Police have revealed that the man accused of shooting two women dead and injuring another at a Work and Incomes office in Ashburton did not have a firearms licence.

However, they have refused to say if the weapon allegedly used in the shootings had been recovered.

Russel John Tully appeared in the Christchurch District Court this morning, charged with murdering Peggy Noble and Susan Cleveland, and attempting to murder Lindy Curtis.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett this morning laid flowers in memory of the women shot dead at a Work and Income office in Ashburton yesterday. Ms Bennett paused for reflection before speaking to media. With tears in her eyes, she described how she had met the colleagues of the dead women, Peggy Noble and Susan Cleveland, and Lindy Curtis, who was seriously injured in the shooting.

Tully, 48, limped into the dock in his bare feet, He had bloodied bandages on his legs from dog bites suffered during his arrest. He wore blue track pants and a blue shirt and his shaven head revealed further scars and scratches.


He was remanded in custody to reappear on September 23. No application for bail was made, and the judge denied all media requests to film and photograph Tully.

Do you know Russel Tully? Contact the Herald with your story here.

At a press conference this afternoon, Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald appealed for anyone who had seen Tully yesterday to contact police.

He said Tully had been seen near the New World supermarket at about 9am. "We have formed a very good picture of what happened yesterday," he said.

Mr Fitzgerald would not be drawn on the specifics of the investigation, other than to say he had a team of 80 staff from across Canterbury working on it.

He expected officers to be at the scene of the shootings for the next three or four days.

A hearse arrived at the scene at about 11am and at least one of the bodies was taken away.

Mr Fitzgerald said the families of Ms Noble, Ms Cleveland and Ms Curtis had requested privacy. "They will not be making any statement," he said.

Ms Curtis is said to be in a stable condition at a hospital in Christchurch.

Shooting victims much loved and greatly respected
'There's lots of tears' - Minister lays flowers for WINZ women
WINZ killings: Anatomy of a tragedy that left two innocents dead

Threat made to Work and Income in Blenheim

Meanwhile, a man has been arrested in relation to a threatening phone call to Work and Income staff in Blenheim this morning.

Armed Offenders Squad members surrounded a Koromiko house shortly after 1pm and arrested the 38-year-old man.

Police said the Work and Income office in Alfred Street was no longer under armed guard.

Detective Senior Sergeant Ciaran Sloan said Work and Income staff never faced any direct threat and the lock down was a precautionary measure to ensure staff safety until an arrest was made.

No charges have yet been laid.

A joint statement from chief executive of the Ministry of Social Development Brendan Boyle and Deputy Commissioner, District Operation Viv Rickard said there had been a number of threats to Work and Income Offices over the 24 hours since the shooting in the Ashburton office.

Two workers were killed and one seriously injured in the shooting.

"We take very seriously any threats to MSD (Ministry of Social Development) staff," the statement said.

"While some of these may be idle threats, Police are taking action on each threat. In some cases, this includes shutting down sites until we're confident staff are safe.

"These threats are disturbing ? it's unacceptable that MSD staff are subject to such abuse in the wake of this attack. All MSD frontline staff are naturally shaken by yesterday's events, and this is the last thing they need.

"MSD and Police will continue to work closely together - MSD will refer each and every threat to Police formally.

People cannot and should not be able to threaten others without consequence."