The father of murder victim Israel Jack believes a gang was responsible for his son's death five years ago – and police say that is ''probably'' the case.
Israel Jack was murdered on Te Ngae Rd nearly five years ago and his family say it is time the circumstances of his grisly death were made public.
Israel's father, Rendall Jack, told the Rotorua Daily Post some of his family believed a gang was responsible.
Police have hinted for the first time they believe they know who did it and when asked whether gang members or prospects were suspected, Detective Inspector Mark Loper replied: "Probably". But Loper would not be drawn further.
In the early hours of Sunday August 18, 2013, Israel or Izzy, as he was known to his family and friends, was walking home on Te Ngae Rd after a night out in Rotorua.
But he never made it.
The 20-year-old's body was found on Te Ngae Rd, between Pohutukawa Drive and Robinson Ave, at 4.25am.
He was last seen on security camera footage at the Caltex Te Ngae at 4.20am. That service station is 1.4km away from where his body was found just under five minutes later - meaning he couldn't have got there on his own.
Bizarrely, his body had been run over by two drivers during that short space of time and were later prosecuted for driving offences. They were not linked to his killing.
Rendall Jack said he had been told information about his son's killing, all of which had been passed to police.
He believed his son was set upon by a group of gang members after he left the Caltex Te Ngae and could only have been taken by vehicle to where his slain body was left lying across the eastbound lane of SH30.
"Our family needs anyone who knows anything about what actually happened in this relatively brief timeframe to help us find justice for Izzy,'' he said.
"The shame and guilt of silence often leads to being a part of a cover-up. People can be drawn into the dark world or underbelly of a criminal gang through fear of retribution.
"This is what gives the gangs the power to continue to terrrorise. It is only if people are courageous, face their fear and do the right thing, can they be stopped. We know that people know, yet won't say what they know."
Rendall Jack said his son was a log maker working in a forestry crew and was a brother, son, uncle, nephew, grandson and friend.
"He was alone and defenceless against multiple attackers that night his life was taken and ours changed forever."
As the fifth anniversary of Israel's death approaches, no one has been arrested and the case remains unsolved.
But his father said it was time to talk about the case again.
Loper had confirmed Israel's death was considered a homicide because of the timing of his body being found and the last confirmed sighting at the service station.
"We believe that there is more to be told in this story and it is solvable. There are people out there who know what happened."
Loper said the investigation was still open and they were always hopeful of getting more information that could lead to an arrest.
He would not confirm how many people were suspected but said police had several pieces of information.
"Alliances change over time and we are keen to hear from anyone now who might be prepared to say something they might not have before."
Israel's body was exhumed by police, with permission from his family, in October 2013 for further testing as a result of information from the public.
However, Loper said police would not reveal what the expert analysis found and Israel's exact cause of death would not be made public at this stage.
Rendall Jack said the circumstances of the case had taken a huge toll on family and friends and the horror of losing Israel never went away.
He said the subsequent hit and run where the driver did not come forward until three days later initially gave a false perception of what had happened. The police were immediately on the back foot.
What made it difficult to deal with was the public's perception the case was now closed, Rendall Jack said.
"I'd meet people in the street and they'd say 'oh yes, they got the guy who ran over your son' ... but they don't understand his killers are still out there."
There were "more gang members than soldiers" in New Zealand.
"They are recruited and trained like soldiers yet as members of a criminal organisation. They are terrorists by their very nature. The enemy within our midst. Murder, rape, intimidation, threats, violence, abuse, burglary and theft are all evil doings of gangs in this country."
He said the territorial infiltration of towns, communities, and family of gang culture was creating so much harm yet no one wanted to acknowledge it.
"People are becoming de-sensitised to the harm these often P-fried thugs cause."
Rendall Jack said he was annoyed when a police boss in the Waikato recently said the public could be safe as three recent homicides were targeted gang killings.
"Izzy wasn't in a gang, yet he wasn't safe. To say it was a random killing and that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time just doesn't cut it with me. This is why, what led up to his being attacked matters too.
"Every time I see a patched gang member my blood starts to boil as I wonder if maybe Izzy was targeted and killed just so some prospect could get a patch."
The fact Israel's death remained unsolved and not spoken of publicly was his main motivation for speaking out.
"When something like this happens, there's a shadow over your life. Yet this isn't about me and how I feel. This is about finding justice for Izzy, creating awareness and consciously protecting our mokopuna from this blight on society.
"My hope is that this publicity sparks something off. I want people to feel emotional about this so they say something."
One of Israel's family members, who spoke on the condition she was not identified, also believed a gang was behind his death and the tragedy had "ruined our lives".
She said she could not live in Rotorua anymore and had to move.
"I had to get away from people walking around with their patches on ... It has devastated our family. It has completely alienated the family."
She said they will never get over it.
"It only takes one thing to bring it all back. I'm scared of being in Rotorua now but I want this solved and the only way to do that is to get it out there."
Her message to those involved?
''My hope is you're haunted for your part in taking an innocent man's life. Fess up or be tormented forever. I will never stop seeking justice for our darling Izzy, a kind and caring young man with a promising future, robbed of his life so a gang of thugs get their fix of empowerment."
Other members of Israel's family declined to comment, saying his loss was still too painful.
Israel Jack case facts
* Saturday August 17, 2013: Israel Jack has a night out drinking in Rotorua bars. He becomes separated from friends and walks home.
* Sunday August 18, 2013: In the early hours, a police officer heading to a family violence callout sees Israel asleep on the footpath. He wakes and stands up and tells police he is fine and doesn't have far to go. He is later seen by police walking past the house where the family violence incident took place.
* Sunday August 18, 2013, 4.20am: Israel is seen on security camera footage at Caltex Te Ngae.
* Sunday August 18, 2013, 4.25pm: His body is found on Te Ngae Rd, after being run over by two separate motorists. Police are notified.
* October, 2013: His body is exhumed by police with permission from family for further analysis
* April 1, 2014: Hapeta Kane Hori Manley, 29-year-old bartender, is sentenced to six months' home detention, fined $1000 and disqualified from driving for 18 months on charges of driving while forbidden and failing to stop after he ran over Israel on August 18, 2013. The court hears he thought he had hit a dog and handed himself in to police three days later after seeing media reports.
* January 29, 214: Micah Rachel Sykes, 20, who was the second person to run over Israel's body on Te Ngae Rd, is sentenced in the Rotorua District Court to 100 hours' community work and disqualified from driving for six months after she pleaded guilty to one charge of driving with excess breath alcohol, possession of cannabis and obstructing police.