Slow recovery of buried bodies

05:27, Sep 07 2009
Scene: Police at the property in Wainoni where a woman's body was found.

Forensic investigators working to recover the bodies of two women found under a Christchurch house expect to recover one of the bodies later today, but the other may not be moved until Monday.

One of the women was the 35-year-old wife of the Wainoni Rd homeowner and the other is believed to be that of Tisha Lowry, who disappeared almost a year ago and lived at the next-door property.

The identity of the dead women is not expected to be confirmed before tomorrow at the earliest, but the husband of one of them appeared in the Christchurch District Court yesterday charged with his wife's murder.

A view of the property at the corner of Hampshire Street and Wainoni Road where the bodies of two women were found, one believed to be missing woman Tisha Lowry.

After police found the bodies under the house yesterday, investigators have had to dismantle much of the house and painstakingly sift through dirt under the house, slowing down the process.

The investigation was in its very early stages and detectives have been going though the property to find any further bodies, but there was nothing to indicate that there were any more at this stage, Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald told reporters this afternoon.

Meanwhile, flowers and poems have begun to appear on a fence outside the house and neighbours said that the amount of traffic driving past the crime scene was more than triple the usual volume for a Saturday, with many cars driving slowly past to look at the scene, Radio New Zealand reported.


Inspector Fitzgerald said yesterday that the homeowner reported his wife missing last Sunday.

The bodies had been taken through a manhole in the floor and were found buried close together and "well covered", Fitzgerald said.

No causes of death had yet been established, he said.


An aunt of the dead woman said the couple were married in March 2003.

She said the death was "a terrible time" for the family.

"[She] was my niece and I loved her dearly. She was a nice girl and a Christian girl."

The wife was from Hawke's Bay and the couple moved to Christchurch a few years ago.

A friend of the couple, who declined to be named, said the man's wife was "very lost".

The woman's three children had recently been "taken off her", she said.

"She was quite sad and withdrawn not having her kids with her, as well as having other issues. She's quite a shy, sensitive girl. I think she was a very lost person who was probably too scared to speak up."

The couple had never mentioned Lowry, she said.

None of Lowry's possessions had been found at the scene, but police said "it would be silly not to draw a connection" with her disappearance.

Lowry's family had been told of the discovery, he said. "The families are trying to cope with the possibilities at this time."

Neither the arrested man nor his wife were known to police, he said.

Lowry, 28, went missing on September 25 last year after visiting a nearby tavern in Bower Ave with her grandfather.

Lowry walked by herself to her Hampshire St home carrying a box of beer, and was not seen again.

A 32-year-old man appeared in the Christchurch District Court yesterday charged with murdering his 35-year-old wife, the mother of three children.

The man stood expressionless in the dock before Judge John Bisphan. He wore a pale yellow T-shirt tucked into light denim jeans. His face was framed by thick, fuzzy, dark brown hair and a beard.

The names of the man and his wife have been suppressed until his next court appearance next Friday.

A friend of the 35-year-old woman, who did not want to be named, said she feared the worst when her friend was reported missing on Sunday.

"I was crying and wondering where she was, how she was and if she was alive or not," the woman said.

Neighbour Jason Hall said the couple kept to themselves, and he had not heard them fighting. "It's freaky. I'm stunned," he said.

Hampshire St has long held the reputation of being Christchurch's worst street.

In June last year, an Asian man was shot in the head with an airgun while waiting for a bus outside the house where the bodies were found. Other crimes have included a 13-year-old boy being shot by his best friend, a 17-year-old killed in a daylight stabbing and the firebombing of the fish and chip shop.

In 2004, Housing New Zealand, in conjunction with the Christchurch City Council and the newly formed Aranui Community Trust, began the Aranui Community Renewal Project. The project aimed to boost community spirit in the hope that bringing people together could help turn the troubled suburb around.

Fitzgerald said there had been "some commotion" at the house on Sunday, and he asked that anyone with information call the police.