Friday, November 27, 2020

Police appeal for help to identify mystery victim dredged from Maribyrnong River

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Michael Whyte
Crime Scene Officer and Fingerprint Expert with over 7 years experience in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Analysis. The opinions or assertions contained on this site are the private views of the author and are not to be construed as those of any professional organisation or policing body.
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THREE limbs found in the Maribyrnong River since Thursday all belonged to the same person, police believe – and they now have a number of leads to unravel the mystery.

Police spokesman Sen-Constable Adam West said it was believed the three limbs found at the river since Thursday all belonged to the same person however police were yet to identify the man they belonged to.

But police had received “a number of calls” to Crime Stoppers since releasing an image of a distinctive devil tattoo found on one of the limbs, he said.

A third limb was found wedged between rocks on the side of the Maribyrnong River this morning.

Police tape off the area where more human remains were found whislt they photograph the s
Police tape off the area where more human remains were found whilst they photograph the scene. Picture: Tony Gough

Two men who alerted police to the gruesome find said it was part of a leg with the knee bone clearly exposed. The limb – the third to be found in the river since part of an arm was discovered near Moonee Ponds’ The Boathouse cafe on Thursday – was protruding from a white shopping bag. Essendon man David Neale said he found it while walking his dogs along the river about 11.20am. The 69-year-old said the limb was grey.

Search Continues for body parts in Maribyrnong River. Picture: Tony Gough
Search Continues for body parts in Maribyrnong River. Picture: Tony Gough

It appeared to have washed up on the side of the river and become wedged between some rocks opposite the Essendon Canoe Club and near the Raleigh St bridge – about 500 metres downstream from where the original limb was found.

“I was just walking along the edge of the river, I looked down and couldn’t believe it,” Mr Neale said.

Mr Neale said he had been upset by the find.

“I feel awful – it’s someone,” he said. “I think I’ll go home and have a stubby.”

Mr Neale and another local walking along the river – Andrew Walker – called local police and flagged down a water police boat conducting sonar searches nearby.

This is a tattoo from body parts found in the Maribyrnong River
This is a tattoo from body parts found in the Maribyrnong River

Mr Walker said the experience was “a bit surreal”.

“It was pretty unmistakable what it was,” the 44-year-old said.

“Kids are enjoying a nice game of cricket (just over the other side of the river), and there’s a body part floating near them.”

Victoria Police spokeswoman Belle Nolan said officers were still investigating the circumstances surrounding the find.

“But at this stage police believe this morning’s discovery is linked to human remains found in the Maribyrnong earlier this week,” Ms Nolan said. Police removed the limb from the river just after 2pm, taking it away for forensic examination. A search and rescue diver plunged into the water near where the body part was found shortly afterwards. But the diver did not find anything linked to the investigation and abandoned the search about 3.30pm.

Police will now focus their search on this portion of the river – downstream from where the first two limbs and black plastic bags were recovered on Thursday.

Police this morning returned to the Maribyrnong River for a third day. The identity of a man with a devil tattoo whose severed limbs were pulled out of the river in the Moonee Ponds area remains a mystery.

Victoria Police spokesman Sergeant Kris Hamilton said water police officers would again take to the river on a boat, but search and rescue divers were not expected to take another plunge today.

A police boat yesterday spent the day travelling up and down a 4km stretch of the river, using sonar equipment to scour the water. They departed from The Boathouse cafe on The Boulevard, in Moonee Ponds, where a portion of the man’s arm was first spotted. ​No additional body parts were found yesterday.

The distinctive tattoo on the inner forearm is the only distinguishing mark homicide investigators have to go on to try to identify who it was who met with foul play in the last eight days. Police called off a search of the river just after 5pm. No further body parts were found.

Police have confirmed the dead man, who was almost certainly killed and dismembered elsewhere before being dumped in the river, was a white caucasian.

The homicide squad’s Detective Inspector Mick Hughes would not divulge how many body parts were retrieved from two sites along the Moonee Ponds section of the river, just a kilometre apart.

But Det. Insp Hughes conceded “major limbs’’ had been recovered and the victim’s hand had been severed, possibly to eliminate the possibility of fingerprint identification.

The remains were being analysed by staff at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine.

Police have been searching their missing person files and running the red devil tattoo through their criminal database but have so far not found a match.

The probe will also involve:

RUNNING DNA through databases for a match.

CANVASSING tattoo parlours for anyone who recognises the devil tattoo.

SCOURING CCTV footage of suspicious activity in the area.

DOORKNOCKING and placing posters asking for witnesses to come forward.

ANALYSING information reports flowing in to police

Det. Insp Hughes said it was unfortunate the man’s family was likely to learn of his death from seeing the tattoo image.

“We know this is a terrible way for them to find out, but I think it’ll get a breakthrough in the investigation early.

“Last night most of our time was spent on missing persons and we’re running through tattoos on our criminal database.

“Tattoo parlours will be (among) the avenues we’ll look at,” Det. Insp Hughes said.

Divers had resumed their search early on Friday following the discovery of the body parts in the river on Thursday.

A police search and rescue diver plunged in near the bridge at Afton St, Aberfeldie.

Detectives looked on as the diver carried out the grisly task of scouring the river bed.

Sonar equipment was also used to sweep the bed.

And a police boat spent the day travelling up and down a 4km stretch of the river.

They departed from The Boathouse cafe on The Boulevard, in Moonee Ponds, where a portion of the man’s arm was first spotted. State Emergency Service volunteers conducted line searches along the banks.

Forensic investigators also scoured several “areas of interest­”.

The gruesome finds, in an area popular with runners and dog walkers, shocked locals.

A witness said: “We’re curious. We were told a limb was found. They (the police) are just slowly, slowly going around the river.”

Source: Herald Sun

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