Man's body found in shallow grave

DESPITE being just metres from the busy Pacific Highway, it was a lonely final resting place for the popular Byron Bay businessman who had been missing for three weeks.

John ‘Jack’ Garda’s body was found by police on Saturday in a shallow sandy grave 30 metres down a bush track in thick banksia scrub, just south of Broadwater.

Broadwater residents were shocked to learn of the discovery.

Distraught friends said the 54-year-old Mr Garda was agitated and nervous when he left for a meeting in Lennox Head on Monday, February 8.

The last thing he had told them was to ‘call the cops’ if he didn’t return.

Officers from Strike Force Whip – comprising Homicide Squad detectives from the State Crime Command and detectives with the Tweed-Byron Local Area Command – found the body following ‘extensive investigations’.

The horrific discovery came just 24 hours after strike force detectives charged 38-year-old Lennox Head resident Kevin Purtill with Mr Garda’s murder.

Purtill appeared briefly in the Lismore Local Court on Saturday, and again yesterday.

He sat passively throughout the short proceedings, speaking briefly to his lawyer.

Purtill did not apply for bail and was remanded in custody. The case was adjourned until April 20.

Police are yet to formally identify the body and it is understood it will be sent to the Glebe Coroner’s Court morgue in Sydney for the autopsy.

They expect the results may take some time due to the decomposed state of the remains.

Inspector Darren Steel, from the Tweed-Byron Local Area Command, said detectives were yet to determine the cause of death and that investigations were continuing.

He would not be drawn on likely motives, or whether there would be more arrests.

Meanwhile, police are appealing for the public’s assistance to locate Mr Garda’s car.

It is described as a 2003 model silver-coloured Holden Astra, with NSW registration plates AON-89L.

Inquiries are continuing and investigators have asked for anyone with information about the incident, or the vehicle described, to contact Byron Bay police on (02) 6685 9499 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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