For over a week a decomposed
body that had washed up on Ninety Mile Beach in February 2011
Two years later that body has been cremated and is in an urn
in Auckland awaiting uplifting by family.
Even after police realised the young, black haired, possibly
Indian or Sri Lankan man lying in Auckland's morgue was
likely to be Sunil Kumar Raghava Raju, 25, whose Auckland
flatmates had reported him missing, the body could not be
An inquest today heard that mystery continues to surround the
young man's death.
The first DNA match failed when the toothbrush flatmates said
was Raju's proved to be a communal one used by other
occupants, too. A second DNA test based on familial samples
showed a near perfect match with Raju's parents.
A protracted communications process was ongoing between New
Zealand's Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry's protocol
division and the Indian High Commission dealing with Raju's
family. The family disputed the DNA results and appeared to
give up efforts to repatriate the body.
In April this year Northland Coroner Brandt Shortland advised
Raju's family the body had been cremated because it could no
longer be stored.
At an inquest in Whangarei today, Mr Shortland ruled that
Raju had died by drowning.
Records show Raju last used his cellphone at Ahipara on
Identification had been stalled because of the late report of
him being missing, the cold trail from when he said he was
heading to Hamilton on December 21 to when his body washed up
on Ninety Mile Beach, and a lack of identifiable features on
the decomposed body.
As far as forensic tests could tell, there were no signs of
pre-death violence. Massive tissue damage to parts of the
body were caused after death, probably by sharks, Mr
"In terms of the cause of death, at the very least he has
drowned," he said. "But the evidence is silent. The
circumstances remain a mystery. As to how and why he got
there, we'll never know."
- By Lindy Laird of the