'A beautiful place for our son to die'

JONATHAN CARSON AND JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 11:01 13/12/2013
Paul Arber
Bruce Mercer/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Parents Richelle and Sam "couldn't have wished for anywhere more beautiful" for their son's body to be found, says family friend Mark Sheppard.
Paul Arber
Australian tennis coach Paul Arber.

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As family and friends of Australian tennis coach Paul Arber gathered on a riverbank in Hamilton, the water that took his life flowed swiftly and silently by.

Mr Arber's loved ones, including his parents and the young boys he coached, held a ceremony next to the Waikato River where his body was found yesterday.

They cried, they hugged and they remembered in near silence.

Close friend Mark Sheppard said there was little doubt the person pulled from the water about 7.40am was Mr Arber.

"The guy's in black shorts, he's been missing four days, there's really not much doubt. It's 100 per cent."

He said Mr Arber's parents Richelle and Sam Arber felt their son "couldn't have wished for anywhere more beautiful" to spend his final moments.

Police have confirmed that the body found in the Waikato River yesterday was that of Australian tennis coach Paul Arber.

Detective Inspector Karl Thornton said a post-mortem examination indicated there were no suspicious circumstances in relation to his death and it has been referred to the coroner. 

A Hamilton Girls' High School rowing crew found the body in the river near Anne St and principal Marie Gordon said they were being offered counselling.

Ms Gordon said the girls were distraught but "coped admirably" with the situation.

Hamilton woman Beth Lynch said she was walking her dog on the west side of the river when she heard the girls in the boat screaming.

"I thought one of them had fallen out of the boat but then I heard one of them yell out ‘Oh my God, I've hit him, I've hit him,"' she said.

Lynch said she then saw a body floating swiftly down the river.

"I just feel so sorry for the girls in that boat, it's just horrible."

Mr Sheppard said the discovery of his friend's body was the worst possible outcome.

"I think we've been building ourselves up to it for the last four days," he said.

"Now it's happened it's a shock, but we can't say we were surprised."

He wanted to make it clear that Mr Arber was in a "tranquil and happy" state when he went into the river.

"He was getting in touch with nature. It was 4am. He's actually gone into that river to have a swim.

"He hasn't been in the mental frame of mind to ascertain the dangers of the river or the treachery of the river, but what actually happened to Paul was an accident. It was 100 per cent an accident."

Mr Thornton said police received new information about Mr Arber's movements overnight Wednesday.

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He was seen on CCTV footage at a service station in Clyde St at 1.30am on Sunday wearing only black shorts.

He was also seen in Galloway St at 10pm on Saturday and swimming in the river under Victoria Bridge at 4am on Sunday.

Mr Sheppard said Mr Arber's parents were grateful to the people of Hamilton, police and media for helping with the investigation.

They thought their son would have appreciated the river's natural beauty, Mr Sheppard said. "Obviously they're terribly upset about it, but Mr Arber and Mrs Arber, they just thought that the location where everything was found, as morbid as it might sound, they just thought he couldn't have wished for anywhere more beautiful. "In the worst possible outcome, they felt as happy as they could possibly be."

jonathan.carson@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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