Caravan body find a 'horrendous scene'

Environmental Science and Research scientist Glenys Knight, Detective Lisa Watt, of Queenstown, and Detective Dean Schroder, of Cromwell at the scene of a body find in Cromwell. Photo / Lynda Van Kempen
Environmental Science and Research scientist Glenys Knight, Detective Lisa Watt, of Queenstown, and Detective Dean Schroder, of Cromwell at the scene of a body find in Cromwell. Photo / Lynda Van Kempen

A mystery spanning a year is believed to have been resolved with the discovery of a badly decomposed body in a Cromwell caravan.

Police said "distinctive items of clothing and also a document" found at the scene yesterday gave a "strong indication" the body was that of 42-year-old Simon James Garrick, of Central Otago, who has been missing for about a year.

A team made up of Environmental Science and Research staff, a forensic pathologist and detectives spent yesterday examining the scene, Detective Sergeant Derek Shaw, of the Central Otago CIB, said.

On the strength of the items they had found, the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the body and examination of the scene, duty coroner Peter Ryan was satisfied to make a provisional identification the person was Mr Garrick, Det Sgt Shaw said.

It was hoped the provisional identification would allay the fears of family and friends of other missing people. Police had been contacted by several relatives and friends of long-term camp dwellers yesterday who were anxious about the identity of the person found in Cromwell.

Det Sgt Shaw said the death was still being treated as "unexplained" but forensic pathologist Dr Martin Sage and the coroner were at this stage satisfied there was no foul play.

Dental records and DNA tests would be used by the coroner to confirm the identity of the person, he said.

The body would be taken to Christchurch for a postmortem, and formal identification could take some time as it relied on forensic results.

"We think that the body has been in there for a considerable period of time," Det Sgt Shaw said. "It may have been there for a Central Otago summer and a Central Otago winter."

It was in "an advanced state of decomposition".

Police had contacted Mr Garrick's family on Thursday, when the body was found.

The family wanted to thank the public for their support while Mr Garrick was missing.

Mr Garrick's sister Paula declined to comment when contacted last night. The caravan where the body was found had probably been moved three times in the past year so grass could be mown, holiday park co-owner John Searle said. Camp staff were in that area almost daily and never noticed anything untoward.

"When we're mowing, we pull the caravans forward and back, but we don't look inside them, of course."

A reward of $20,000 was posted by police last month in the hope of finding the missing man.

Det Sgt Shaw said the woman who discovered the body had been confronted by a "horrendous scene".

Her caravan was parked with about 100 other stored caravans at the rear of the Cromwell Top 10 Holiday Park, and she was checking it for the first time in about a year on Thursday morning.

She uncovered some bedding and found the body on the caravan floor. The woman was shocked but did the right thing in immediately withdrawing from the scene and contacting camp staff and police, Det Sgt Shaw said.

Asked whether the woman could lay claim to the reward, he said the spirit of the reward was aimed at someone who provided direct information on Mr Garrick's location, rather than someone who, through terrible circumstances, had discovered the body.

Mr Searle said it was ''business as usual'' at the camping ground yesterday and Thursday, with most of the 50-60 campers unaware of what had happened.

It was a long time since the caravan owner had last inspected her caravan but she was planning a holiday soon with friends so wanted to check it over before then, Mr Searle said.

Bill Bailey, who described himself as a ''permanent'' resident of the camp, said the storage compound would be "a good wee place to hide out, if you wanted to. No-one would find you for ages".

- Otago Daily Times

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