Mystery over man found drowned in industrial area

Mystery continues to surround how an Ashburton man drowned in a swampy industrial run-off area in the town.

Police said yesterday there was no evidence of suspicious circumstances in the death of 34-year-old AJ Gairns, information which may help stop rumours circulating in Ashburton.

Detective senior sergeant Marion Neill said police were aware of speculation over Mr Gairns' death, and some 12 police staff were working on the investigation.

"The investigation team is focused on establishing Mr Gairns' movements and how he came to be in the area where he was found," Ms Neill said.

As part of their enquiries police were speaking to friends and associates of the deceased, and wanted to hear from any witnesses who may have been in the area during the early hours of Saturday morning to contact Ashburton police on 307-8400 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Meanwhile, police are hoping Mr Gairns' cellphone, which specialist search staff found yesterday in the drainage run-off area, would provide some clues.

"Today they have located his cellphone, which we expect will be helpful in providing further information on the events leading up to his death," Ms Neill said yesterday.

"At this stage we are satisfied that drowning is the cause of death, and there is no evidence of suspicious circumstances. However we are continuing our investigation of behalf of the coroner. We have released the scene."

Mr Gairns' body was released to his family yesterday, and police and Victim Support were providing assistance to bereaved members.

The Guardian understands his body was found before 5pm on Sunday by a group of residents walking through the industrial area accessway. Mr Gairns had gone missing around 3am on Saturday, after popping out to see a friend, but did not make it there and never returned home.

Mr Gairns is a former Ashburton College student who qualified as a welder. One of his former school mates said he had been "a nice joker" who liked to party hard and play hard, and would be very much missed.

"Everyone knows him for his big smile, his cheeky smile, and just being cheeky, but in a good way. He could have no money, no job, but still smiling and see the positive about everything."

Mr Gairns' funeral will be at the Paterson's Funeral Services chapel on Friday at 1.30pm.

- Susan Sandys of the Ashburton Guardian