David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Stop-go killing: 'There's so much to miss so you just keep missing him'

"Really appreciate the people in your life - right there, right then," says Rochai Taiaroa. "Live in the moment. You don't know what's around the corner."

Her father George Taiaroa was murdered on March 19, 2013, and his killer has now been found to be Quinton Paul Winders.

As Rochai speaks - along with her sisters Melanie and Chanel and brother Chad - it becomes clear, if it were not obvious already, the enormous absence created by a father taken suddenly.

George Taiaroa's family say he was a man who loved life. Photo / Supplied
George Taiaroa's family say he was a man who loved life. Photo / Supplied

They speak of a man who loved life and loved the life he had created with wife Dr Helen Taiaroa. In the aftermath of his death he was called "roadworker", as if that explained his position in life. His children will tell you that what a man does - and there's nothing wrong with whatever that might be - doesn't explain who a man is.

The importance of the distinction became clear as they sat in court through the five week trial, absorbing evidence and hearing the defence extoll the virtues of the man found to have killed him rather than the qualities of the father they had lost.

Rochai: "What? Road wokers don't have value in New Zealand any more?"

Melanie adds: "That roadworker was a hard-working man and that's what he taught us to be - hard working. You don't hear about how he brought up four children who went to university."

Somehow, as they listened to Winder's defence case, the jury was meant to juxtapose the father they knew with his convicted killer - described as educated at Kings College in Auckland and then Massey University.

What's that got to do with anything, they asked. Instead, they focused on evidence which supported the extraordinary motive their father was killed over a minor road accident costing $989.58.

Quinton Paul Winders was found guilty of the murder of George Taiaroa. Photo / Stephen Parker
Quinton Paul Winders was found guilty of the murder of George Taiaroa. Photo / Stephen Parker

"(Winders) was brought up to believe money was everything, and staus," says Melanie.
"Dad was everything Winders is not. He didn't care about money. You couldn't have two more polar opposite personalities."

Generous, loving, warm - they describe their father amid smiles and tears. The friends he made and those he helped with bills, a wedding of whatever they might need.

"I used to get upset when he got money stolen," says Melanie. "He would go 'obviously someone needed it more than me'."

The death of George Taiaroa was also an attack on his family. "For me, Dad was the glue," says Rochai. "In families, some people are the glue and the magnets.

"Dad made it easy to be a family and now we have to work hard. He made it so easy to see each other and be with each other."

Melanie speaks of him just turning up, surprising his children with his presence and turning it into a "social event" simply because they were together. And Rochai doesn't get woken early to go fishing anymore - "being woken up at 4am by someone shaking my toe".

"There's so much to miss so you just keep missing him," she says.

Melanie has been building into her life things which she associates with her father - camping trips with her children ("I hate going camping"), a house on the coast because he loved the sea ("the best diver and fisherman") with a deck because he loved a deck on a house.


She says: "I feel cheated for my children." She's due to have her third next year. "The baby I'm going to have is never going to meet the grandfather."

Not long before George Taiaroa was killed, he said to Melanie: "Mels, if I die, I've had a good life and seen some cool things."

Well, she says: "I know he's all good. But we're not."

The prosecution was around circumstantial evidence and the detail was important to the Taiaroa family. Chad says: "You took the evidence as it was given and break it down from there."

They would take it back to their accommodation at night and debate it, testing it with logic and wanting not just a conviction but one which was justified. "The evidence - that's all I listened to," says Chanel. Rochai: "I approach it as if I was in the jury."

As the jury deliberated, the Taiaroa had already reached their verdict. Quinton Winders had been judged guilty by the children of the man he killed.

- NZ Herald

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