Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Winz killings: Visitor had narrow escape

Talk with friend delayed woman who walked into building for appointment just as alleged killer was walking out

A woman who was supposed to be at the Ashburton Work and Income office for a 9am appointment is counting her lucky stars she was late.

Shaken, but relieved, she told the Herald she had planned to meet her housing manager at 9am.

"I had a day off work and I was getting some stuff sorted out," said the woman, who did not want her name published.

"But when I left home, I ran into a friend and I was talking to her."

Video


The woman arrived at Winz and as she walked into the office she passed the alleged gunman. She saw a firearm in his backpack and when she got inside, she could not see any staff.

She then noticed Peggy Noble's body on the floor and left quickly, returning home.

"It was quite horrible. I didn't realise what had happened until later," she said.

"It's really crazy. If I hadn't stopped to talk to my friend I would have been in there, and who knows ...

"I'm just so thankful, and so sad for the victims. I'm just thankful that I got to go home and kiss my children when they got home from school. It could have been so different."

Video


Yesterday, police continued their examination of the Winz office where Mrs Noble and Leigh Cleveland died and their colleague Lindy Curtis was seriously wounded.

Photographers and surveyors worked around the exterior as members of the public arrived at the cordon to drop off flowers and notes of support and condolence for the victims and their families.

Sarah McCrea, a friend of Ms Curtis' youngest daughter, left a bunch of daffodils and her mother handed chocolates to the police guarding the scene as a thank-you for their efforts.

Sarah said her friend was "doing okay".

The Herald has been told that friends and family of Ms Curtis and her partner are rallying to provide financial and other support for the family.

Ms Curtis' teenage daughter lives with her, and she has her eldest daughter's three young children in her care.

It is understood people close to the family are collecting donations of cash, food and other supplies to support them during Ms Curtis' recovery.

Funeral plans for Mrs Noble and Ms Cleveland are yet to be confirmed. Police would not say when the bodies would be released to their families. It is understood post-mortem examinations were being done in Christchurch.

About 80 police remained on the investigation yesterday and were out and about in Ashburton gathering information on the shooting suspect, Russell John Tully.

A source said officers had quizzed local businesses and people about their dealings with the alleged double murderer in the lead-up to Monday's tragedy.

In another development, police said they had recovered the firearm they believed was used to shoot the women. They have also collected surveillance footage recorded by a business across the road from the Winz office.

Electraserve's cameras filmed a man walking into the Winz office and, just a minute later, walking back out and leaving the scene.

Tributes for the victims were pouring in yesterday to three memorial Facebook pages.

A touching tribute could also be seen at Ms Cleveland's home.

About a dozen daffodils had been threaded through her closed front gates.

Meanwhile, security is being beefed up at Work and Income offices nationwide.

Ministry of Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle said that 100 security guards were being deployed at branches around the country after alleged threats in the aftermath of the Ashburton shootings.

Community service to pay respects

A public memorial service will be held in Ashburton in the next few days to pay tribute to Winz shooting victims Leigh Cleveland and Peggy Noble. The service is being organised by the Ashburton District Council.

Mayor Angus McKay said the service would be a way for the community to come together and express their grief, to show they cared and to acknowledge the many people who had been affected by the terrible events of this week.

"This is an opportunity for the people of Ashburton to pay their respects to the families; to rise up and respond in a positive way to what has been such a terrible and upsetting tragedy in our community," Mr McKay said.

Details of the service were being confirmed, and the mayor said they would be well publicised so people had plenty of time to make arrangements to attend.

A condolence book opened at the council offices would also be available at the service.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 27 Dec 2014 05:31:47 Processing Time: 628ms