Authorities received complaints of a strange odor coming from a room in the Sonoda dormitory on the University of Canterbury's Christchurch campus. When police arrived, they discovered a decaying male body. New Zealand news outlet Stuff reports that the body was not noticed until almost 2 months after the student's disappearance, even though his stepfather contacted the police on several occasions.
"[His stepfather] contacted my friends first to try and reach him and when they couldn't he told us he would call the police," a friend of the unnamed student said.
The length that the body was decaying forced responding officers to call in a disaster victim identification team (DVI) team to identify the deceased. The DVI had to use the deceased's dental records and fingerprints to confirm his identity. The school's Education Minister, Chris Hipkins, called the incident "inconceivable" and said that the university is "deeply troubled by the case." Police are still investigating the incident, but the death has caused other students to speak out against the conditions at the university.
"We have no idea who is running this place, there is an overwhelming lack of presence from adult staff in this hall," another unidentified student told Stuff. "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 Associated Press found out that an Australian company named Campus Living Villages operates the dorms. The company also mans residences in the United States and the United Kingdom. Campus Living Villages told AP that it was "saddened by the death but wouldn’t comment further per the family's request for privacy."
"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," Hipkins said. "And I think clearly that’s not been present in this case."