Single shot among many killed officer

By Rebecca Milne

Undercover policeman Don Wilkinson died in a hail of shots from a .22 calibre air rifle, post-mortem examination results released yesterday show.

Wilkinson was shot dead on Thursday while trying to install a tracking device on a car outside a Mangere house suspected of being used as a P lab.

Police confirmed yesterday the fatal shot was to Wilkinson's chest, and that now the autopsy had been completed his body would be released to his family. Funeral plans would then be made.

Wilkinson's partner, whose name is suppressed by court order, is still in hospital.

A 37-year-old man has been charged with murder and a 33-year-old man charged with assault over the incident.

Both have appeared in the Manukau District Court and will reappear this week.

Evidence gathered in the operation at Hain Ave led police to another South Auckland address, where they found guns, a bank vault containing precious stones valued at $200,000 and 15 one-ounce gold medallions.

Residents of Hain Ave were yesterday still in shock over Thursday's fatal shooting.

Wilkinson and his partner took shelter in Ngaluafe Fale's driveway when they were fired on. She admitted she still did not feel safe.

Fale told the Herald on Sunday she and her husband heard a commotion outside their lounge window in the early hours of Thursday morning. "My husband saw two men lying on the drive," she said. "Then police turned up."

A group of back-up officers, stationed a block away, failed to reach the men in time.

Members of Wilkinson's family have spent this weekend sharing memories with police. A private wake was held for him on Friday.

Superintendent Ted Cox said yesterday that Wilkinson's parents were under no illusion about the dangerous nature of their son's work.

Cox said Wilkinson's mother knew the moment the news broke that it was her son who had been struck down.

"With an intuition that maybe only a mother has, she knew instantly on hearing news reports that an officer had fallen, that the officer was Don," Cox said.

Wilkinson is the 28th New Zealand police officer to die in the line of duty, and the seventh person thought to have been murdered on South Auckland streets in the past 15 weeks.

Yesterday family members met to discuss funeral plans.

"It is too early to say what form the funeral will take, but it is likely to be held within the Auckland area and towards the later part of next week," Cox said.

Police continued to examine the scene at the Hain Ave property and canvass the area.

Yesterday friends and members of the public delivered flowers and written messages to Wilkinson's family in a public shrine at the Manukau Police station.

Friend Dave Beattie described Wilkinson as a "nice", "gentle" and "sporty" man who would help anybody in need.

He loved the outdoors, squash, karate and the guitar, Beattie said.

Members of the close-knit Kumeu Squash Club, of which Wilkinson was a member, were also yesterday still coming to terms with his death.

None knew he had been working as an undercover cop.

"Everyone was shocked. We would never have put him down to be a policeman," Beattie said.

"We were led to believe he worked in banking security systems. He was a very private man. I don't think anyone had gone around to his place."

The feelings of many of Wilkinson's friends were summed up in one entry in the special tribute book for the fallen officer, written by Dave and Rae Poole.

"People are sleeping, it's late at night. You're watching, observing, not wanting a fight. A noise, a shout, a chase, a shot. Your mate will get better, you will not," said Dave Poole.

"You leave your home, your safe place to work. In a job it is, to contain some jerk. Making 'P' to sell, to prey on the poor. Who's holding the reins, the crims or the law?

"You are the 28th officer to die on the line. To be taken away, well before your time. Working to protect us, our children, our friends. Don Wilkinson, we salute you, a man amongst men."

- Herald on Sunday

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