we locate, preserve and recover any items that may be linked to this incident and there is a great deal of work to be done today and in the coming days in order to do that.

"We are asking members of the public to avoid the area until the cordons are reduced and/or removed."

- APNZ

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