Kiwi 'good guy' slain in land row

By Andrew Koubaridis

Dick Eade. Photo / Supplied
Dick Eade. Photo / Supplied

A New Zealand man who was killed by a squatter in Vanuatu hoped to end the land dispute peacefully and never imagined his life could be in danger, his friends and family say.

Seventy-year-old Dick Eade was found face down in the dirt on his farm at the Etas area on Thursday by his housekeeper. He had a gunshot wound to the chest and died on the way to hospital.

Police have a man in custody while his family and friends are left struggling to understand how a man who gave so much to the Vanuatu community could die such a violent death.

The arrested man was expected to face court in connection with the shooting yesterday.

Mr Eade has lived and worked in Vanuatu for about 20 years, working mainly on market gardens but he was also known for his role recruiting hundreds of locals to work on New Zealand orchards and farms.

His wife Muriel Eade, 69, said he was one of life's "good guys" who cared deeply about the Vanuatu people.

"He just felt so secure and happy with them. I don't think it ever occurred to him anybody would ever do him harm," she told the Weekend Herald.

She lives in Palmerston North with the 18-year-old daughter they adopted in Vanuatu, Muriel Junior. They moved back to New Zealand for the girl's schooling and because Mrs Eade has a heart condition.

"We're very, very shocked. I just cannot believe it ... all over a bit of land, it was a dispute. We own a lot of land there and he's been selling sections and there was a squatter on the place."

She last spoke to him on Christmas Day. "He was very sick. He had a rotten dose of the flu. He was going to a friend's place for lunch but spent most of the day in bed with his flu."

She received a panicked phone call from the housekeeper who firstly told of the shooting and in another phone call that they were going with him to the hospital. "I tried ringing the High Commission but they hadn't heard, so they said they would get back to me, and the next thing the housegirl rang to say he was dead.

"Then the High Commissioner rang to say they were sitting with the body till the Coroner came. [That] was all in a matter of 45 minutes."

Mrs Eade knew of the squatter problem but didn't think her husband was worried about his safety.

"I don't know how concerned he was. He didn't really say how concerned he was - I don't think he had thoughts of any threats like that. He was very, very well liked by everyone up there."

Friends had taken turns sitting with him, which was a comfort to his family in Manawatu, who were preparing to fly to Vanuatu for the funeral service.

Bryan Death worked with Mr Eade on the local Chamber of Commerce. He would remember him as one of the island's "true identities".

"To all the hotels and restaurants in Port Vila his nickname was Vegetable Dick. He was never backward in supporting any community project ... He always had a smile and a wise word, he was obviously a very educated man."

It's believed another man was with Mr Eade when he was shot but he escaped uninjured.

Mr Death said the grief in Port Vila was being felt not just by the ex-pat community, but by locals he's assisted so much as well.

"He was as gentle [a] soul [as] you would ever [meet]. Not the sort of person who would get too excited [and] he would always have the right thing to say."

Friends were aware of the squatting issue but never expected it to escalate like it did. "He was seeing it as [a] nuisance thing he wanted to get sorted out. Taking it through the courts can work but I think Dick thought he could sort it out in an amicable sort of way and convince the guy he had to move on."

- NZ Herald

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