A family member of the occupants of an Auckland property who discovered they had unwittingly purchased suitcases containing human remains says they do not know how many bodies they contained.
A man at the property in the southeast Auckland suburb of Manurewa said he was looking after the house for his immediate family who had allegedly left Auckland amid the scrutiny from last Thursday’s find, New Zealand Herald reports.
The family member said they were “doing all right” following the grim discovery, but had not appreciated all of the attention.
On August 11, human remains were found after people living at the Moncrieff Ave house brought “unowned property to their address”, according to police.
A homicide investigation is now under way.
It is understood the family purchased the contents of a storage locker as part of an online auction – according to a Newshub report.
A neighbour told the Herald the family found the remains in suitcases while they were unpacking and sorting through a trailer load of the random property on their front yard and driveway.
The neighbour said shortly before police arrived at the scene around 1.30pm on Thursday, the smell from the neighbouring property was noticeable.
“I could smell it here. I thought it was a dead cat or something. That day, Thursday (before the police came),” the neighbour said.
“They brought it back on a trailer. How did they not pick up the smell?
“I knew that because I’m a pig hunter and when carcasses go bad it’s the same smell. That’s why I thought it was a dead animal.”
The immediate family member told the Herald: “We’re doing all right. As long as everyone leaves us alone we’ll be all right. They’ve gone away (the family who discovered the remains). I wasn’t here. With all the media coming around here (they wanted to leave). I’m immediate family, but I wasn’t here at the time.”
Asked how many bodies were found in the suitcase, the man said he honestly believed that his family members who made the horrific find did not know.
“I can’t answer that. I wouldn’t have a clue anyway. No, I don’t think they know either. I don’t think so,” he said.
The man said he was on his way to see his family who had temporarily moved from the Moncrieff Ave property.
He was packing up a small car with possessions at the time and said he was “just looking after the house” for his family.
The neighbour on the scene at the time of the discovery said there was also “kids’ stuff in the back of the trailer: prams, toys, walker” also in suitcases.
“When I see the luggage out there I thought, ‘That’s a lot of luggage.’”
Another resident across the road from the property where the remains were found is understood to have witnessed the family as they opened the suitcases, and seen their distressed immediate reaction.
“Young fella (over the road), he saw it all. He was working on his car. He saw their reaction and all that,” the neighbour said.
Police are yet to confirm the specific details of how many bodies were found in the “unowned property” and how they arrived at the Auckland address.
There have been reports of multiple victims, but police are yet to officially clarify this.
Detective Inspector Tofilau Faamanuia Vaaelua said from police’s inquiries so far the “occupants of the address are not believed to be involved in the incident”.
“We appreciate there is significant public interest in what has occurred, however, given the nature of the discovery, there are still a number of inquiries to be carried out,” Det Insp Vaaelua said.
A police cordon was up across the house over the weekend while forensic workers undertook a scene examination.
By Tuesday, police had left the address but large metal gates were now closed across the driveway.
A post-mortem examination is expected to be completed over the coming days.
“Given this is a homicide investigation, the flow of information into the public arena via media needs to be accurate and responsible,” a police spokesperson said.
“Any errors in this space could compromise the investigation and might hinder the ability to hold a person or persons to account.
“As we’ve previously said, we appreciate there is a large public interest, however, there are still a number of inquiries to be carried out before police can comment further.
“The priority for police is to confirm the identification of the deceased so that we can establish the full circumstances behind the discovery.”
This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and was reproduced with permission