Mystery body found on yacht in Tonga

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 06:58 15/11/2012

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A multinational police investigation is underway in a remote area of Tonga after the body of a badly decomposed man was found aboard a grounded yacht.

Tongan police commissioner Grant O'Fee, who is a former New Zealand detective, told Matangi Tonga (matangitonga.to) that the grounded yacht Jereve had been found aground on a reef at Luatafito Atoll, 20 kilometres from the Vava'u group in northern Tonga.

He said police in the United States, Australia, the Cook Islands and Tonga were investigating but would not comment on whether drugs were involved.

Remote Tongan islands have, in the past, been used as a transhipment point for getting drugs into Australia and New Zealand.

"The yacht is being treated as a crime scene since a death occurred. Police at this stage have not ruled the death as suspicious but it remains an unexplained death," O'Fee told Matangi Tonga.

O'Fee said that the body, of a Caucasian, had not been identified, as well as the cause of death.

"But I can confirm that this man is not a Tongan national but a palangi," he said.

Tongan police are working in partnership with the Australian Federal Police in a thorough examination of the crime scene.

At the same time Tongan police along with Tonga Defence Services are conducting a maritime recovery exercise for the yacht, which remains stuck on the reef on the atoll, he said.

Several marine brokerage websites list a 13.4-metre Jeanneau cruiser called Jereve for sale in Panama.

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