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Water-Logged West Coast Grave Yields Body

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Westport, Oct 16 NZPA - A water-logged grave in manuka scrub near Charleston, south of Westport, has yielded what police believe to be the body of murdered Korean tourist, Jae Hyeon Kim.

The body is encased in mud, and there is water flowing freely through the area where it is lying, inquiry head Detective Inspector John Winter told a media conference at the site at 1pm.

Police had begun the search, a stone's throw from State Highway 6 between Westport and Greymouth, just a few hours earlier. Torrential rain forced them to bring in the fire brigade to pump out water from the depression where the grave was located.

The 25-year-old tourist disappeared in October 2003 while hitchhiking down the West Coast.

Mr Winter said they hoped to retrieve the body later today and take it to Christchurch for a post mortem examination. DNA from Mr Kim's parents in Pusan would be used to identify the body.

Mr Winter would not say exactly how long they took to find the grave, how deeply the body was buried, or whether it was intact.

It is alleged Mr Kim was beheaded with a spade after he was throttled in late 2003. Today's search near Four Mile Bridge took place just 10 to 15m away from where police spent five days searching in June.

Then, they cleared the equivalent of one-and a-half football fields and found nothing. Unlike the earlier search, they did not use earth-moving or radar equipment, or metal detectors today.

Mr Winter refused to reveal how they knew where to look.

About eight police and forensic experts, including a pathologist, were at the site.

A depositions hearing into the role of three men believed responsible for Mr Kim's death was held in Greymouth this week.

One man, who has a blanket suppression order including the nature of the charge he faces, has denied the charge and has been remanded to appear in the High Court at Christchurch on November 21 for a pre-trial conference.

The second of the trio, a 31-year-old man, whose name is suppressed, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to murdering Mr Kim at Charleston in September or October 2003.

He was committed for sentence in the High Court at Wellington on December 6.

Nelson fisherman Shannon Brent Flewellen, 29, was yesterday committed for trial for Mr Kim's murder.

He entered a not guilty plea and he was remanded in custody for trial in the High Court at Christchurch.

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