Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Police killing: 'It's just wrong' says grieving grandma

Adam Morehu, shot dead after a burglary, with partner Kaly Gilbert.
Adam Morehu, shot dead after a burglary, with partner Kaly Gilbert.

Police fatally shot burglar Adam Morehu in the back, before hitting him over the head with a torch, his family says.

Details on the two bullet wounds have emerged after the Taranaki man's body was returned to his family for burial, along with a preliminary pathologist's report.

"I don't know that I would grieve any less if he was shot in the front, but being shot in the back - that's just wrong," said Diane Richardson, the mother of his partner Kaly.

The father-of-two died on a fairway at New Plymouth Golf Club three weeks ago, after two police officers interrupted an alleged early morning burglary of the club by Morehu and another man. Two police investigations are under way, but news the bullet wounds were to his back will mean the outcome of those inquiries will be subject to even more scrutiny than normal.

Morehu and Kevin Bishell were reportedly trying to flee the burglary on Morehu's motorbike.

Golf club manager Simon Rowe said they had stolen a bottle of whisky, a defibrillator, about 10 pairs of sunglasses and up to $300 in cash.

Police say Adam Te Rata Charles Morehu, 33, was first Tasered, then shot twice in the torso with a police-issue Glock handgun after he acted aggressively towards the officers, twice threatening to kill them and firing a shot from a rifle.

But they have refused to confirm to the Herald on Sunday that he was shot in the back, saying only that the officer believed he heard Morehu reloading his rifle in the darkness.

One source said Morehu's rifle was a crudely sawn-off .22 with rags wrapped around it. "It's not particularly sophisticated," he said.

The Herald on Sunday has been investigating the shooting since it happened, Saturday June 8, at 4am. Multiple sources have said he was shot in the back.

Another source, close to police, said: "The Taser wasn't working properly. It just made him angry and he said he was going to shoot the police. He had already fired a shot.

"An officer tried to move around to flank him and it is quite possible that he was shot in the back."

Another highly placed source said he had heard from someone closely involved that Morehu was shot in the back. "I have no problem with you printing that."

A friend claimed Morehu was on his knees at the time.

Family have said Morehu was struggling to deal with the death of his mother, community leader Tania Bailey, from a brain aneurysm just a month earlier.

Central police district commander, Superintendent Russell Gibson, said police would not speculate on the bullets' point of entry. "Police do not yet have all the answers and are working with Mr Morehu's family with answers to their questions and support them with what continues to be a difficult time."

Conversations between police and the family were private, he said.

"If individuals decide to make comments it does not change the fact that it is inappropriate for police to discuss details publicly until the investigation is complete and the findings have been tested by peer legal review, the Independent Police Complaints Authority and the coroner."

It is understood that police have been candid with the family about the circumstances of Morehu's death, though their account changed as more facts have emerged.

Diane Richardson said he was Tasered as many as four times, before and after he was shot, before a blow to the head with a police torch. The blow left a head wound visible to mourners at his tangi.

"We felt betrayed," she said. "Bad enough it's happened - but to know it could have been avoided, to know that he was shot in the back ... It's just wrong. How could he be a threat to them when he's already been tasered? It's been awful."

Since the tangi, her daughter Kaly had gone back to work to support her two children, 7-year-old Adam jnr and 4-year-old Amarlia. "My poor mokos," Richardson said.

Kaly had been angry at Morehu for going on the alleged burglary, Richardson said, but more angry still to discover that he need not have died.

The Morehu and Bailey family issued a formal statement to the Herald on Sunday yesterday, saying they were seeking answers about why police had shot Morehu.

"Our family are distressed and hurt by what has happened to Adam and the choices he made, whatever his reasons, that fateful evening. We have farewelled Adam and will remember him in our own way.

"As he was shot by a police officer, we have many questions we would like answered."

The family has appointed a lawyer to help assess the information provided by police and advise the family on their next actions.

"It is important to us as a whanau that we, our friends and the community of Waitara, receive, listen and absorb these facts in understanding this tragedy," said whanau spokesman John Niwa.

"Our conclusions and what we do about it are a long way off."

- Herald on Sunday

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