P-lab blast victim's prison past

Last updated 14:02 31/01/2014

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A former prison inmate from the Far North has been named as the man who died following an apparent P-lab explosion this week.

Arthur Bruce Cornelius, 49, received severe injuries in the fire at Opouteke Rd, Pakotai, near Dargaville on Wednesday night.

He and a 26-year-old man were flown to Middlemore Hospital for specialist treatment, but Cornelius died yesterday, police said.

Police investigating the explosion said there was evidence the men were illegally manufacturing methamphetamine.

Officers said Cornelius was known to police. Media reports confirm he was in prison as recently as 2012.

Detective Inspector Kevin Burke of the Whangarei Police said the "unfortunate incident" served as a warning to rural property owners to be aware of who they rented their properties to and to keep an eye on what was going on.

"There are obligations on property owners that might affect their insurance cover if illegal activity results in damage to the property," he said in a media statement.

The statement added that earlier this week at a rural address in the Dargaville area, police recovered firearms, stolen property, car parts, a 5-tonne digger valued at $90,000, 32 grams of methamphetamine and $12,000 cash.

Burke said that second incident served as another warning to property owners, but was unrelated to the explosion.

Three people have appeared in the Whangärei District Court where they were remanded in custody on a number of charges.

Any person with concerns or information regarding any illegal activity should contact their local police or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

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