Waihi murder accused appears in court

By Jamie Morton, James Ihaka, Amy McGillivray of the Bay of Plenty Times

Robert Wilkinson, known as Murray' has been remembered as a 'great guy' after he died from stab wounds. Photo / supplied
Robert Wilkinson, known as Murray' has been remembered as a 'great guy' after he died from stab wounds. Photo / supplied

The skies were grey, but the rain held off yesterday as mourners made their way into the Waihi Beach RSA to farewell stabbing victim Robert Wilkinson.

The 64-year-old, known as Murray, died in Waikato Hospital on Thursday after he was stabbed in the neck and head outside the caravan which he and his wife were staying in on a property in Waihi Beach, between 12.30am and 1.30am on New Year's Day.

An 18-year-old Waihi man - who has interim name suppression - appeared in the Hamilton District Court today charged with his murder.

Yesterday, the atmosphere was solemn as mourners walked quickly and quietly into the RSA.

About 100 cars packed the carpark just before the funeral began.

The expat New Zealander, who had been living in Queensland, was on holiday and staying with friends on Beach Rd at the time of the attack.

Tributes to the engineer and helicopter pilot have been flowing in online forums.

On Bladeslapper.com, a meeting place for the Australian helicopter community, members expressed their shock and passed on condolences to Mr Wilkinson's family.

"I worked with Murray at Pacific Helicopters in the late `80s and early `90s. Both of us were engineers who also did some flying for the company. Great guy,'' said one. Messages were also left on the Professional Pilots Rumour Network.

"I was lucky enough to know Murray both professionally and socially, both in PNG and Australia. Excellent engineer and all round nice guy.

"He never had a bad word to say about anyone and was always smiling. My thoughts are with Lou and his family. RIP mate,'' said Dusty Dog.

"What a terrible tragedy. My sincere condolences to Murray's family. Many-a-time did he tend the craft I used to fly in PNG. He was a first class mechanic with a wonderfully dry sense of humour. A very sad ending . .. What a world we live in,'' said another member.

Judge David Ruth today granted the accused teen interim name suppression until January 14, when he will reappear in the Tauranga District Court where he will be assigned proper counsel.

The arrest of the Waihi man was announced at a press conference this morning, eight days after the fatal attack.

The investigation involved about 30 police staff from across the Waikato and Central and Upper North Island, who received a flood of holiday images and statements from the public. Several knives were also collected.

Detective Inspector Chris Page said today there was still much work to do on the investigation and police were still to canvass an area of Waihi Beach.

The arrest comes nearly a week after Mr Wilkinson's widow, son Dan and daughter Cory made an emotional appeal for information.

Dan Wilkinson said he owed it to his father to "stop this happening to another family, so no one else has to have their life ruined like us".

"My children and my sister's children have been robbed of their grandfather's love and Lu has lost the love of her life, due to senseless, brutal violence."

The accused man was arrested at a Union St address in Waihi about 4.30pm yesterday, Mr Page said.

Police urged the public to continue to contact police with any information or images they may have from in or around the scene.

"One particular way the public can still help the investigation is that if anyone who was staying at addresses between 01-40 Citrus Ave, Waihi Beach on the night of 31 December-01 January could contact police."

The Operation Brad enquiry team could be found at Waihi Beach and Waihi police stations or contacted via the enquiry crimeline; 0800 OP BRAD (0800 672723).

Information could also be left anonymously with Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 23 Jul 2014 08:22:02 Processing Time: 612ms