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Melbourne couple charged with murder in Rockefeller case

A Melbourne couple appeared in a late night police court charged in connection with the death of businessman Herman Rockefeller, who was prominent in New Zealand business circles in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Australian news reports say Mr Rockefeller’s remains are believed to have been in the backyard of a Melbourne house and police are awaiting forensic results.

Mario Schembri, 57, of Wallan, and Bernadette Denny, 41, of Hadfield, have been charged with his murder.

The out-of-sessions hearing heard the pair had an altercation with Mr Rockefeller at Denny's residence in the suburb of Hadfield on the night he went missing on January 21 or early January 22.

They also have made admissions to police that they had assisted in the disposal of the body, the court heard.

The accused were remanded to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Monday.

Business trip

Homicide detectives believe Mr Rockefeller was murdered after returning to Melbourne by air from a business trip to Newcastle on January 21.

After launching a homicide inquiry, police found Mr Rockefeller's blue Toyota Prius parked and locked in a lane in Ballan.

He had not used the tollway to drive home from the airport to Malvern East. He had also not used his credit card, accessed bank accounts or switched on his mobile phone.

Exclusion zone

Earlier in the day, police set up an exclusion zone in Heathcote, north of Melbourne, as the police helicopter hovered over bushland.

Investigators filled several evidence bags from the Hadfield townhouse after working throughout the night. Forensic experts also searched for evidence on the property.

Mr Rockefeller's wife and brother, Robert, have not spoken in public since appealing for information about Mr Rockefeller's whereabouts. Yesterday they continued to keep a private vigil at their luxury Malvern East home.

Mr Rockefeller, 52, has a daughter, Sarah, and son, Herman, 16. He was born in Ohio, went to school in Geelong and studied at Harvard University.

Along with his brothers, Robert and Charles, he had business interests in Melbourne, Tasmania and New Zealand, where they own shopping centres.
During his time in New Zealand, Mr Rockefeller was head of finance at Brierley Investments.

He was not connected with the rich and famous Rockefeller family of New York.