Burnt-out car case 'not a homicide inquiry'

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012
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
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NO FOUL PLAY: Shane Bell.
bell subaru std
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APPEAL: Police are appealing for any sightings of a silver Subaru station wagon similar to this one.

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Detectives investigating the discovery of an incinerated body in a burnt-out car are not involved in a "homicide inquiry", police say.

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

Police said yesterday the man was "highly likely" to be self-employed car salesman Shane Malcolm Bell, 28.

A police spokesman said last night the investigation was "not a homicide inquiry".

Detective Senior Sergeant Brian Archer said the last reported sighting of Bell was at his home in the Christchurch suburb of Dallington on Thursday morning.

Officers had established that the car was most likely burnt before Thursday evening - a "key component" to the investigation, he said.

A member of the public told police they had seen the burnt-out shell of the car in the area about 4pm to 5pm on Thursday.

Police had yet to determine what caused the fire.

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

A group of recreational shooters came forward yesterday and told police they fired shots at the burnt-out vehicle using a rifle.

An autopsy was completed yesterday and the car removed from the scene.

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

Police had been in contact with Bell's family and partner.

"It's fair to say [the family] are extremely upset about the news and are trying to understand what has happened," Archer said. "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."

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

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