Family of Kiwi woman Mary Dean who was fatally shot by her estranged partner in the Cook Islands this week are still trying to find out when they can bring her body home.

Her death has come as "a real shock" to loved ones, and is "a legacy of a relationship that should have ended sooner rather than later", family spokesman Patrick Tavai said.

Tavai said there were still issues around retrieving the body and waiting for the coroner's report before they could have access to her. "Everyone's on hold until they get confirmation as to when they can take possession of her body."

Chris Rimamotu, who was serving a prison sentence for abducting a young child and sexual assault of a 6-year-old, escaped on Wednesday and got his hands on a .22 calibre rifle.


He is believed to have killed Dean, 47, and her boyfriend, 45-year-old Roger Tauarea, in the Titikaveka district in Rarotonga.

Rimamotu, 41, is believed to have killed himself as well.

Tavai said Dean grew up in the South Waikato town of Tokoroa, but had been living in Rarotonga for the past 20 years.

She was with Rimamotu for about 10 years but had been estranged from him since he was convicted and sent to prison.

She had a 9-year-old son in Rarotonga who was in police care following the shooting, but family in Tokoroa were "keen to look after him".

Tavai described Dean as "very happy, happy-go-lucky" and the type of person who "loves to have fun".

"Took life right to the edge. She loved to party. She just loved socialising with people. That was Mary, if you ever mentioned her name around the place that's probably what people would say."

Tavai said she was "a very generous lady, very respectful as well".

"All her friends here in Tokoroa she grew up with have fond memories of her.

"It's just a real shock that this has happened."

Tavai said the family just wanted to "get on and bring things to closure".