Student’s body lay undiscovered in a university dorm room in New Zealand for nearly eight weeks

‘If you’re going into a hall of residence or a hostel, you are paying top dollar for not just a roof over your head but also the pastoral care that goes with that ... clearly that’s not been present in this case’

Corazon Miller@c0ra_z0n
Thursday 26 September 2019 07:10
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A security guard keeps watch outside student accommodation at Canterbury University in Christchurch, New Zealand where a body was found inside
A security guard keeps watch outside student accommodation at Canterbury University in Christchurch, New Zealand where a body was found inside

A student’s body has been found in a university dorm in New Zealand nearly eight weeks after he is believed to have died.

The country’s education minister, Chris Hipkins, has called for an investigation after reports of the death at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, were made public.

He said it was a horrific situation for the family that should never have been allowed to come to pass.

“If you’re going into a hall of residence or a hostel, you are paying top dollar for not just a roof over your head but also the pastoral care that goes with that,” Mr Hipkins said. “And I think clearly that’s not been present in this case.”

He said the university needed to conduct a thorough investigation.

“We’ll be looking very closely at the regulatory and legal arrangements around the halls of residence and hostels to make sure they are as strong as they need to be,” he said. “But clearly I’m really concerned about this case.”

Authorities have given little detail around the death, but local news organisation Stuff.co.nz reported the student’s body lay undiscovered for almost two months before other students noticed a smell and reported it.

University vice-chancellor Cheryl de la Rey said in a statement that it was “inconceivable to imagine how these circumstances could have occurred”.

She said the university has an extensive well-being programme and that residential assistants also support students in dorms. She said the university would commission an independent investigation.

The dorm is run by Australian company Campus Living Villages, which also operates them in the US and Britain.

The company said it was saddened by the death but would not be commenting on the circumstances after the student’s family requested privacy.

The university had been hosting its normal lecture schedule over that time after the second semester began in mid-July.

New Zealand universities typically take their summer breaks in December and January.

Police said they were finishing up a scene examination on Wednesday after the student’s body was found late on Monday and an autopsy conducted the following day.

They said specialist teams had been called in to formally identify the body.

Such teams are typically called in on a case-by-case basis, including when decomposition makes routine identification difficult.

Police declined to identify the student, say how long he had been missing or specify a cause of death. Detective senior sergeant Craig Johnson said they were continuing to investigate the case.

Student president Sam Brosnahan said the incident was distressing for other students, who were saddened to hear of the death of one of their own. He said their thoughts and prayers were with the family.

He said he did not yet have all the facts, but that the reports of the length of time the body lay unfound were “very concerning.”

He said annual surveys found most students viewed the university favourably.

“It’s generally well regarded by students as a safe place to learn, study and live,” he said.

Additional reporting by AP

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