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DNA confirms body was Stephen George

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier
Stephen George’s family
BODY IDENTIFIED: Stephen George’s family (from right) wife Leone George, mother Lindsay George and sister Susan Dodunski at yesterday’s press conference in Te Awamutu where it was announced Stephen George had been identified as the body found in the Tirohanga fire last month. 326051AD

By Dean Taylor

Members of Stephen George’s family and enquiry head Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Loper of Rotorua CIB gathered the press together in Te Awamutu yesterday afternoon to confirm that DNA had confirmed Mr George was dead.

DETECTIVE MARK LOPER
DETECTIVE MARK LOPER

Mr George’s wife Leone, mother Lindsay, sister Susan Dodunski and brother-in-law Shane Dodunski sat silently as Detective Loper made the announcement.

The body was found burnt beyond recognition in a Tirohanga farm cottage near Taupo on October 9. Mr George’s Nissan Primera was found on October, 13 12km north of Mangakino at which stage the investigation was classified as a homicide.

Detective Loper says the cause of death still has not been confirmed, but it was not cut and dried that he simply died as a result of the fire. Police are hoping the confirmation of the DNA results may prompt even more information about the movements of Mr George leading up to his death. They are concentrating mostly on the time from when he was last seen at the Star Tavern in Kihikihi at 1.30am on the day he died and 4.15am when the fire was reported, although detective Loper says anyone who had contact with Mr George for a month prior is being spoken to.

He confirmed there are a number of ‘persons of interest’ and that police believe at least two people would have been involved in Mr George’s murder based on evidence to date, specifically where the car was left.

Detective Loper says it is a challenging case because of the damage to evidence, namely the house and car, but as always, he is confident of a result.

He says the key now is to continue to speak to as many people as possible who may be able to provide us with information about the man himself or anything that happened to him in the lead up to the fire at the farm cottage.

STEPHEN GEORGE
STEPHEN GEORGE

Mrs Lindsay George spoke for the family, saying it was a relief to have some closure on the matter, although full closure would come when the truth was revealed. She said the family could now plan to say goodbye to Stephen and lay him to rest.
Mrs George said a date for the funeral had not been set at this stage. She said the wait for confirmation one way or the other was a shocking time for the family.

Mrs George said her son was a lovely, happy, friendly and outgoing person. She appealed to the person or people who know what happened to Stephen to come forward and talk to police.

“We need to know,” she said. “Please help us, help police.”

Anyone with information about Mr George should contact the information hotline set up for this investigation, 0800 STAR09 (0800 782709).