For nearly two months, a student’s body lay unnoticed in a New Zealand university dorm.
When his body was found late Monday at the University of Canterbury, the incident prompted an investigation, raising concerns as to how it went undiscovered for so long, Christchurch newspaper The Press reported.
The student’s father had previously contacted police with worries about his son’s whereabouts, but it wasn’t until students at Sonoda Christchurch Campus building noticed an odor that the body was discovered around 11 p.m.
As it had been in the dorm for nearly eight weeks, the discovery prompted officials to call in a disaster victim identification team, which uses fingerprints, dental records and DNA to confirm an identity, The Press reports.
Professor Cheryl de la Rey and the school’s vice-chancellor, Tumu Whakarae, at the University of Canterbury said, released a joint statement Wednesday to express their condolences to the student’s family.
“We are devastated by what has happened and extend our deepest sympathy to the family. This is an extremely distressing time for University students and staff. The University of Canterbury is doing everything it can to support the Police investigation into the tragic death of a New Zealand student in the Sonoda student accommodation,” the statement said.
Detective Senior Sgt. Craig Johnson confirmed in a statement Wednesday that the New Zealand Police are on the case.
“Police are concluding a scene examination today at a university residence in Ilam, Christchurch where a male was discovered deceased on Monday evening. Specialist Police teams have been called in to assist with formal identification, and this process is ongoing,” Johnson said in a statement.
An autopsy was conducted Tuesday evening, police said, and officials are working with the coroner to determine the cause of death.
The university said it is conducting an “independent comprehensive investigation” to determine how the events could have happened and “what actions need to be taken.”
“Despite the comprehensive pastoral care programmes in place, for us it is inconceivable to imagine how these circumstances could have occurred. We understand that the matter is now with the Coroner and we are respectful of the family’s wishes at this time not to comment further,” the university said in a statement.
One of the deceased student’s friends told The Press that his friend would “go off the grid for a week or so,” and that the boy’s father had contacted him on Sunday expressing concern over his son’s whereabouts.
Another student at Canterbury expressed concern over the care provided at the university in the residence halls.
“If a student was in crisis the hall of residence would have no idea ... we could disappear for weeks and it would go unnoticed by staff here,” the student told The Press.
The University of Canterbury said in a statement they made a variety of support resources available to students following the incident.