Kiwi's mystery OE death kept secret

By Frances Morton

Cherie Chapman. Photo / Supplied
Cherie Chapman. Photo / Supplied

A young New Zealand nurse on her OE in London has been found dead, but her flatmates say British police told them to keep her death secret.

Cherie Chapman, 28, died in London last Saturday. Her parents, John and Cynthia Chapman of Mt Maunganui, did not find out until Tuesday when one of the flatmates rang her own mother, who called the Chapmans.

The mysterious police reticence around disclosing Cherie's death, or any information about how she died, has sparked a diplomatic incident.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has issued a "please explain" to the British police. Ministry duty consular officer Grant Traill said he was aware there was concern about the time it took for the family to be informed. "The family have advised there was a lag," he said. "We have asked our officers to query whether that was the case."

Family friend Christina Sturt said Cherie's bereaved parents had trouble verifying their daughter's death.

"They rang the New Zealand police who contacted Interpol who knew nothing," said Sturt.

"Finally they tracked it right back to the local police station to find out that it was true."

The local police allegedly told the Chapmans that they had not contacted them because they were still investigating - but details about a mystery man hanging around outside the house worried the couple. Cherie's parents, who own fresh produce stores in Tauranga and Mt Maunganui, have flown to London to find out how she died and to bring her home.

"Regardless of what they were doing, they should have notified the parents," said Sturt.

"She had been dead for three days. One of the girls who flats with her rang her mother and said they had been told they weren't to ring anyone in New Zealand and say anything."

Usually, when a New Zealander dies abroad, Interpol is advised so local police can tell next-of-kin.

Traill said he was not aware if Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully's office had been told. MFAT expected a response from British police next week.

Cherie had been in London since February. She was born in McKay, Queensland, attended Otumoetai College in Tauranga and Waiariki Institute of Technology. Sturt described her as an "absolute angelic girl - very, very attractive".

Cherie's parents have been accompanied to London by her older sister Jaydene, and older brothers Paul and Keron.

Paul's partner, Tauranga hairdresser Hayley Gaby, said the family were trying to find out what happened. Cherie had passed away suddenly but at this stage her death was not considered to be suspicious.

Sturt said Cherie had much to look forward to. She planned to tour Europe, meet her parents in Los Angeles for a holiday and was to be chief bridesmaid at Jaydene's wedding.

"They were very, very close," said Sturt.

- Herald on Sunday

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