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Body removed from fire scene

Body removed from fire scene

Christchurch police were this afternoon able to remove the body which was discovered at the scene of a fire in Peterborough Street last night.

Fire damage to the property meant that police had to cut away part of the wall of the upper floor of the property to access the scene. A high access fire appliance was used to lift the body out of an upper-storey room, where it had been located last night.

Detective Senior Sergeant John Gallagher says the extensive fire damage to the building has made the scene examination and body recovery operation difficult.

"We have not been able to get access to the residence to recover the body because of concerns over the structural integrity of the building, which has been severely compromised by fire damage," he says.

"This has also limited our ability to conduct a comprehensive forensic examination of the scene to date.

"This work is under way but is likely to be a slow process as we work with the Fire Service to ensure safe access to the property."

Detective Senior Sergeant Gallagher says there is no indication that any other persons were inside the property at the time of the fire, but investigators have not yet been able to fully clear the scene.

He says at this stage police do not have any information about the identity of the deceased person. The severe fire damage means police do not yet know the gender, age or ethnicity of the deceased.

A post-mortem examination was to be carried out this afternoon.

"It is far too early to speculate on the cause of death and on the cause of the fire - or whether it was accidental or deliberate," Detective Senior Sergeant Gallagher says.

"Our priority has been the safe recovery of the body of the deceased from the scene. This has now been achieved and will assist in advancing our investigation into the identity of the deceased and the cause of the blaze."

Emergency services were alerted to the fire at the property at approximately 8.20pm last night [Tuesday 9 April].

Fire Service staff discovered the body at approximately 12.55am today.

The body was found in an upstairs room of the front flat at the property, an older style weatherboard house which had been converted into flats.

Both front flats were extensively damaged by the fire, while the rear, single-storey flat was relatively undamaged.

The property is in private ownership, but was vacant following earthquake damage. Police say the flats were known to have been used by vagrants, and police have been called to clear people from the property in the past.

Detective Senior Sergeant Gallagher says police are asking for any witnesses to the fire, or anyone who has information about the incident, to contact police as soon as possible.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Christchurch police on (03) 3637400.

Alternatively, to provide information anonymously contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

ENDS

NOTE: No further information is expected to be available today. Any details relating to the identity of the deceased will not be available until the post-mortem examination and formal identification is complete and next of kin have been notified. This will be tomorrow (Thursday) at the earliest.

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