A 15-year-old boy has appeared in court charged with murder after a man was found near death in what at first appeared to be a car crash.
The 62-year-old man, who police have named as Ōkaihau man Michael John Biggins, died at the scene on Imms Rd, just south of the town, on Monday evening despite the efforts of emergency services.
The discovery that the crash was not all it seemed sparked a police investigation culminating in Wednesday afternoon's appearance in the Kaikohe Youth Court.
The boy, who cannot be named because of his age, was charged with murder using a stabbing/cutting weapon.
He appeared before Judge Greg Davis, who remanded him in custody to the Korowai Manaaki youth detention facility in Wiri, Auckland.
He is next due in the High Court, most likely by audio-visual link in Whangārei, on October 14.
No plea was entered.
Counsel Catherine Cull expressed concerns around the boy's fitness to stand trial and asked that reports be prepared ahead of his next appearance.
Previous reports by health and education authorities had highlighted issues with understanding and auditory processing, she said.
The boy, who looked younger than his 15 years, appeared fearful and had his eyes downcast during much of his court appearance.
The number of people in court was limited due to Covid restrictions but his mother and two of his grandparents were in the public gallery.
Family members asked if he could be placed in a youth facility at Palmerston North, closer to where most of his whānau lived.
Given the Covid alert level it would be hard for family to visit him in Auckland.
They also asked if his sister, who was on crutches following a serious car crash, could say goodbye before he was taken to Auckland.
She was not in court due to limits on the number of people allowed inside.
The police Summary of Facts was suppressed, with Youth Aid officer Rob Cameron saying it was still in draft form. The investigation was ongoing and other young people could yet be charged.
Biggins was found in a car that had crashed next to a paddock, not far from houses near the start of Imms Rd about 8.25pm.
Detective Inspector Rhys Johnston, of Northland police, said the youth was arrested late on Tuesday afternoon.
The victim was a much-loved member of his family, who were devastated by his loss.
Police and Victim Support were working to support them, he said.
Johnston said police would continue to make inquiries in the Ōkaihau area over the next week with a number of people still to be spoken to.
He appealed to anyone with information they think could assist the investigation to contact police on 105 quoting Operation Canoe or file number 210928/6273.
Information could also be provided anonymously by calling 0800 555 111.
It is understood youths as young as 12 may also be involved.
It is not the first time this year that someone so young has been charged with murder in Northland.
A 14-year-old is due to go on trial next month after the death of 22-year-old Bram Willems in a night-time altercation near Ōpua in January.
The 14-year-old denies the charge.
Willems was also from Ōkaihau.
As well, a teenager has admitted fatally stabbing another teen in a fight that started with a can of alcohol that was kicked over at a birthday party in Moerewa last year.
Krillan Cortez Koni Brown, 18, died on June 7, 2020, after he was stabbed in the chest with such force that the knife's handle snapped off.
A 19-year-old, who has name suppression, pleaded guilty to manslaughter when he appeared in the High Court at Whangārei. He also admitted assaulting Brown's younger sister. He will be sentenced on November 3.