Four teenagers appeared in court today after being arrested in relation to the death of Kelly Donner, who was found in a Flaxmere Park two weeks ago.

The teenagers, three males and one female aged between 14 and 16, appeared in the Hastings Youth Court before Judge Max Courtney, charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The four, who cannot be named, were each supported by family members who sat in the public gallery. The female was granted bail and the males remanded in custody to next appear on March 21.

Detective Senior Sergeant Marty James said police were seeking a fifth youth, and further charges were likely.


"I'm disappointed the investigation has been hampered by some members of the community who condone this behaviour," he said.

There were still people out there who knew, or saw what happened that night, he said, and urged them to confide in either police, a trusted support person, or community leader.

"We need them to do the right thing. Do the right thing for the sake of Kelly, and the community.

"Any threats or intimidating behaviour towards witnesses will not be tolerated and we will ensure that such complaints are investigated."

Last week Donner was buried in his home town, Opotiki. He was found on March 4 in the carpark of the Flax Bar and Eatery in Swansea Rd, next to the Flaxmere Village Shopping Centre.

The 40-year-old was known and loved by many in the small community, who have described him as a talkative, friendly, "primo guy" who lived a "glorious, humble life".

They remembered him with a karakia ceremony shortly after his death, and have since created a memorial at the site where he was found - with a rugby jersey, Holden tow ball, and Woodstock can nestled among candles and flowers.

Locals said the arrests would hopefully help the community heal - but they also needed to come together to prevent any future incidents.


Moewaka Hinepare, who lives across the road from where Donner died, said the area had been very quiet since the death of the man with the "wonderful personality".

Flaxmere kaumatua Moewaka Hinepare says the community needs to come together to heal. Photo/Duncan Brown
Flaxmere kaumatua Moewaka Hinepare says the community needs to come together to heal. Photo/Duncan Brown

She was glad the arrests had been made for the sake of his whanau, and for her fellow Swansea Retirement Village residents who had been "very frightened" since.

"I worry for our people. That could have happened over here."

She said the community need to keep coming together as they had since Donner's death, such as the 200-person karakia she helped organise.

"Look at what happened that night. I'm not happy for what [happened], but something can come from this," she said.

"As part of people of Paharakeke (Flaxmere), we need to send a call of healing, love, and blessings to the families. We need to embrace the family and those children so this does not carry on."

Hastings District Flaxmere councillor Henare O'Keefe said residents realised the only way to confront such a catastrophe was to come together, and not let it change how they lived their lives.

"A life has been taken. It's horrific, it's sad. If [the arrests] didn't happen, if it wasn't brought to the surface Flaxmere would be constantly looking over its shoulder," he said.

While some in the community wanted utu (revenge), others wanted to get to the heart of the issue, and prevent it happening again.

"There's no guarantee, but one thing I do know good parenting will go a long way to alleviating that angst. If we don't have good parenting, our children don't stand a chance."

Despite having had a rental property in the community in 2012 and 2013, it is believed that Mr Downer slept rough, sometimes at the nearby park .

He often had food parcels arranged for him by St Vincent de Paul manager George David, who said these arrests would bring some closure to Mr Donner's family, and the wider community.

"But something needs to be done for the future as well, to protect people. People aren't safe out here.

"We've had a lot of problems with youths out here in the past, and it seems to be quite prolific."

It is believed the 40-year-old worked at Crasborn Group Ltd on Omahu Rd, Hastings and also volunteered at the Flaxmere New World helping to return trolleys.

Those leaving the store today said the arrests were good for the community, including Noel Taitapanui, who said he knew Donner very well.

He felt safer now, but said others who knew about what had happened should come forward, as "it would be good for Kelly's spirit".

Teenagers Jessica Stalker and Travis Buckley said they were glad charges had been laid.

"I feel a lot safer, my mum put me under house arrest," 16-year-old Jessica said, "I felt terrified when it happened."

Flaxmere New World owner Tim Wilson declined to comment.