Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Remuera killing: Grief and fear stalk a garden suburb

Residents and local exercise lovers are still reeling a week on from the killing of jogger Joanne Pert in a Remuera street, Cherie Howie reports.

Philip Oldham had his hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road. Now, he has guilt in his heart.

Ten days ago he backed out of his driveway on the corner of Victoria Ave and Shore Rd, in the upmarket suburb of Remuera, and began the short drive across the Waitemata Harbour to the North Shore. It was some time after 9.30am.

Three doors down, just before 11am, Auckland woman Joanne Pert was discovered slain on the lawn of a stranger's house. Police believe she may have been there as long as an hour, and the thought of the mum-of-two suffering just out of his line of sight as he drove past haunts Mr Oldham.

A phone call from his wife, Susan, alerted the 68-year-old to the tragedy. He's hardly stopped thinking about it since.

"I'd been through there, right when it probably happened, and then you think 'crikey, if I'd been more vigilant, maybe I could have saved her'.

It's just shocking ... she was an innocent passerby, she wasn't doing anything wrong."

Susan Oldham also carries the burden of "what if?" She was home - only 50m away - at the time Ms Pert died. She wished she could have helped her.

It's seven days since Ms Pert's death when the Weekend Herald visits, but the shock of her horrific fate is still raw along the busy thoroughfare where her 41 years of life came to an end.

"I just feel a deep sense of sadness," says Susan Oldham, who now baulks at leaving the house for her regular walks.

Shore Rd residents Philip and Susan Oldham. Photo / Michael Craig
Shore Rd residents Philip and Susan Oldham. Photo / Michael Craig

"The futility of taking away someone who had a reason to be here, she had kids to bring up ... grief is a bit like guilt, in a way. It hangs around."

Ms Pert was an ordinary person in an ordinary street when she died in the most extraordinary circumstances.

Her death was hidden from view. But, she wasn't alone - far from it.

Shore Rd, with its mature heritage trees and proximity to the Hobson Bay Walkway, teems with those who lace up in search of a double shot of mental and physical wellbeing.

Just ask Philip Oldham. A police officer, who knocked on the door the day of Ms Pert's death to ask if he or his wife had seen a woman in exercise gear, was left in no doubt as to just how many people pound the pavements in the neighbourhood.

"I said 'yes, about 400 a day'."

The Weekend Herald spoke to many of those who exercise in the area, all determined not to let a senseless death stop their way of life. But that's not to say they aren't afraid.

A middle-aged jogger spoke of regularly running in the Shore Rd area each morning - except on the day of Ms Pert's death, when she overslept.

"I'm extremely upset about this, it was so close to me. A friend said to me 'you might've been able to save her'. It's certainly rattled me."

Pensioner John Cozens lives near Shore Rd and walks his chocolate labrador, Sienna, along a 5km route in the area every day. He can hardly believe what happened, and that it occurred in the bright sunlight of a summer's mid-morning.

"I just thought 'what the hell is going on around here?' I don't understand why someone would do something like that."

Shore Rd residents Paul Zwart and his grandson, Lucas Henry. Photo / Michael Craig
Shore Rd residents Paul Zwart and his grandson, Lucas Henry. Photo / Michael Craig

Down at Palmers Gardenworld, on the corner of Shore and Orakei Rds, Paul Zwart is equally bewildered by Ms Pert's senseless death. He's been thinking about what happened.

"It weighs on you. It's such a shock, for that to happen, it's hard to comprehend."

Another visitor to the popular garden centre and cafe, Audrey McGuire, a former Shore Rd resident, was thinking about Ms Pert as she drove to the centre.

"God love her, you can't help but think of her. I will still walk around here [though], you can't let something like that stop you."

Over the road at the Martyn Wilson Fields, Orakei dad Andrew Kittle is teaching his son Oliver, 8, the same thing. The pair are in the cricket nets most days, including the day of Ms Pert's death.

Maybe I could have saved her.
Philip Oldham, Remuera resident

He was disbelieving when first told the news, Mr Kittle says.

"It was the most random event at the most random time. It was a big surprise."

But he is determined not to succumb to fear.

"It can happen anywhere, it just reinforces that you never feel totally safe. You can't [make peace] with that ... life goes on."

• A 24-year-old Mt Roskill man handed himself in to police the day of Ms Pert's death, and was subsequently charged with her murder. The man, whose name is suppressed, was remanded in custody until his next court appearance.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 01 Oct 2016 06:34:29 Processing Time: 618ms