Arrest after dairy worker's violent death
ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY AND BLAIR ENSOR
An 18-year-old man has been arrested for the alleged murder of dairy farm worker Justin McFarlane.
The arrested North Otago man will appear in the Dunedin District Court today.
The arrest follows the discovery of McFarlane's body at his home in Elderslie, near Oamaru, early on Wednesday.
Police believed more than one person was involved in McFarlane's death and an investigation was continuing.
Acting Detective Inspector Colin Blackie said police were also calling for sightings of a grey Nissan Skyline car involved in a short police chase on Wednesday morning on State Highway 1 just south of Oamaru.
The vehicle was travelling on roads around Elderslie and Maheno, inland from Oamaru, before joining the state highway.
The vehicle had since been impounded and police believed it could be linked to the circumstances surrounding McFarlane's death.
Blackie said police believed those involved in the farmer's death were known to him and the incident was not a random act.
The ongoing police investigation was focused on establishing the events leading up to McFarlane's death and interviewing people who were connected to him.
Earlier, Blackie said a weapon had not yet been found. He would not be drawn on how McFarlane died as he did not want to prejudice the case, but could confirm it was a violent death.
The body was found at 4.30am on Wednesday by a colleague who went looking for him after he failed to turn up to work at a dairy farm.
Police are working to establish McFarlane's recent movements and the events leading up to his death.
Blackie said inquiries were being made with people who knew McFarlane, including his family, friends and associates.
The body was removed yesterday and an autopsy will probably take place today.
McFarlane's killing is the talk of the town in Oamaru.
Locals believe he was involved in drugs and say he had a "chequered past". It is understood he had two young children.
Police would not comment about his history.
Elderslie Dairy Farms director Stanley Ruddenklau said McFarlane's colleagues were shocked and saddened to learn of his death.
"He was a very hard working young man. We are pretty cut up about it all.
"It's a pretty tricky time."
McFarlane, who had split with the mother of his children, had worked for the company about five years.
He had lived in the three-bedroom farm house where he was killed for about two years, Ruddenklau said.
The company knew little about the circumstances surrounding his death.
"It's been pretty much a lock-down situation.
"It's a pretty sad time for all and we hope for a speedy resolution."
Elderslie Dairy Farms Ltd is a 440-hectare farm, which milks about 1050 cows. It employees six staff.
Sheep and beef farmer Sheree Kennedy said she discovered the burnt wreckage of McFarlane's car in Serpentine Rd, Maheno, about 25 kilometres from McFarlane's home. She called police.
Her house is nearby and she saw a school bus slowing in the area for what she initially thought was stray cattle.
"It was just an empty shell. It must have been fairly hot at some point."
Police were on the scene quickly.
"I thought there must have been something major going on when they started cordoning off the road.
"They just said it was one of two crime scenes and this vehicle had been used to commit a crime."
She was later told: "It was used to conceal evidence."
It was stormy overnight Tuesday and her house lost power, she said.
Kennedy did not see or hear anything suspicious that night, she said.
"I suppose when you think about it it's quite scary."
She hadn't told her children about the killing because "I don't want them to be frightened".
Police had told her "not to worry", but the lack of information they gave concerned her.
Police removed the car from the scene late last night, she said.
Police are calling for assistance from the public who might have seen McFarlane's burgundy red vehicle, a 1992 Mitsubishi GTO, which they believe was taken from his address around the time of his death and is connected in some way with the death.
The car, a red sedan had the registration number YE4901.
Blackie said police were unsure which route the vehicle was driven to get to Maheno.
About 40 police staff and experts are working on the case assisted by Environmental Science and Research and the Fire Service.
Anyone with information on McFarlane's movements during the days before his death are asked to ring the Oamaru police station on 03 433 1400.
Alternatively, information can be provided anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
- © Fairfax NZ News
What do you think of Gerry Brownlee's idea for a large water sports park in the red zone?