Body removed from drain overnight

The discovery of a man's body in a drain in Wellington is  'unusual and unexplained', police say.

The body was found in the car park beside Te Papa about midday yesterday by three women who had been at the nearby Harbourside Market.

Detective Inspector Paul Bashamn said the body was removed from the stormwater culvert during the night.

Te Papa car park
Te Papa car park

"It is certainly an unusual circumstance to locate a body in a storm water culvert. We anticipate the post-mortem examination will help us determine whether the death was potentially suspicious or accidental."

The man had not been formally identified and next of kin had not been advised, he said.

A post mortem would likely be carried out today.

The car park will remain cordoned off as the scene examination continues.

The New Zealand Defence Force provided police with a heavy duty tent to cordon and contain the scene, given the strong winds in Wellington yesterday afternoon.

Hundreds of people were at the popular fruit and vegetable market when the body was found. Stallholders and marketgoers were shocked by the news, Harbourside market manager Fraser Ebbett said.

He was strolling through the market yesterday when his young son started yelling "Fire engine! Fire engine!"

When they went to see what the emergency services were doing, Mr Ebbett could not believe that a body had been found in a grated drain metres from the bustling market. "The area was totally cordoned off.

"It was on the end of one of our fruit and vege stalls, so the police were trying to see if anyone had seen anything," he said.

"Everyone is absolutely shocked, and we are all just waiting to see what has happened. Just astonishment, and wondering how it got into the drain."

Although the discovery was unexpected, the murder of Radio New Zealand journalist Phillip Cottrell in Boulcott St last month showed such things were possible in Wellington, he said.

"We know these things have happened. It's just a mystery."

Jonathan Bui, who works at a fruit and vegetable stall at the market near where the body was found, said three women had found the body. "They were really calm, they just sat down and waited for police to arrive."

Only two police officers arrived initially, he said. "After that everybody showed up."

Police closed down the market early, and a cordon is in place from Te Papa to Waitangi Park.

Detective Inspector Paul Basham said police were in the initial stages of a scene examination.

"We're looking to recover the body, which appears to be lodged inside a stormwater culvert."

A source said the drain was too small for it to have been carried through the system, which flowed into the harbour.

Late yesterday afternoon police were fingerprinting a red van left beside the culvert. It belongs to Metal Construction in Ngauranga. A director said he had been told by police not to speak to media.

The army arrived later to set up a tent over the site where the body was found.

Wellington City Council drainage staff have also been called in to help in the investigation.

Between 6000 and 10,000 people attend Harbourside Market each Sunday.