Relatives of dog victim don't want charges laid

By Juliet zRowan, Juliet Rowan

The brother of a woman mauled to death by two dogs says he does not want the owner prosecuted - because he is the family's nephew.

Police are considering charging the owner, known only as Spider, with manslaughter after his pitbull and staffordshire-cross killed Virginia Ohlson.

But yesterday, the eldest of her 12 siblings, Tipene Ohlson, said the family had forgiven the dogs' owner.

"We don't hold it against him. Life goes on," Mr Ohlson said.

"I don't want to see him charged, because what can happen? You're just going to put more stress on him and his family. He's my nephew."

Mr Ohlson said he had spoken to the man, whose name he declined to give, when he came to Ms Ohlson's house on Sunday night to offer condolences.

"He's just devastated. Both him and his wife are devastated, and his mother."

Mr Ohlson said the man, who was a third cousin to his children, had always owned dogs.

The circumstances in which his sister had died were tragic, Mr Ohlson said, but, given the chance, he would ask the police not to lay charges.

"It's not going to bring my sister back. Let's look at it and learn from it," he said.

Ms Ohlson, 56, is to be buried today near Murupara, where the attack happened on Saturday.

Her only son, 15-year-old Jason, was also said to have forgiven the dogs' owner, reportedly saying, "He's still my uncle."

Mr Ohlson's comments were at odds with those made earlier by other family members, who said they were angry at the attack.

"The dog owners should take responsibility for their actions," Ms Ohlson's brother Victor said.

Her sister Ivy said the dogs should not have been loose.

Police launched a homicide investigation after Ms Ohlson's death and yesterday said the owner could be charged with manslaughter.

"We are considering it," Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Loper said.

For police to lay a manslaughter charge, they would have to establish "gross negligence on the part of the owner".

Mr Loper said constant attacks by the dogs and the owner not caring would constitute gross negligence.

"It's quite a high bar but that's what we start at and we come down from there."

Lesser charges would relate to dog control.

Mr Loper said police planned to spend the rest of the week speaking to people in Murupara before meeting the Crown Solicitor in Rotorua on Friday to decide the charge.

The owner had been spoken to once, on the day Ms Ohlson died, and police were not planning to speak to him until late this week or early next week.

Mr Loper said the owner had been "totally co-operative".

"He consented to the dogs being put down and he was devastated that his dogs could be involved in such a thing."

Eight officers are working on the investigation, including detectives from Rotorua.

People at the property where the dogs lived again declined to comment yesterday.

The dogs were destroyed on Saturday.

Authorities said the owner had received no previous warnings about the dogs, but some neighbours said the animals tended to rush at people from the partially fenced property.

Ms Ohlson, who was of Tuhoe descent, is to buried at Waikotikoti Marae at Te Whaiti, 20km east of Murupara.

Her body was yesterday taken to Murumurunga Marae, also at Te Whaiti, where about 200 mourners gathered to pay respects to the former ambulance officer.

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