A New Plymouth man charged with murder was already in custody when his alleged victim's body was discovered, police revealed yesterday.
Scaffolder Matthew Kinghorn, 27, is accused of the hit-and-run murder of jogger Anne Elizabeth McCullough, 45, whose body was discovered in the back seat of his abandoned Holden Commodore on October 20.
Detective Sergeant Greg Gray, the officer heading the homicide investigation, said two officers had arrested Kinghorn for being unlawfully on a lifestyle property, some 10 minutes before police were told of a body in a car at a bush reserve.
Police were alerted on October 20 after visitors to the Meeting of the Waters reserve on the southern outskirts of New Plymouth discovered the car with a body in the back seat.
A radio call went out to all police patrols and two officers, who had minutes before arrested Kinghorn at Smart Rd, realised they had the car's owner in their custody.
Kinghorn had been picked up for being unlawfully on a Smart Rd lifestyle property, less than a kilometre downstream from the Meeting of the Waters and on the opposite bank of the Waiwhakaiho River.
"His behaviour was causing them [the Smart Rd property owners] some concern. He was arrested before we knew about the body," Mr Gray said.
The call from the owners of the Smart Rd property came in about 2.05pm while the first call from people at the Meeting of the Waters came in about 2.16pm, Mr Gray said.
Kinghorn was interviewed by police and initially charged with Mrs McCullough's manslaughter.
On his next appearance in New Plymouth District Court the police withdrew the manslaughter charge, replacing it with one of murder.
"By that time we had a chance to carry out more inquiries and assess the evidence which suggested murder."
There was no suggestion of any sexual assault, Mr Gray said.
Police say Mrs McCullough was hit on Frankley Rd, a rural road close to the city, when she went out for a run.
They believe Mrs McCullough died of multiple injuries very soon after she was hit.
Kinghorn, whose expected appearance in court yesterday was postponed, remains in custody.
- Taranaki Daily News
Owner orders dog to attack neighbour (graphic content)