A 21-year-old hitchhiker accused of attacking a good samaritan who offered him a place to stay for the night has been charged with murder.
Gordon Alfred Tunnicliffe, 64, never regained consciousness after the alleged attack in his home near Turangi on April 14 and died in Cranford Hospice in Hastings two weeks later.
Mr Tunnicliffe reportedly picked up the man accused of attacking him while travelling from Taupo, offered to put him up for the night and was assaulted during a confrontation.
Mr Tunnicliffe was found in the early hours of the morning in a critical condition with severe head injuries.
The 21-year-old was arrested soon afterwards and was charged with assault, but that charge has now been upgraded to murder.
Detective Inspector Mark Loper, of Bay of Plenty Police, said upgraded charge was a result of further police inquires, including the analysis of post-mortem results.
Mr Loper said Mr Tunnicliffe's family had been advised of the murder charge and police would continue to work closely with the family to keep them informed.
Residents of his tiny settlement of Tokaanu, near Turangi, told the New Zealand Herald of their shock after the incident occurred.
His friend Andrew Blake said he was left "shocked and speechless" at the attack. He described Mr Tunnicliffe, who had been receiving a benefit for an injury, as a kind-hearted man who loved company and took in two dogs to look after.
"Everyone likes him ... He's a hell of a nice guy and loves helping people. Picking up and helping a hitchhiker would be totally in character for him - he's very trusting."