Waikato man found dead in Aussie forest
The grieving family of a Waikato man whose remains were believed found inside his burnt-out car in an Australian forest say he was "honest", "hard working" and a "good guy".
Victoria Homicide Squad detectives have arrested and charged two people with the murder of former Morrinsville man William John Stevenson following the discovery of the body on the outskirts of Bendigo.
Mr Stevenson, 50, was a long-time Waikato resident but was living in Kerang, Victoria, when he disappeared two weeks ago.
He has not been seen since Christmas Day when he left a friend's house, near where the remains were later found.
His boss reported him missing after he failed to show up for work at Hazeldene's Chicken two days later.
A police officer found the burnt-out 1996 green Mitsubishi Magna in Norman Rd, in the Wellsford Forest, on January 1 during a search at the request of detectives.
Detectives believe it may have been there for days and was pushed away from the roadside by another vehicle.
Mr Stevenson's Morrinsville-based sister-in-law, Tracey Stevenson, told the Times her brother lived in and around the Morrinsville area until he flew to Australia in 2011.
He had worked a succession of jobs but spent most of his working life farming.
"As difficult as it is, [the family is] coping as much as we can with family support," Ms Stevenson said.
"All I will say is that he's a hard working, honest, trustworthy, good guy. He certainly didn't deserve having his life taken away like this."
Tracey Stevenson is married to Mr Stevenson's brother, but close family members declined to speak to the Times.
Nor would she say if Mr Stevenson had any children.
An Australian detective is due to arrive in Morrinsville within the fortnight as part of the investigation. However, Ms Stevenson could not say what those inquiries would entail.
It is understood the human remains have been identified using DNA.
Sergeant Vic Sneddon, of the Morrinsville police, said the family sought his advice on Monday on how to round up Mr Stevenson's belongings and recover his ashes.
Police have arrested and charged two people in relation to Mr Stevenson's death.
Darren Lewis, 46, appeared in the Bendigo Magistrates Court last week via video link charged with his murder.
The court heard that extensive analysis of bone fragments was needed and a detective would also travel to New Zealand as part of the investigation.
This week Danielle Antionelle Kerr, 36, of Kerang, also appeared in the Bendigo Magistrate's Court via video link facing one charge of murder and one charge of accessory to murder.
Ms Kerr's psychiatric history was noted in the brief filing hearing.
Both will reappear for a committal hearing on May 28.
Ms Stevenson said the family had no idea who the pair were.
Hazeldene's Chickens farming manager Karl Lawson told the Bendigo Advertiser that Mr Stevenson had worked as a casual at the Prairie broiler complex since November 25 last year.
"He was a really good worker, very conscientious," Mr Lawson said.
"He was very well liked."
He said Mr Stevenson left the farm at 2.30pm on Christmas Day and staff had become concerned when he failed to return on December 27.
"It was out of character for him not to turn up and not to phone up and let people know," he said.
"We've been hunting around trying to find him.
"We had police involved trying to find him. We said it was strange and out of character."
Colleagues were all thinking "something is weird here".
"We were thinking the worst . . . and obviously that's what's happened."
Mr Lawson said Mr Stevenson was an employee with great potential.
"He got along well with staff and management," he said.
"He was just a good guy - there was nothing you could fault him on.
"In the short time he had been with us, we thought this was a guy we could take places."
Mr Stevenson took a variety of jobs in Swan Hill until December 2011 when he joined McInerney Freight as a truck driver.
He moved to Kerang in 2012 to take a job as a driver with JRM Freight before joining Hazeldene's Chicken.
- Additional reporting Fairfax Media
- © Fairfax NZ News
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