Murder accused was already in custody

By -
Derek Round. File photo / Stuart Munro
Derek Round. File photo / Stuart Munro

A man charged with the murder of journalist Derek Round has been in custody since the day after the former foreign correspondent's body was found in his Wanganui home.

Local man Michael Umanui Werahiko appeared in the Wanganui District Court charged with Mr Round's murder and was remanded to reappear on June 6.

It was revealed yesterday that Werahiko, 31, had been in custody since May 18 when he appeared in the same court on charges of disorderly behaviour causing violence, and threatening to kill or do grievous bodily harm.

The murder charge was laid yesterday morning.

Werahiko, who is tall and of medium build, appeared with his long black hair tied back and wearing a long-sleeved red and black check shirt.

He appeared calm and expressionless as he was remanded in custody without plea by Judge Dugald Matheson.

Mr Round, 77, was found dead in the living room of his Campbell St home on May 17.

He had been subjected to a brutal attack. An autopsy revealed he had been beaten about the head, causing multiple skull fractures, and died in the evening of the day before he was found.

In the days that followed, police called for help in finding distinctive clothing that may have been worn by Mr Round's killer and for sightings of Mr Round's blue Jaguar, which they said may have been driven by the person responsible for his death.

Police have still not ruled out the possibility that more than one person was involved in Mr Round's death.

A Round family spokesperson said yesterday that news of the arrest was a huge relief, and they expressed their gratitude to police and those who helped with inquiries.

"We are still in shock but with the help of family, friends and police are continuing to deal with things one step at a time."

Wanganui District councillor and Labour candidate Hamish McDouall was in court for Werahiko's appearance.

He said afterwards that he had been deeply affected by the death of Mr Round, his friend and mentor.

"It hit me quite hard his loss, in some ways it [going to court] was part of the grieving process."

Mr Round had joined the Labour Party and helped in his campaign after moving to Wanganui around 18 months ago, and since then had been "hugely supportive" of him, his writing, and his political career, he said.

"He had so many different spheres of people who knew him ... his death would have affected people right around the world."

Financial Times Beijing bureau chief Jamil Anderlini also paid tribute to Mr Round in a statement.

"I would just like to express a profound sense of grief that is felt by the many people I have encountered here in China who knew Mr Round.

"Not only was he a witness to some of the most important events in China's modern history, he was also a kind, generous and wise mentor for many foreign correspondents, myself included, working in this region and around the world."

- APN

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 29 Dec 2014 05:15:21 Processing Time: 480ms