Tess Nichol is the Consumer Affairs reporter for the Herald.

Fiji murder case twist as tourist finds human head

Russian couple Yuri and Natalia Shipulin who were missing in Fiji. Photo / Facebook
Russian couple Yuri and Natalia Shipulin who were missing in Fiji. Photo / Facebook

The Kiwi holidaymaker who found a bundled up human head washed ashore in Fiji says he knew as soon as he picked it up what he held in his hands.

The gruesome find is believed to be the latest in a gory case of a Russian couple murdered and dismembered on the Pacific island.

A host of body parts, including two pairs of severed feet, have washed to shore in the past fortnight.

Cantabrian Graeme Bickley and his wife Jan were walking along Natadola beach on Monday morning when they spotted a green bundle sitting about 10 metres out from shore in low tide.

Cantabrians Graeme and Jan Bickley, who found a human head washed up on shore while on holiday in Fiji. Photo / Supplied
Cantabrians Graeme and Jan Bickley, who found a human head washed up on shore while on holiday in Fiji. Photo / Supplied

The couple, like many around them, were fascinated by the murder mystery and had been reading as much as they could about it.

Joking at first, they wondered whether this might be more body parts, Mr Bickley told the Herald.

"My wife spotted it and she said, 'oh, look at that' and I said, 'oh, it'll be more body parts'.

"[I was] just joking, but when I went out into the water and bent down to pick it up and found it was so heavy ... you think, 'oh, ok'."

The bundle, tied and secured with nylon fishing line, was weighed down by rocks, which made it hard to carry, Mr Bickley said.

"I got it to shore finally and put it down on the sand and the stones rattled in it and I thought, 'oh no, this is not good'."

Although he and his wife chose not to open the bundle, police later confirmed it contained a human head, but did not say who the victim was.

"It's a funny little feeling in your tummy. Like, that was somebody's life a few days ago," Mr Bickley said.

"It's also a funny feeling about how the people who had put that package together had been so inhuman.

"[They had] been able to cut it up and spend considerable time putting it into this parcel, which was very neatly and securely fastened so it actually survived all the tides that brought it ashore again."

Fiji police this week said DNA tests showed the body parts belonged to Russian couple Yuri and Natalia Shipulin, who went missing on June 16.

Police believe the Russians, who had reportedly been in Fiji since 2011, were murdered and dismembered.

Natadola Beach in Fiji where Graeme Bickley and his wife Jan found a human head wrapped in green cloth. Photo / Getty
Natadola Beach in Fiji where Graeme Bickley and his wife Jan found a human head wrapped in green cloth. Photo / Getty

Local media reported this week that detectives had information a chainsaw was missing from a farm the couple were running on the main island of Viti Levu.

The Fiji Times said they were leasing the property and operating a photography business, with one friend describing them as "soulmates".

However, their business partner Andrew Luzanenko told the Fiji Sun they had financial difficulties after the farm was devastated by Super Cyclone Winston this year.

Mr and Mrs Bickley were back in their Christchurch home by yesterday evening, having been due to end their holiday by then anyway.

They were not left too shaken by the grisly find.

"Once we'd spoken to the police and the [Fijian] newspaper, obviously we thought about it all day and it did leave a funny feeling in my tummy I must admit.

"Here's a person's life gone and there's people probably not far from us who cut them up and put them in a package like that."

- NZ Herald

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