Tributes have been paid to Christopher Vujcich, described by one Northland Police Facebook post as "one of the most caring, genuine blokes I've ever had the privilege to be close to". Vujcich died on Saturday after he was attacked in his Kowhai Ave driveway on Friday evening.
"You were the older brother I never had when I lived in Kaikohe, and always supported, checked and looked after me ... and because of that you have my respect. Tears upon tears brother, gone home to be with our Lord," the poster added.
Police are not commenting on the circumstances of the attack, but 58-year-old Vujcich is believed to have been the victim of road rage resulting from a relatively minor driving error, when he pulled out in front of another motorist on Friday evening.
The other driver allegedly followed him to Kowhai Ave and confronted him when he pulled into a driveway. As Vujcich turned away to go inside he was allegedly king-hit from behind. He died in Bay of Islands Hospital on Saturday morning, shortly after life support was turned off.
A 21-year-old Kaikohe man, Patrick Dennis Tarawa, was initially charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. He appeared in the Whangarei District Court on Saturday and was remanded in custody. No order for name suppression was sought.
The officer in charge of the inquiry, Detective Senior Sergeant Rhys Johnston, said yesterday that the charge had been upgraded to manslaughter following a post-mortem examination in Auckland on Sunday.
Tarawa's next appearance would be in the Kaikohe District Court on Wednesday next week.
Many people turned to Facebook to express their anger, sorrow, affection and respect for Vujcich and to offer support to his family.
Megan Vujcich: My heart is breaking today. I love you big brother.
Ruby Kaye: A beautiful man you were Chris, an awesome granddad. Was an honour to meet you, so sad that you had to go in such a ugly way ...
Jodie Lee-Anne Subritzky: This is very sad. I always thought Kowhai Ave was one of the safest roads in Kaikohe. What's our town coming to? He was an awesome neighbour, very caring ...
Yvonne Vujcich: ... Chris was a man who loved his children and grandchildren deeply.
France Gardner: ... He was never outspoken, he would avoid trouble at all costs. Loved his sons so very much. My heart is aching for his two sons and their families.