Armed police have arrested the third man they had been hunting in connection with the slaying of a man whose body was found in New Plymouth.

Mikhail Rafael Pandey-Johnson was arrested shortly after mid-day not far from where Karl Te Angiotu Nuku was arrested earlier this morning.

Armed police had been searching for the pair in the Lake Mangamahoe area off State Highway 3 between New Plymouth and Inglewood

A third man was arrested last night and charged with illegal possession of a firearm.

All three are expected to appear in New Plymouth District Court later today.

The trio were sought after the as-yet-unexplained killing of an Auckland man, Dean Stuart Browne, 38, whose body was found in a double garage behind a city dwelling on Friday night.

Armed police hunting the men were earlier today stopping and checking all vehicles heading along SH3 into New Plymouth.

The armed offender squad initially searched for them within city limits but shifted their attention last night to Lake Mangamahoe.

The manhunt began after Mr Browne's body was found in the garage in Drake St by one of the house occupants on Friday night.

Police believe that Mr Browne may have been killed elsewhere and his body dumped in the garage up to 24 hours earlier.

A post mortem examination has been done but police have not revealed the cause of death.

Mr Browne's movements in the months before his death were "sketchy", he said.

"We're trying to establish where the trio have been, and where Mr Browne has been," Mr Coward said.

He would have left the Auckland area some time in October, he said.

Takapuna police approached the Herald in October in an attempt to locate Browne as there were two warrants out for his arrest, one for serious assault and the other for breaching a protection order.

A photo of him ran in the Herald's Crimescene pages and it was last night unknown if police had managed to contact Browne before his death.

He was said to have been aware he was wanted by police and would have been in hiding.

Police had advised members of the public not to approach him and said he had contacts in the Orewa, Whangaparaoa and North Shore areas.

Mr Coward would not comment on Mr Browne's previous whereabouts.

"We're just concentrating on who killed him."

Police have ruled out a gang connection, and it was unclear if drugs were involved.

"Those motives are unclear at this stage," Mr Coward said,

Nuku and Pandey-Johnson were not New Plymouth locals and their connection to Mr Browne was unknown, Mr Coward said.

The police hunt began yesterday afternoon, when officers working at the Drake St address where the body was found spotted the men in a car and chased them on foot.

Nuku and Pandey-Johnson would appear in New Plymouth District Court this afternoon.

The third man, an associate of the fugitives, would be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.

Other charges were still being considered, Mr Coward said.

"Further inquiries are continuing in relation to him to ascertain whether he was involved with the homicide."

Police had recovered a white 1993 four-door Toyota Corolla hatchback and were seeking reports of any sightings of the vehicle since Friday.

The grisly discovery of Mr Browne's body has left residents of the quiet Drake Street stunned and bewildered, The Taranaki Daily News reported.

They said their thoughts were with the family who found Mr Browne's body, a single mother with young children who moved in only 18 months before.

Police have said Mr Browne was not known to the family.

"It is a bizarre set of circumstances, but there is no connection between the occupants of the house and the deceased."

Joy Siebert, who lives directly next door to the house, said no-one in the street knew the young family very well, but she had seen the children playing in the yard quite often. "We don't think they'll want to come back," she said. "Can you imagine finding that?"

The family had been renting the home, she said.

Chris Rae, who lives opposite the house, said everything had been normal until Friday evening.

"The first thing I knew was when I left home about 8.20 on Friday night and all the cop cars were outside," he said.

"I was like, holy hell, what is going on? And it's been like that ever since."

- NZPA