Three 17-year-old males have been arrested at their homes in the Broulee area today following an investigation into the death of a Canberra man whose body was found in bushland at Broulee earlier this month.
The man has been formally identified as 56-year-old Canberra resident and well-known auctioneer and real estate sales consultant Peter Keeley.
A NSW Police spokesperson said Mr Keeley, a divorced father-of-three, suffered head and facial injuries; however, a post mortem examination was inconclusive as to the exact cause of death.
Detectives from the State Crime Command’s Homicide Squad and South Coast Police District established Strike Force Henrick to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr Keeley’s death on 2 February.
Following extensive investigations and a public appeal last week, strike force detectives executed three search warrants at homes in the Broulee area from 6:00 am today (13 February).
During the searches, officers seized mobile phones, laptops and other electronic equipment.
Two 17-year-old males were arrested and taken to Batemans Bay Police Station this morning. They were charged with murder and taking or detaining someone with the intent to get advantage occasioning actual bodily harm.
The pair were refused bail and are expected to appear at a children’s court later today.
Following further inquiries, a third 17-year-old male was arrested at a home in the Broulee area just before 3:00 pm today. He is also expected to be charged in relation to the incident.
Homicide Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty said initial inquiries suggest Mr Keeley had made arrangements to meet up with a person he had connected with through an online dating application. He travelled by car from Canberra to Batemans Bay on the morning of 2 February.
Detective Superintendent Doherty today said police believe Mr Keeley may have been communicating with one of the 17-year-olds via the gay dating app Grindr.
“There’s a number of dating apps that were used, and one of those dating apps was Grindr,” Detective Superintendent Doherty said.
Police refused to comment on whether it will be alleged the 17-year-old was on Grindr as himself or under an alias.
Police are now working to establish if the alleged murder may have been a hate crime.
“There’s a number of motives that I can’t talk about. We have to look at other considerations, such as whether it’s drug-related, robbery-related or whether it’s some type of hate crime.”
The teenagers, one of whom is a high school student, were not known to police before they were arrested on suspicion of murder.
Emergency services were called to bushland near McNee Street at Broulee at about 4:50 pm on 2 February following the discovery of Mr Keeley’s body by a person walking their dog.
The Keeley family has also released a statement via NSW Police.
“Our family is devastated and still coming to terms with the fact we have lost Peter,” the statement says.
“All that can be said is we have been deeply affected by this tragedy and we are still grieving.
“We are grateful for the overwhelming support from family and friends.
“Thank you to the NSW Police Force and ACT Police detectives who have supported our family during this terrible time.
“As we continue to process this news, our family has requested privacy at this time to allow us to support Peter’s children.”
Investigations under Strike Force Henrick are continuing.