Nick Limnios, who lives around the corner from the crime scene, said he had “opened his window [on Friday] morning and saw cops everywhere”.
He spoke briefly to the man who had found the body. The man told him the deceased had his hands tied together at the front of his body.
“Everyone would be shocked with something happening next door to them,” he said. “It’s terrible, especially next to the school.”
The body was next to a mound of bark close to the reserve. Police had placed markers next to tyre marks in the grass next to the oval changing rooms.
Neighbour Christine said it was a horrible thing to happen so nearby. “My children went to that primary school and to see that, it’s awful. Especially for the person who found it,” she said.
Police are treating the death of the man as suspicious.
Parents at the school, which caters for about 410 students, were sent a text message on Friday morning telling them a “very serious incident” had occurred near the primary school and it would be closed for the day.
Residents living across the road from the school said they heard no commotion overnight, and the first they knew about the body was when police arrived and cordoned off the scene.
One man said there were sometimes burnt-out cars in the car park.
Forensic officers spent hours examining the body. Just before 2pm, a police helicopter flew close to the ground surveying the crime scene and surrounding area.
A significant section of Lesdon Avenue remained closed off for much of the day. The Narre Warren SES unit arrived on scene about 8.15am and set up a marquee to help preserve the crime scene from scattered showers.
Merinda Park Cricket Club, which is close to the scene, held its annual general meeting on Thursday and coach Dustin Peebles said he was shocked to hear of the grim discovery.
“It’s hard to believe that that thing can happen in between last night and this morning,” he said.
Mr Peebles left the clubhouse about 9pm last night, other members left about 11.30pm and one mentioned seeing a car pull in about that time.
He said they had only noticed petty vandalism but nothing serious.
“I couldn’t imagine the kids and parents coming into school and finding that. It’s pretty shocking and I hope the family is all right. It took me aback. I’m sure the other guys, the president and the committee members, are pretty shocked as well,” he said.
A crime scene has been set up and police are calling for anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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Simone is a crime reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Age, and before that for The Australian in Melbourne.
Nicole Precel is a journalist and audio video producer at The Age. She is also a documentary maker.