Bruce Saunders died after he became trapped in a woodchipper in November 2017.
Bruce Saunders died after he became trapped in a woodchipper in November 2017. Frances Klein

Horrific woodchipper death now a murder investigation

UPDATE: Police are searching for a motive behind the gruesome death of a man who was killed in an industrial-grade woodchipper at a Gympie property last November. 

The 'accidental death' has been upscaled to a murder investigation overnight, following recent evidence gathered at the scene this week and information from those known to the victim. 

Nambour man Bruce Saunders, 54, was horrifically killed in the heavy-duty cutter when he was working with two men on the Goomboorian property.   

Two men are now persons of interest in the investigation, Wide Bay and Burnett Detective Inspector Gary Pettiford said.   

Bruce Saunders
Bruce Saunders Contributed

"Information came to the detectives in the days following the death to indicate it was not an accident," Det Insp said. 

He said further evidence was found at the scene directly after Mr Saunder's death, and on the weekend more was located following a large-scale police and SES search of the Tinana Rd property.   

The inspector said Mr Saunders, from the Sunshine Coast, had been helping clear vegetation at the property north west of Gympie for a female friend who had been recently widowed.  

A picture of the type of wood chipper involved in the November death of Bruce Saunders.
A picture of the type of wood chipper involved in the November death of Bruce Saunders. Josh Preston

Mr Saunders and his two friends had been clearing trees all weekend before his death at 7.40pm on November 12, Det Insp Pettiford said.   

Det Insp Pettiford disputed claims the time of death was suspicious, as it had only just turned dark at the time and the triple zero phone call made by someone at the property was made immediately after his death.  

An expert from Melbourne, who made a technical assessment of the 15 inch blade woodchipper that Mr Saunders was killed in, said the machine was ruled out as at fault.  

"Nothing was wrong with the machine, including all safety features," Det Insp Pettiford said.   

He said the machine was set up in a way that if a user fell, they would not be pulled straight into it, but there had been past instances where people had been pulled into machines when they had been trapped on logs.   

The Inspector said the graphic details of the death had shocked the family of Mr Saunders, who was originally from Bundaberg and described as a "a happy go lucky person".  

The property where Bruce Saunders died.
The property where Bruce Saunders died. Frances Klein

It also impacted emergency response workers who responded to the call last November.    "A man went through a machine designed to shred plant material, so you can imagine the scene," he said.   

"They wouldn't be human if they weren't affected at the time."  

He said police had been working around the clock to get the investigation to where it was.   

"The officers involved, the detectives from both the Gympie CIB and the Homicide Investigation Unit, are very hard-working and dedicated detectives.   

"We will not give up on this investigation, and we will reach a successful conclusion."  

Anyone with information surrounding the suspicious death is urged to contact Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.   

Detective Inspector Gary Pettiford addresses the media after Police announced the horrific wood chipper death of Bruce Saunders is being treated as suspicious.
Detective Inspector Gary Pettiford addresses the media after Police announced the horrific wood chipper death of Bruce Saunders is being treated as suspicious. Josh Preston

BREAKING: Police have declared they are now treating the horrific woodchipper death of a Sunshine Coast man as suspicious.

Bruce Saunders, 54, died on November 12, 2017 after he was trapped in an industrial woodchipper on a Goomboorian property, east of Gympie.

On Sunday Gympie police officers executed a crime scene warrant at the property where Mr Saunders died, and launched a land search with members of the State Emergency Service.

In a statement this morning police revealed they found "several items of interest" that were seized for forensic examination.

This morning police announced they had determined the death to be "suspicious", and officers from the Homicide Investigation Unit would be assisting local detectives.

The woodchipper was taken from the scene the day after Mr Saunders' death.
The woodchipper was taken from the scene the day after Mr Saunders' death. Frances Klein

Wide Bay Burnett District Crime and Support Services Detective Inspector Gary Pettiford said police were following promising lines of enquiry and were confident of determining exactly what happened.

"Information we received during the course of our coronial investigations has lead us to believe that the death is suspicious and we have a number of detectives and police experts investigating this incident.

"I urge anyone with any information that could assist us with our investigations to come forward - either by contacting Gympie detectives, Policelink or anonymously via Crimestoppers."

Mr Saunders' family in Bundaberg, where Mr Saunders grew up and worked as a butcher, described him as "a happy go lucky person" and "someone you could sit and talk to about anything".


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