A floating suitcase might not have been cause for concern, but the headless and legless torso inside was.
The suitcase was found underneath Picton's wharf on May 7, 1938 and investigating officer Detective Sergeant Bill McLennan must have expected the worst. He could see part of a hand sticking out.
Stuffed inside was the torso of a man. There was an unemployment levy book in his coat pocket, revealing him to be Edwin Norman Armstrong from Wellington.
How did his dismembered body come to be in a suitcase in Picton?
Within days a second suitcase, with a head and legs in it, was found on the seabed.
People at the time remembered Mr Armstrong as a man who abused his wife, drank and treated his family terribly, swore and did not like to work.
He was not well liked and, as it turned out, he was hated even more by his son Douglas who saw the ruin of the family in his father’s behaviour.
Mr Armstrong had been in Australia for about seven months but moved back into the family home in Wellington two months before his death and the family, including youngest son William, found him difficult to live with.
Douglas was especially close to his mother, Mary Robb Armstrong, and when he had finally had enough he confronted his father, trying to give him money to leave.
In a later statement to police, Douglas said he started in on his father with his fists and “think I went berserk”.
He cut up the body, put it in two suitcases, took a taxi to the ferry Tamahine and left for Picton.
In his book No Remedy for Death pathologist at the time Dr Philip Patrick Lynch said “At Picton it was raining and dark. Douglas later told police 'I got off the boat with my suitcases and went down towards the stern of the ship after walking towards the end of the wharf. I heaved the suitcases into the water'.”
But the police did not know this when they went to Mr Amstrong’s Hinau Road home. Instead, Mrs Armstrong astonished them when she told them that not only was her husband missing, but her eldest son was too.
Douglas had left his mother a note saying he was going to Auckland, but a taxi driver told police he took a young man to the ferry early that morning. He had two heavy bags with him and when the driver asked Douglas what it was, he said, “venison meat”.
Examination of the house revealed blood stains and a tenon saw with meat clinging to its teeth.
The first news of Douglas was in a private letter to his mother confessing all and asking her to meet him privately which she did.
A week later he was caught in Auckland about to board a train to Wellington. He initially gave the police the name Dave Lyon but quickly came clean. He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in prison. His mother stood with him throughout the trial but sadly died before her son left prison. Douglas left New Zealand when he was released.
However, it was not the end of Mr Armstrong’s story. He was not buried for many years. Instead, his remains stayed in the care of the police museum to be used for training purposes.
But in 2015 the museum decided the remains should be properly and respectfully interred. A special ceremony and memorial plaques were put up for Edwin Armstrong at Karori cemetery.