Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Canterbury homicide: Police confirm last sighting of Renee Duckmanton

Slain sex worker Renee Duckmanton, whose body was burned and dumped on a rural Canterbury road, was last seen in Christchurch's red light district on Saturday night, police have confirmed.

Police are also now talking to "persons of interest" as part of the homicide inquiry looking into her death and can't rule out a client being behind her killing.

Detective Inspector Darryl Sweeney said at a press conference tonight that the last sighting of Miss Duckmanton was while she was working on the Manchester and Peterborough streets area of the red light district on Saturday.

They're asking for other sex workers, clients, and members of the public who saw Miss Duckmanton between 8pm and 10pm on Saturday night to come forward.

Asked if the person responsible for her death was one of her clients, Mr Sweeney said he
"can't rule out that the sex industry is not a factor".

"Police now believe Renee's work in the sex industry may have been a factor in her death," Mr Sweeney said.

Officers are speaking with the city's working girls and asked them to come forward with any information.

Even if people only saw Miss Duckmanton for "a brief minute", it would be "extremely helpful" if that information was passed on to police, Mr Sweeney said.

Police will be patrolling the area tonight and will be keeping in contact with the working girls and the Prostitutes Collective, he said.

"A large team of police staff continue to make progress in our investigation," Mr Sweeney said.

"The information we've received from the public has continued to be a significant help in this and we continue to urge anyone who has information to get in contact with us.

"Police continue to complete a number of other scene examinations across Christchurch in relation to our investigations.

"Staff will continue to remain in these areas while we speak with members of the public."

Flowers have been laid today at the spot where Miss Duckmanton's burned body was found on Sunday.

Photo / Kurt Bayer
Photo / Kurt Bayer

Police are asking for anyone who saw Miss Duckmanton between 8pm Saturday through to Sunday evening, or if they know of her movements between those times, to contact Christchurch Central Police Station on 03 363 7400.

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

Grieving mother Tracy Duckmanton said her daughter will "always be my beautiful baby girl".

"With her family and her friends, Renee was a kind, sweet and trusting person," she said.

"She was also bubbly, goofy and loved everyone she interacted with.

"She will always be remembered by her beautiful smile and will be missed by us all."

Miss Duckmanton's sisters, Jess and Bianca, said she was the best aunty in the world to her nieces and nephews.

"She had a very easy going nature and a gentle soul," they said in a joint statement.

"Renee will always be in our hearts and remembered fondly by all who knew her."

Her step-father Andrew said: "She will always be my real daughter in my heart."

Several members of her family were in the dark over her choice of job.

Miss Duckmanton's cousin Tracey Lee McGrath, 40, wasn't aware she was a sex worker until police told the family. "It's a job. We love her for her," she said today.

She described Miss Duckmanton as a "really bubbly, really happy, a lovely girl".

"We are all devastated. It doesn't feel real," she said.

"She was pretty much a kid herself. Even though she was 22, she was still young."

Father Brent McGrath told the Herald he was "very, very devastated" at the loss of his "adorable" daughter.

Today, detectives, specialist police staff, and forensic experts are concentrating on the Christchurch house where Miss Duckmanton had been living.

The back-section weatherboard house at Bowenvale Ave in the suburb of Cashmere, with sleepout nestled in the corner of the well-kept property, was cordoned off yesterday afternoon.

Since then it has been a hive of police activity, neighbours say.

One elderly neighbour said there were a lot of "undesirables" coming and going from the house, often late at night.

Miss Duckmanton's mother Tracy's Housing New Zealand house at nearby Kowhai Tce, St Martins, has also been closely looked at by police.

It remains cordoned off today, with a police car parked outside.

Flowers in tribute to Miss Duckmanton, who went to Beckenham Primary and Cashmere High School, have been left outside the house.

Her body was found in a rural area where several suspicious fires had been lit on Sunday. Flowers were also left there today.

Police originally thought the fires and the homicide could have been linked, but have since ruled out any connection.

Local dairy farmer Michael Norton has reported to police the theft of two 20-litre containers of petrol from his farm on Main Rakaia Rd on Saturday night.

Kirwee Volunteer Fire Brigade were rushing to reports of a scrub fire when they found Miss Duckmanton's body on Sunday evening.

"They extinguished the grass fire and protected the scene for police," said Rakaia Volunteer Fire Brigade station officer Tyrone Burrowes.

Mr Sweeney earlier said Ms Duckmanton died an "unlawful death" and had been burned.

Miss Duckmanton's killing is the fourth such slaying of a sex worker connected to Christchurch in recent years.

Anna Reid, of the Prostitutes Collective, which supports the rights, health and well-being of sex workers, said Miss Duckmanton's death would be making other people in the industry feel vulnerable.

She said Miss Duckmanton was known to the collective, but had never sought its help.

She said the collective would be out on Christchurch's streets tonight talking to sex workers, adding that police would be stepping up their presence as well.

Miss Duckmanton's death will revive painful memories for sex workers in the city.

In April 2005, prostitute Susie Sutherland was strangled to death, and in December that year another sex worker, who has permanent name suppression, was repeatedly run over by a man before her body was dumped in the Avon River.

In 2008, prostitute Mellory Manning was killed over a drug debt she had with a Mongrel Mob member, and was also picked up from the Manchester St area.

- NZ Herald

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