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Homicide probe after bodies found in Canterbury valley

Published: 8:23AM Monday May 28, 2012 Source: ONE News/ Fairfax

A murder investigation has been launched after two bodies were found on a remote south Canterbury property.

The bodies of a man and a woman were discovered by participants in a charity trail bike ride near Waihaorunga, southwest of Waimate, yesterday morning. The ride was raising money for Waimate Main School.

Inspector Greg Williams said police are treating the death of at least one of the two people found dead as a homicide.

ONE News reporter Max Bania said a helicopter has flown the two bodies off the mountain tonight to Christchurch for post mortem examinations, which are expected to begin tomorrow.

Police said neither body has been identified, but 43-year-old Canterbury man Jason Frandi is the subject of police investigations today.

Police did not say whether Frandi was one of the dead.

"Until we complete the formal identification we can't say categorically that that is Mr Frandi up there," Williams said.

Frandi was reported missing yesterday and was last seen parked at his home at around 11am on Saturday. Police said the vehicle was a 1997 328i series silver BMW saloon, with the Registration number: ATT530.

Frandi is described as caucasian, with a solid build and a shaven haircut. He has extensive tattoos on his arms and backs of both hands.

Police guarded the scene overnight and seven detectives arrived this morning from Christchurch.

Police said a helicopter and search and rescue staff had been deployed into the area where the bodies were located to search for a vehicle that "must have been used".

Williams said the helicopter and ground searchers failed to find a vehicle today and will resume the search tomorrow.

Mid-South Canterbury area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said the deaths were being treated as suspicious, but due to the isolated location efforts were still being made to reconstruct what happened.

Gaskin would not comment on the pair's injuries or on whether any weapons were found at the scene.

'Body still warm'

Timaru man Daryl MacDonald was part of the first group of motorcyclists on the trail, who discovered the bodies at around 11am.

"We were three-quarters of the way through the track where it heads down a steep hill," he explained, when he and a group of friends came up behind a woman on her trail bike, who had stopped near the body of a man.

"She thought it was a rider ... We stopped and checked and saw a guy lying on his side facing away from us. He was probably in his late 30s to early 40s. We checked him and he was still warm."

MacDonald said the body of the woman was found some distance away, "in a small clearing in between trees''.

He had heard from others on the ride that "it looked like she had been there for a while".

Another of the ride participants, Andrew Wright, of Timaru, said one of the riders had put his hand on the man's chest and it was still warm, so he had tried to stop the flow of blood.

Waimate Main School principal Adam Rivett said the riders told him the woman's throat was slit.

"It was pretty gross. My understanding was that it wasn't the nicest thing to come across."

He said the area was a "strange place" to find bodies because it was "as remote as you could get".

"The gates to the forest from the road are locked, so unless you have a key, you can't get in."

"Forestry workers do go through that area, but that could have been weeks or months down the track. If the riders had not come across those bodies, then they would have been out there for months," Rivett said.