House of Horrors site earmarked for playground

The bodies of the women were discovered under floorboards of the Somerville unit in September 2009. Photo / Geoff Sloan
The bodies of the women were discovered under floorboards of the Somerville unit in September 2009. Photo / Geoff Sloan

A children's playground may go on the site where Christchurch's notorious House of Horrors once stood.

The Burwood Pegasus Community Board recommended at its meeting on Monday that the Aranui site on the corner of Hampshire St and Wainoni Rd, where Jason Somerville murdered his wife Rebecca and neighbour Natasha Lowry, be purchased by the city council.

The bodies of the women were discovered under floorboards of the Somerville unit in September 2009.

The unit and another one attached to it were later set alight by arsonists and eventually demolished.

Community board member Tim Baker said the vacant land that has become overgrown and tagged could be turned into a children's playground.

But he accepted that getting the city council and others to agree to this could be difficult.

"Children might be aware that two ladies were killed there," he said.

The community board has recommended the city council buy the site as part of the Neighbourhood Parks Programme. They will consider it at a meeting on October 11.

City council spokeswoman Sue Chappell said there was no specific use or design in place for the land.

Mr Baker said if there was resistance to a children's playground on the Somerville site, it could go on land where the attached unit once was.

Mr Baker said consultation with the community would need to occur before any decision was made around its use. The site has been a problem for both the owners and city council since the bodies were discovered.

It is on a cross lease section. The land where the Somervilles unit once was is now owned by Auckland-based Liberty Finance, and Jason Drain of Gisborne owns the part of the section where the other unit once was.

The tenants left Mr Drain's unit after the bodies were discovered.

Attempts by Mr Drain to sell the land privately have failed. The land was advertised on Trade Me for $55,000.

Mr Baker will not say what amount the community board has recommended the city council pay for the site.

But if there was resistance to a children's playground on the House of Horrors site it could go on the area where the Drain unit once was.

- CHRISTCHURCH STAR

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