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.

"They are such a tight group and they've got this absolute sheer tragedy," Ms Bennett said. "Right now they just want to be together... Talk it through. There's lots of tears."

Ms Cleveland, Ms Noble and Ms Curtis were when a man armed with a shotgun entered the Work and Income office just after 10am yesterday and opened fire.


Russel John Tully, 48, was arrested late yesterday afternoon over the shootings and appeared in court in Christchurch this morning where he was remanded in custody on two counts of murder and one of attempted murder.

Ms Bennett said Ms Curtis had asked for complete privacy and would not be drawn on her condition. "I think the fact that she's talking and asking for that is an indication she is recovering," she said, smiling.

Work and Income staff, she said, were still "wavering between the absolute trauma and shock" and remembering their fallen colleagues.

Police have arrested the man suspected of shooting dead two Work and Income workers and a third critically injured. Homeless man Russell Tully, known as John, 48, was found on a rural property near Lake Hood this afternoon. No shots were fired but he suffered dog bites. Ashburton had been in lockdown while police conducted a massive search for Tully.

One of the shooting victims, Ms Cleveland, had moved to Ashburton from Christchurch after the quakes. She lived alone in a red brick house on the eastern fringe of town where she bred rottweilers.

A neighbour said she had a son and "was a quiet lady who kept to herself and was quite often away at the weekends, I think through her dog breeding".

Earlier this morning Ms Bennett told TVNZ that Tully had been receiving help from Work and Income but had rejected the offer of further assistance.

"At Work and Income he had been getting everything he had been entitled to. He had been offered a lot of assistance in a lot of different ways that he had turned down. He had been offered accommodation and things but he was pretty fixated on one particular house that was never going to go to him because it was marked for a family.".

Tully had approached the Ashburton Guardian last month to air his frustrations over the lack of accommodation in his home town for people in his situation. He was on a disability benefit and said his doctor had told him he should have a mobility scooter.


Ms Bennett told TV3's Firstline that Tully's behaviour in the past had been intimidating.

"They certainly felt that it was intimidating behaviour, he had been trespassed and Work and Income don't do that lightly, we recognise that for many people we are the last that they can come to and need assistance from.

"To trespass him from Work and Income they would have had to felt intimidated, because it's quite a big step."

Ms Bennett said a review of security would be undertaken.

"This is obviously an extreme circumstance so we're going to work our way through that but everything we've done with staff, they felt that security was what was needed, but we're going to review that now and make sure that everyone is comfortable and that we've got it right."

Read today's coverage of the killings here:
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