Woman charged with assaulting man who died

Last updated 15:37 04/06/2014
Arran James Gairns
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DROWNING SUSPECTED: Arran James Gairns' body was found on Sunday.

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A Wellington woman has entered no plea to a charge in relation to the death of an Ashburton man when she appeared in the Timaru District Court today.

The 26-year-old, who has interim name suppression, was charged with assaulting Arran James Gairns, 34, with intent to rob, on Saturday, May 31 in Ashburton.

Gairns' body was found on Sunday in a drainage run-off area behind commercial premises on West Street, Ashburton.

The woman, who appeared before Judge Joanna Maze, allegedly drove Gairns to a location near to where his body was found.

"It is not suggested she did anything other than drop him off there and depart," Maze said.

Police are searching for three male co-offenders. Their names are suppressed at least until the woman's next court appearance.

Defence lawyer Jay Lovely said the woman spoke to police about three days after the body was found, but at that point was not under arrest.

Police opposed bail, due to concerns she would attempt to make contact with the co-accused.

However, the judge remanded her on bail to June 23 to a Hawke's Bay address. A range of conditions was imposed. She must not apply for a passport or leave the North Island unless to attend court. She cannot possess or consume illegal drugs and is not to associate with the alleged co-offenders or two other people, who were also not publicly named.

Judge Maze said the woman need not appear at the next court date unless it was to enter a guilty plea.

Detective Senior Sergeant Marion Neill said police were today, continuing to focus on events leading up to Mr Gairns' death.

"This will include locating other persons who may have been involved in these events."

An autopsy indicated Gairns had drowned. Yesterday police said his death did not appear to be suspicious, but was unexplained.

The death would be referred to the coroner.

Neill said police would continue working today to find other people who may have been involved in the events.

Gairns, a former Ashburton College student, went missing about 3am on Saturday after heading out to see a friend, the Ashburton Guardian reports.

His body was found shortly before 5pm on Sunday by a group of residents walking through an access way to the industrial area.

Yesterday police found Gairns' cellphone at the scene. They hoped it would help piece together his final movements.

Gairns, known as AJ, worked in construction for a company called Karmic Network Services.

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FRIEND SHOCKED - 'SOMETHING'S NOT RIGHT'

Carey Wilde, from Christchurch, said he was told Gairns, a close friend, was missing at the weekend and there were concerns for his safety.

He was shocked to learn via text that his mate was found dead in a ditch.

"I was like 'something's not right there, there's more to it'.

He wasn't surprised to learn of the arrest this morning and suspected there may be others involved.

"It's just a gut feeling," Wilde said.

"Arran could look after himself."

Gairns was a former car enthusiast who spent time living on the West Coast, Wilde said.

"He was one of a kind, straight to the point and hated liars.

"He was an all round good guy who would do anything for you if he could. 

"He was always up for a good time."

FAMILY TAKES TO SOCIAL MEDIA

His grieving family were too upset to speak when contacted by The Press.

However, they took to social media to tell people he had died in an accident.

''It is with great sadness our family have to inform of our loss,'' his brother Aaron Gairns wrote on Facebook.

''A son, grandson, nephew, uncle, partner and friend to many. Brother you will forever always be in our hearts.''

A friend of Gairns said this morning she was shocked to hear someone had been charged with assaulting him.

"He was loved by so many people. He was out there, happy [and] a cheeky bugger."

Friends also expressed their grief on Facebook. 

"Rip aj u will be missed by many," one friend wrote.

"Sadly today our bro AJ has been found dead. Love goes out to everyone in mourning right now," wrote another.

Neill appealed for anyone who may have been in the area in the early hours of Saturday morning to come forward.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Ashburton police on (03) 307 8400 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

- The Press

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