Brent Garner's former police boss has described the death of the disgraced ex-detective as the "final tragedy" in Garner's life.

The Palmerston North detective who shocked the country by staging an attack in which he was supposedly tortured by a self-confessed Satan-worshipper and left to die in his burning home was found dead in the Bay of Plenty on Tuesday.

Police say there are no suspicious circumstances.


District Commander Mark Lammas said police who had known Garner were shocked.

"It's the final tragedy in Brent's life really. For those close to Brent at the time of his death, we certainly extend our condolences.

"I think most people would have hoped that he would have moved on personally ... I suspect that he was not able to move on."

The 39-year-old was found dead in a parked car near Matata just days before the seventh anniversary of October 18, 1996, when fellow officers rushed to his Ashhurst home.

Their fraud squad colleague told them he had been covered with petrol, slashed repeatedly across the back, tied up and left to die, but managed to escape out a window as his home exploded in flames.

In reality, Garner, who was having an affair with a receptionist at work, had set up an elaborate hoax to get the insurance money for his house, and escape his 12-year marriage.

Police called it a "one-in-a-century crime".

Yet Garner had not outwitted his colleagues, who were concerned about police and legal terms used in threatening letters sent to Garner, and inconsistencies in his story.


Three weeks after the attack, a covert investigation, Operation Mars, was set up alongside the main investigation, Operation Venus.

Garner eventually confessed that he had inflicted the cuts to his back with a scalpel attached to a wooden handle, and set the fire himself.

Five weeks after the attack, Garner was arrested and pleaded guilty to charges of arson, making a false complaint, wasting police time, false pretences and forgery.

A criminologist and police psychologist said then that Garner's case was an extreme example of detachment, in which men created a fantasy world and became completely involved in it.

Sentenced to five years' jail, he was released in 1998 after completing a third of his sentence, and moved to Tauranga to rebuild his life, initially staying with his parents. He was believed to have had a new partner.

Garner's wife, Sam, who said their marriage had been a "sham" riddled with her husband's affairs, remarried two years later. The two daughters she had with Garner are now aged around 8 and 9.

Garner's former mistress returned to her police job, but no longer works for the police.

Garner said on television in 1996 that he had considered suicide after his confession, as it would "make it easier" for people to forget about him.

At the time of his arrest, his family said they were "broken-hearted" and would give him their love and support to help him through.

They have closed ranks this week, and refused to talk to the media. It is believed a private funeral service will be held today.