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As the small Mid Canterbury town of Ashburton comes to grips with yesterday's horror shooting, locals are turning their attention to planning memorials to honour the slain.

Two memorial Facebook pages have emerged and are being flooded with messages of support and love for Peggy Noble, 67, and Leigh Cleveland, 55, who died in the attack.

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.

Local homeless man Russell John Tully, 48, has been charged with their murder, and attempting to murder a third victim, Lindy Curtis, who remains in Christchurch Hospital.


The 'RIP Peggy Noble and Susan Cleveland' Facebook page already has more than 400 members and hundreds of comments.

"I only met Peg last week when I took in some paperwork. She was so lovely! It is so horrible what has happened to the women who were only doing their jobs. Thinking of all the staff and families who have been affected by this tragic event," one poster wrote.

"My heart is so broken right now...what a tragedy for the families and for Ashburton. It was a privilege to know you Peg..thanks for all the laughs," another said.

Read more coverage of the tragedy here:
Murder-accused appears in court
Shooting suspect rejected help
Inside the mind of accused gunman: A loner who went public with his plight and plea for help
How tragedy unfolded: Farmer tells of dramatic capture, as first victim named - a loved resident and avid cards player
Ashburton mayor vows his town will 'work through this' together

A condolence book to share messages of sympathy for the families has been placed at Ashburton District Council headquarters.

It has been signed by Ashburton District Mayor Angus McKay and Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew.

"Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the families and this is one way we can rally together as a community and share our deepest sympathies," said Mr McKay.

Tomorrow at 9.30am, a group called Mid Canterbury Bees will be handing out 150 sunflower seedlings at Wastebusters Canterbury "in memory of those who lost their lives".


"Please plant them in your front yard, in full sun, so they grow tall, and bring pleasure to all that see them," the group said.

Floral tributes have been laid at the perimeter of the cordon that surrounds the WINZ office on the corner of Cass and Moore streets where the shooting happened around 10am yesterday.

People have been coming to pay their respects all day.

Victims will be missed

Ms Noble was described as "hard but fair" in her job.

"She was good at her job -- hard but fair, but in that job you'd have to be. I couldn't do it and she certainly didn't deserve that ending," said one friend of 15 years who played the card game euchre with Ms Noble.

They played together at the Ashburton RSA and the Mutual School of Arts, and toured New Zealand playing tournaments -- even winning a big competition in Christchurch one year.

"Peg was great fun to be around -- a laugh a minute," the friend, who did not wish to be named, said.

Her partner Don, a shearer, would be devastated, the friend said.

Ms Cleveland never married or had children, but had two rottweiler dogs who filled her life, friends and family said.

She grew up in Alexandra with two brothers and a sister.

Her mother Kathleen Cleveland said it was hard to think straight after receiving the news of her daughter's death yesterday.

She said that when her daughter was growing up she was interested in horses and had a pony at home. She later worked with horses as a teenager.

Ms Cleveland said her daughter had been a member of dog clubs for 30 years, and was interested in cocker spaniels before she developed a passion for rottweilers, of which she had two at home.

"She never married or anything like that, so that has sort of been her life," her mother said.

Ms Cleveland's friend, Debbie Renga of Rakaia, agreed. She had been friends with Ms Cleveland for five years, after she got a rottweiler from her.

She said Ms Cleveland was "part of their family".

"The dogs were her family and her main interest ... She just absolutely loved her dogs to bits, they were her kids."

Meanwhile, the man accused of the shooting, Russell John Tully, appeared in Christchurch District Court on two charges of murder and one of attempted murder.

Tully limped into the dock in bare feet and 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.

No application for bail was made, and the 48-year-old was remanded in custody to reappear on September 23.

The Ministry of Social Development announced that all their offices would reopen tomorrow, with the exception of their Ashburton office, which was subject to an ongoing police investigation.