Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Family's plea: 'My whanau needs closure'

The family of roadworker George Taiaroa are at a loss to explain why the loving, gentle man was shot to death as he held a stop-go sign in remote south Waikato last week.

Mr Taiaroa, 67, was directing traffic on a Tram Rd in Kinleith when he was shot by an unknown assailant thought to have been driving a blue Jeep Cherokee. He died at the scene.

Speaking at a press conference in Hamilton today, Mr Taiaroa's wife, Helen, and four children - daughters Rochai, Melanie and Chanel and son Chad - said they had no idea why anyone would want to harm a man they described as a "salt of the earth", kind and generous.

"I'm trying to understand. Im really trying. But it's way beyond my comprehension at the moment." Mrs Taiaroa said.

She believed her husband happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and she slated speculative reports that he had been the victim of a targeted attack, which she said cast aspersions on his character.

"It is demeaning on us as a whanau, it is demeaning on my husband," she said.

Through tears, she made an impassioned plea to anyone with information that could identify the killer to come forward.

"If they wanted to achieve destroying a family they've successfully done whatever was in their minds to do that. But we're stronger than that, we're really stronger than that. The reason we're here is to find the person or people who have done this."

Chanel Taiaroa said if one lesson could be learned from this tragedy it was to remind people to tell their family that they loved them, just as Mr Taiaroa always did.

"You start thinking about those last conversations you had with your father and I'm just so glad he used to finish every conversation with me that he loved me.

"At the time I used to think that was kind of silly but now I know how much that means. Because I know that my father was a loving and kind an generous man, and anyone that knows him or happened to come across him, they know that.

"This is why this is so, so shocking, and we are left here with these questions about how a 67-year-old man can be taken in such a horrible and violent manner and we are left speechless."

Rochai said someone out there must know what happened.

"This person, whoever they are, they have whanau, they have neighbours, they might have a partner," she said.

"They're part of a community. They must have said something to some one and if anything knows anything out there - it doesn't matter how small it is - please share it, don't be afraid. My whanau needs closure, my whanau deserves it."

Mr Taiaroa was a man who did not attract anger or conflict, and if anything would be the one breaking up fights at the pub, she said.

"He was the sort of guy that everybody wanted to be with. He was the sort of guy that would stop stranger on the side of the road and start talking to them and be their friend for the rest of their life. That's actually the hardest part. We can't find any reason to it."

Detective Inspector Tim Anderson said as a result of media appeal and checkpoints in the area Mr Taiaroa was killed more people had come forward.

However, police still did not have a suspect and the number one focus of the investigation was locating the male driver of the Jeep Cherokee.

It was not known whether there were other occupants in the vehicle.

The area was also known for drug manufacturing, and that was something police were taking into account.

Mr Anderson appealed to anyone outdoors over the long weekend who sees the Jeep Cherokee to contact police immediately.

"Given that the weather's going to be fine and there are going to be a lot of people outdoors hiking, biking and tramping. Anyone who says a Jeep Cherokee or anything suspicious in the great outdoors please contact police at the nearest opportunity."

Anyone with information about the death of George Taiaroa should call police on 0800 Kingswood (0800 546 479) or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

- NZ Herald

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