Southern Police have launched a homicide inquiry in relation to the death of 35-year-old Justin Conrad McFarlane at a rural address in Elderslie.
Emergency services were called to an address on Pine Hill Rd at about 4.30am on Wednesday where Mr McFarlane, a farm worker, was found dead inside a house.
Southern Police Acting Detective Inspector Colin Blackie said the alarm had been raised by a fellow dairy worker who had called at the address after he was concerned that Mr McFarlane had not turned up for work.
Police wouldn’t comment on the exact circumstances around Mr McFarlane’s death except to say it appeared to have been violent.
“It’s suffice to say that our initial view of the scene indicates that there’s been a violent attack on Mr McFarlane. The circumstances of that I’m not prepared to go into,” Acting Detective Inspector Blackie said.
“No weapons were found as yet, but we are far from completing our examination at that address.
“We’re not at the point where I’ve had reported back to me… what’s actually occurred at that address.”
Police said the investigation was in its early stages and the focus was on establishing the recent movements of Mr McFarlane and the events leading up to his death.
Acting Detective Inspector Blackie said inquiries were being made with people who knew Mr McFarlane, such as his family, friends and associates, to determine his recent movements.
Police are also calling for assistance from members of the public who might have seen Mr McFarlane’s vehicle, which they believe was taken from the Pine Hill Rd address around the time of his death and found burnt on Serpentine Rd, Maheno.
Acting Detective Inspector Blackie said 1992 Mitsubishi GTO two-door red sedan car registration number YE4901 was “extensively” burnt. It was reported to police mid-morning on Wednesday by a passing motorist about 25km from the Pin
e Hill Rd address where his body was found.
“We believe this incident is connected in some way with the circumstances surrounding Mr McFarlane’s death and we’re keen to hear from anyone who might have seen Mr McFarlane’s sedan on the road in the vicinity of Serpentine or Pine Hill Rd either later on Tuesday night or in the early hours of Wednesday morning,” he said.
“At this stage we’re still examining it and we’re hopeful that we’ll find something that will assist us in our investigation.”
Mr McFarlane was single and lived at the Pine Hill Rd address by himself. There are a number of farm properties on the road and the police team are in the process of doing area inquiries.
“The investigation is in its early stages and the focus is on establishing the recent movements of Mr McFarlane and the events leading up to his death,” he said.
“Inquiries are being made with people who knew Mr McFarlane, such as his family, friends and associates, in order to determine his recent movements,” he said.
Despite the thunderstorms that night, police are hopeful that someone saw or heard something.
“We’re making a plea that those people come forward,” Acting Detective Inspector Blackie said.
Anyone with any information about Mr McFarlane’s activity over recent days, or the sighting of the vehicle, or anything suspicious should contact police.
“In particular, I invite the offender or offenders involved in Mr McFarlane’s death to contact me personally or any member of this investigation team in order to resolve this matter sooner rather than later,” he said.
Nearly 40 police staff are working on the inquiry. Police are assisted by ESR who were yesterday continuing to undertake a scene examination at the address on Pine Hill Rd where Mr McFarlane was found and have also been examining the scene where the vehicle was found. The Fire Service is assisting in that examination.
All going well, Mr McFarlane’s body was likely to be removed from the address yesterday and a post-mortem is expected to be carried out today.
His family are being supported by a police family liaison officer and Victim Support.
Anyone with information about Mr McFarlane’s activities over recent days can contact the Operation Steelers inquiry team directly at the Oamaru Police Station on 03 433 1400 or provide information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
By Rebecca Ryan