Man found dead in Dunedin Botanic Garden named

A police officer guards the site where the body of a  Dunedin man was found in the Dunedin Botanic Garden early yesterday. Photo by Jane Dawber.
A police officer guards the site where the body of a Dunedin man was found in the Dunedin Botanic Garden early yesterday. Photo by Jane Dawber.

Police have named a 27-year-old unemployed Dunedin man whose death has been linked to "huffing" after gas canisters were found near his body in the Dunedin Botanic Garden early yesterday.

He was Joshua Robert Tunnicliffe, of no fixed abode.

Police could not confirm whether Mr Tunnicliffe died as a result of inhaling butane and have referred his death, which was not considered suspicious, to the coroner. It was likely a postmortem would be conducted.

"Evidence at the scene suggested that [huffing] played a component," Acting Senior Sergeant Dave Scott said.

A member of the public discovered the man's body about 8.45am and alerted police.

The body was found on a main path in the gardens.

Mr Tunnicliffe was a "recent" Dunedin resident with links to the North Island, where his next of kin lived.

"We believe he's passed away during the hours of darkness and been found by a member of the public in the morning.

"The exact time of death is unknown at this stage."

Police were not seeking anyone in relation to the death.

Recent huffing incidents in and around Dunedin have sparked nationwide concern.

On July 1, Mosgiel teenagers Jamie Jury (18) and Brendon McLeod (17) were critically injured when lpg gas bottles they were inhaling from exploded.

Both received extensive burns and Mr Jury remains in a Christchurch hospital, having come out of an induced coma while in the intensive care unit at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital.

His father, Steven Jury, said huffing-related incidents seemed to be increasing.

Anyone tempted to inhale gas should seriously consider the consequences, he said.

"If they had seen what I've had to go through, they would think twice. I sat over Jamie for a month before he twitched a finger or batted an eyelid, while the doctors said he wouldn't make it ... It was a miracle that he came out of it."

Toxicologist Dr Leo Schep, of the National Poisons Centre in Dunedin, said if the man found yesterday had been inhaling a propellant, such as butane, propane or lpg, then his death would not be unexpected.

"Assuming it was a butane product, we would be very concerned. It's a very common cause of death, called sudden sniffing death syndrome, which is essentially heart failure."

In September, Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean released a report into huffing-related deaths, having found that 63 people had died in butane inhalation-related incidents since 2000.

Dr Schep said it was unacceptable to have so many deaths related to a given type of product.

He applauded retailers who had voluntarily restricted the sale of butane-based products.

Greater education about huffing dangers would be beneficial.

"It's a stupid way of getting high - the risks are too great.

"The Government is aware now of the enormity of the problem and we are aware of how deadly these products are. They can kill and that message needs to be drummed into people."

 


Huffing

• April 1, 2009: James Paul Cessford (19) dies after inhaling butane in Dunedin.
• April 20, 2009: Two Balclutha youths, aged 14 and 18, admitted to Dunedin Hospital after inhaling lpg.
• February 17, 2010: Mamahere Frances Taana (21) dies at her South Dunedin home after inhaling fly spray.
• February 18, 2010: Justin Lee Olsen (21) dies after inhaling lpg at his South Dunedin flat.
• July 1, 2012: Jamie Jury (18) and Brendon McLeod (17) seriously injured when gas bottle explodes while they inhale lpg in a Mosgiel house.
• November 4, 2012: 27-year-old man found dead in Dunedin Botanic Garden surrounded by gas canisters.


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