• Eastern District Crime Manager has no issue with police investigation of body in burnt vehicle case

Eastern District Crime Manager has no issue with police investigation of body in burnt vehicle case

The Police Eastern District Crime Manager says he has no issue with the way police investigated the body in a burnt vehicle case.

Detective Inspector Martin James was responding to questions by Hawke’s Bay App about why there was a perceived delay in identifying that a body was in a vehicle that police were called to because it had been set on fire.

The car fire at a property on Irongate Road West was reported to Police at 8.20pm last Tuesday. Police released a statement on Wednesday morning about the fire but did not mention that a body was in the car. A further statement on Wednesday afternoon revealed then that a body had been discovered.

Hawke’s Bay App understands that Fire and Emergency NZ notified police about a “mass” in the boot of the car on Tuesday evening.

Hawke’s Bay App put it to James that this was the second case (the first being the case of 18-year-old Ariki Rigby whose body was found in a burnt vehicle outside Havelock North) where police appeared not to have noticed a body in a burnt vehicle until other people had. Asked if this was a concern, James responded that this was “not at all accurate” as “Police identified an item of interest immediately”.

“Police attended with FENZ that night and identified an item of potential interest. As per investigation best practice the scene was frozen in situ awaiting examination in daylight.”  “Consultation with a pathologist and in this case an anthropologist was undertaken due to the circumstances. I am not prepared to comment any further on this aspect due to investigation sensitivity.”

Asked why police did not check the boot of the vehicle to see if there was a body in it, James said that the “vehicle was checked at the time and scene frozen”.

“Scenes involving such heat intensity are extremely challenging hence the requirement of additional specialist support as in this situation,” said James.

Asked by Hawke's Bay App what measures are being put in place to assure the public that this did not occur again, James said: “I have no issues with the way this has been investigated”.

This is the second body in a burnt vehicle in Hawke’s Bay in recent years. In September 2022, the body of Ariki Rigby was discovered in a carpark near the Tukituki river outside Havelock North. The condition of the vehicle and debris from the fire, meant that police “did not immediately identify that human remains were in the vehicle. The body was mistaken for being that of a sheep. Police were called to the scene two days later by dog walker and a further inspection revealed suspected human remains. Police confirmed later that the body was Ariki Rigby. No one has been arrested in connection with her case.

Asked what the latest update in the Ariki Rigby case was, James said that a “team of investigators are making good progress pulling the various threads together to support a prosecution”.

* Meanwhile a 30-year-old man appeared in the Hastings District Court on Saturday morning charged with murder in relation to the Irongate Road West case. The defendant's name, as well as the name of the victim - a man, is currently suppressed.