"Lowest of the low" - that's how former MP Dover Samuels describes the thieves who ransacked a friend's home within days his death.

Phillip Thackwray died unexpectedly on January 13 after a heart attack at his home in Mahinepua, north of Matauri Bay.

Mr Thackwray made his name as a superyacht builder, originally based in Kumeu, West Auckland. His company, Thackwray Yachts, also built the tall ship Spirit of New Zealand in 1986.

Mr Samuels said he had known Mr Thackwray for many years. They used to go diving together and co-owned a property at Matauri Bay.


"He was a well-known person here. He did a lot of work for the community and volunteered at the local marae."

Mr Thackwray was airlifted to Whangarei Hospital after his heart attack but could not be saved. But within days of his death - between January 15 and 18 - his home was raided by thieves who Mr Samuels said knew the house would be unoccupied.

"How low can you get? Whoever did it knew he had just passed away and there'd be no one home, so they took the opportunity to ransack it."

"Someone in the community will know who it is. I don't believe it was a stranger from out of town," he said.

Mr Samuels said the offenders had emptied out drawers, tipped over furniture and "ransacked the place". He believed the stolen items included a quad bike, television and an outboard motor.

He urged anyone who knew who was responsible to call the police. The house has now been tenanted to avoid further break-ins.

Senior Sergeant Brian Swann, of Mid North police, said two houses at Mahinepua were burgled around the same time and a boat taken from another property.

Police could not be sure whether the offenders knew one of the owners had passed away or were simply targeting coastal properties. He urged anyone with information about the burglaries to contact their nearest police station or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

He also advised coastal residents and holiday home owners to make sure their properties were secure. At this time of year thieves often targeted holiday homes, boats and fishing gear.

Mr Thackwray is survived by a sister, a former wife, four daughters and one grandchild.