Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Man dies trying to stop brawl

Grieving relatives leave the scene where Richard Tairua died after apparently trying to break up a fight. Photo / Doug Sherring
Grieving relatives leave the scene where Richard Tairua died after apparently trying to break up a fight. Photo / Doug Sherring

Police have confirmed that a father-of-six described by friends as a "gentle giant", died of natural causes as he tried to stop a brawl outside his home early yesterday morning.

A suspicious death investigation was launched by police after Richard Tairua, 59, passed away on the driveway of the house in Primrose Place, Manurewa, however a post mortem examination has found he died of natural causes.

Police are still carrying out an investigation in regards to the disorder incident at the address which they were initially called out to.

Close friend and neighbour Rae Bates said Tairua's stepson and a group of his friends had arrived home late and were being noisy, so Tairua's wife told them to go outside.

Bates said he was woken about 2.30am by his own son shouting out the window to people outside the Tairua home to keep the noise down. Then another group of four young men apparently arrived and confronted those outside the house.

"I think some other guys were going past and sort of demanded money or a phone. I'm not exactly sure, and there was a bit of a fracas," Bates said.

"They said something like 'give us your money', words to that effect. Something happened and they were fighting, pushing and shoving. The stepfather [Tairua] heard all the commotion and he came out, and I think he died of a heart attack. He's lying on the driveway.

"I think he was trying to stop the fight."

Bates said Tairua was a family man and a dedicated member of South Auckland's Mormon community.

According to his Old Friends profile he had worked as a stevedore at Ports of Auckland since 1974.

A keen fisherman, he always shared his catch with his friends and neighbours, Bates said.

"He was great. He's a very quiet man - a gentle giant. This is very sad. I'll miss him very much."

Inspector Gary Hill said police were called to the house about 2.15am after reports of a disorderly incident.

"When police arrived, they found a 59-year-old male unconscious. CPR was carried out but, unfortunately, they were unable to revive the male. Police are conducting a scene examination and speaking to witnesses who were at the incident and we're trying to establish what occurred overnight."

Another neighbour, who did not want to be identified, said she was woken by screaming some time after 2am.

A young man, who she thought to be Tairua's stepson, was yelling a word which sounded like "help".

Tairua's wife was also there trying to calm the situation.

The neighbour said it was a "very good family" and Tairua often used to bring her fish he'd caught, and sometimes helped her out financially, too.

Another nearby resident said she was woken by her dogs going "berserk" around 2.30am, and she heard a group of young men walking past on two occasions. They sounded drunk.

She said there were often brawls on Primrose Place. Tairua's family wept by the police cordon as his body was loaded into a waiting hearse.

His nephew, Jerome Tairua, said they had no idea what had happened.

"All we know is he has had a heart attack before and I'm assuming that he's died because of that, but that's just a guess."

He said his uncle was a deeply religious man. "He was a man of few words but when he did talk it was always something positive."

His wife was a "strong woman" but was obviously very distraught.

Tairua, of Ngapuhi descent, had three biological children but also adopted his new wife's children when they married about five years ago.

- additional reporting: nzherald.co.nz

- APNZ

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