Scope broadens in homicide inquiry

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Police say more than eight people could face charges in relation to the murder of Oamaru farm worker Justin McFarlane.

Yesterday afternoon, Acting Detective Inspector Colin Blackie said police were very disappointed that a number of people appeared to have been assisting those now facing murder charges either to evade police or to destroy evidence that might be crucial to the case.

“To that end, a second phase of this investigation has been directed by me to hold those persons to account where we will be investigating their culpability and, if necessary, placing them before the court,” Acting Detective Inspector Blackie said.

“It’s extremely frustrating. It’s a cost to the taxpayer when we could’ve had this resolved earlier.

“This is a clear message that needs to be sent to the community that this is a tragic death of a person and why would anyone want to aid and abet someone to avoid detection or arrest?”

This list keeps growing, he said, but police were potentially looking at investigating at least eight people for their being accessory to alleged murder.

Already, a 52-year-old woman has been arrested and charged with accessory after the fact to murder. She is due to appear in the Dunedin District Court later this week.

“She is known to a number of the people who have been charged,” he said.

The 23-year-old man accused was found in the boot of a vehicle and therefore the occupants of that vehicle are people of interest to police in how they had assisted in him avoiding police investigation.

A fourth person, a 22-year-old man, was arrested on Monday after being located by police on a public bus travelling north from Dunedin to Oamaru.

“Police involved in the investigation were travelling south to Dunedin at the time and had previously received information which suggested that the 22-year-old man and his girlfriend could be on the bus,” he said.

“The man was taken to Dunedin Central Police station for questioning and remanded in custody to appear in the Dunedin District Court today.”

His arrest follows the arrest on Monday of 23-year-old Ryan Warren Geary-Smart, and the earlier arrests of a 22-year-old man, granted name suppression, and 18-year-old Palmerson man Steven Kenneth Boskell. These three have been remanded in custody to appear in the Timaru District Court on 1 October.

A fifth person was yesterday being assessed as to their involvement in the homicide.

However, Acting Detective Inspector Blackie said he was comfortable that all the people police were seeking had been accounted for.

“We’re not looking for any other person in connection to Mr McFarlane’s death,” he said.

With four people now before the court, Acting Detective Inspector Blackie could not comment on motive for murder.

The cause of death and injuries will be released by the coroner.

Police received and continue to receive a lot of information from the public, he said.

“We’re very grateful for the assistance from the community within Waitaki. We’ve received a lot of support,” he said.

“The Operation Steelers investigation team has been very grateful for good information they’ve received from members of the public, including sightings of the vehicles believed to be linked to the case.”

Acting Detective Inspector Blackie was not willing to comment on the relationship between the accused and Mr McFarlane other than to say the accused, or at least some of them, knew Mr McFarlane.

“There has been an association between at least some of the accused and Mr McFarlane dating back a number of years,” he said.

The scene was likely to be completed at Mr McFarlane’s house on Pine Hill Rd, where he was found dead in the early hours of September 11.

“We’re asking the family if they want any sort of blessing at that address,” he said.

“They are working towards doing their best by Mr McFarlane in relation to organising his funeral.”

Police are assisting them in any way possible.

Police have nine scenes, including vehicles, that they are continuing to examine as part of the investigation.

By Rebecca Ryan