Friends deny alcohol link with drain death

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 27/03/2013
Flatmates and friends of Nick Renouf, from left, Ben Mulholland, Kerry Wilson, Bridget Southey-Jensen, Jake Ferguson, Matt Neville-Lamb and Mitchell Beggs
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

SORELY MISSED: Flatmates and friends of Nick Renouf, from left, Ben Mulholland, Kerry Wilson, Bridget Southey-Jensen, Jake Ferguson, Matt Neville-Lamb and Mitchell Beggs, say his death was a tragic accident.

The Hagley Park drain where university student Nick Renouf died.
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ
DEADLY TRIP: The Hagley Park drain where university student Nick Renouf died.
Nick Renouf
Nick Renouf

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A Canterbury University student who was found dead in a Hagley Park drain may have been running back to a concert at a student bar when he fell to his death, his friends say.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Nick Renouf's flatmates and ex-girlfriend have denied alcohol may have been a major factor in the 19-year-old's death.

Instead they believe it was simply a "tragic accident".

They do not believe anyone is to blame for the tragedy, but Renouf's ex-girlfriend Bridget Southey-Jensen believed the council "could just look into it" to prevent it happening to someone else.

"It could've been anyone, it could have been some father of three who wanted to take a shortcut home - it's a logical way to walk."

Christchurch City Council park staff visited the site the following day to see if there were any specific hazards.

A council spokeswoman said they found "nothing out of the ordinary".

There had been no recorded safety incidents or complaints about drain safety in the last five years.

Renouf's body was found in the drain by a passer-by on the afternoon of March 14. He had been in custody at the Christchurch police station the night before his death after breaching the Riccarton liquor ban.

However, flatmate Jake Ferguson, who had been drinking with Renouf at a friend's place, said Renouf was not drunk and had "taken one for the road" when police apprehended him on their way to a gig at student bar The Foundry.

Renouf was processed at the Christchurch central custody suite and released with a pre-charge warning about 10.40pm.

After he was put into the back of the police car, his friends did not see him or hear from him again.

"No-one had heard from him so he might have been using his phone as a light coming through Hagley," flatmate Matt Neville-Lamb said.

Southey-Jensen joked it was "just like him to not pay for a taxi".

"He would've known it was a walkable distance back. He was probably running back because he was really keen to get back to the concert," she said.

Renouf's friends woke up the next morning to find he was not at home, but thought he may have stayed at a friend's place.

When they still had no word from him by 3pm, they decided to check the police station and hospital before filing a missing person report.

Ben Mulholland said: "After we went to the hospital and asked if they had seen him, a cop car came and picked us up and said: ‘You'd better come with us' and dropped us back to the police station.

"Then we saw an article saying a body had been found in Hagley Park, and we just knew it was him."

He was farewelled at a family funeral service last Friday in Tauranga.

A memorial service will be held at Rochester and Rutherford Hall, where he spent his first year of university.

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Each of his friends agreed Renouf would be missed by many.

His death has been referred to the coroner.

- The Press

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