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Criminal charges 'likely' over hunter's death

Published: 8:19AM Sunday April 08, 2012 Source: ONE News/Fairfax

Police say criminal charges are likely over the death of a hunter in a steep, remote section of Wairarapa's Aorangi Forest Park yesterday.

The man's body was removed from the scene this afternoon. He is believed to be aged in his late 20s and from Auckland.

ONE News understand the man's friend found him after hearing a gun go off, and initially thought he had fallen and shot himself.

But police believe the man was shot dead by another party, not his own, and a criminal inquiry has been launched into the death.

"It's quite likely that criminal charges are going to be laid, but that won't be done until we complete a scene examination and seek a legal opinion," said Detective Senior Sergeant Sean Hansen, of Wairarapa CIB.

A hunting party that had been in the area at the same time had been interviewed, but at this stage no-one was being charged with the man's death.

Police would not release the name until the man was formally identified, after an autopsy was completed.

This was likely to be tomorrow.

The death comes only a week after "extreme cautions" for safety were issued by the Mountain Safety Council.

It follows the deaths of three people in hunting accidents last year alone.

Many hunters around the country have been heading into the bush ahead of the red deer mating season, which generally starts in late March.

More commonly known as "the Roar" it was a time of year that required extreme caution, said Mike Spray of the Mountain Safety Council.

Over the past 10 years, there were eight hunter deaths and three others seriously injured, usually when one hunter has shot a companion or other hunter while deer hunting.

"Failure to identify the target properly before shooting is a primary factor," Spray said.

Identifying a target beyond all doubt was one of the seven basic rules of safe firearms handling.

"No shooter should ever fire at shape, colour, movement or sound," said Spray.

In eight of the 11 incidents of death and injury, the shooter and victim were in the same party.

RECENT GUN TRAGEDIES

December 2011: Reuben Burke, 24, shot friend Dougal Fyfe, 23, after he mistook him for a deer. He pleaded guilty to careless use of a firearm earlier this month. He will be sentenced in the the Queenstown District Court on May 14.
   
May 2011:
Waiuku farmer Barrie Bright, 57, accidentally shot brother Phillip, 53, on the first day of duck shooting season. The 57-year-old had been drinking before the accident. He pleaded guilty to careless use of a firearm causing death and received seven months' home detention.
   
October 2010: Lower Hutt school teacher Rosemary Ives, 25, was shot from about 20 metres as she was cleaning her teeth at a Conservation Department campground near Turangi. Andrew Mears, 26, served 11 months' imprisonment for her manslaughter, which occurred when he was illegally spotlighting at night with three friends and mistook Ives' headlamp for the eyes of a deer.

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