Body believed to be Chch car salesman

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 14:30 04/12/2012
Daniel Tobin

Police continue with their scene investigation after a body was found in a burnt-out car near the Ashley river.

shane bell std
Supplied
SUSPICIOUS DEATH: Shane Bell.

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Police believe the person whose body was found in a burnt-out car in North Canterbury on Sunday was Christchurch car salesman Shane Malcolm Bell, 28.

Officers have also established that the car was most likely burnt prior to Thursday evening - a "key component" to the investigation.

Detective Senior Sergeant Brian Archer said inquiries in relation to the vehicle, along with the scene examination and information from the public, indicated it was "highly likely" that Bell, a self-employed car salesman, was the deceased.

The last reported sighting of Bell was at his home in the Christchurch suburb of Dallington on Thursday morning.

Archer said police had now discounted bullet holes found in the side of the car as being related to the fire or the death.

"A group of recreational shooters has come forward and told police they were in the vicinity on Friday evening. They have indicated that the car was already burnt out at that time, and that they fired shots at the vehicle using a rifle."

An autopsy was completed this morning.

Further forensic examination would be undertaken to fully confirm the deceased's identity, Archer said. 

Bell's family and partner have been spoken to by police.

Police have released a photograph of Bell, and are appealing for any information about his movements last week.

"At this stage the inquiry remains a suspicious death investigation. We are trying to put together a picture of the deceased's movements in the days leading up to his death," Archer said.

A member of the public who was in the area has come forward to police and indicated they had seen the burnt-out shell of the car at around 4 to 5pm on Thursday."

Police are also continuing to appeal for any sightings of the Subaru station wagon prior to Thursday evening.

A scene examination is expected to be completed at the Loburn site today. Police expect to remove the vehicle from the site this afternoon.

Anyone with information about Bell or the 1989 silver Subaru station wagon is asked to contact Christchurch police on 363 7400.

The body was found by four-wheel-driving enthusiasts about noon on Sunday in the driver's seat of the 1989 silver Subaru station wagon at the southern end of Dunlops Rd, near Loburn.

The death is being treated as suspicious.

An extensive scene examination and interviews with witnesses were done yesterday.

The area was commonly used by recreational hunters.

Archer said the discovery was "certainly unpleasant".

"They were four-wheel-drive enthusiasts who had been driving around the riverbed. They came across the car and were curious, and had a look at it," he said.

The fire was already out. Only the front registration plate was on the vehicle.

He said the body was "extensively" damaged by the fire, the cause of which was yet to be determined.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions here. It's being treated as suspicious until we know otherwise," he said. 

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Archer said several people had come forward with information after an appeal for sightings of the vehicle between Thursday afternoon and Sunday.

"It is possible that people using the four-wheel-drive tracks in the area may have seen the burnt-out car over the past few days and we urge them to contact police as soon as possible," Archer said.

The area was often used by four-wheel-drive and off-road drivers, he said.

A Loburn resident, who asked not to be named, said young people often used the riverbed for wheelies and cars were often dumped there and burnt. However, she said there had never been "anything like this".

"It's quite unnerving."

- The Press

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