On a wet August night Ihimaera Takimoana, an elderly Northlander, heard footsteps outside the isolated tent he lived in with his sister. He went to the entrance and heard a man call, "Kia ora".
On returning the greeting and inviting the man in for a cup of tea, he was shot with a seven-round revolver at a range of 7m and injured in the left arm.
He ducked back inside to get something to defend himself with while Mereana Takimoana, 76, took a look. She was shot dead by a 0.22-inch bullet through the heart.
Ihimaera, aged in his 60s, now returned, taking two more bullets, one of which injured him in the chest.
He would die five days later, following surgery, in Kawakawa Hospital.
The shooter slipped away into the night, leaving seven empty gun cartridges on the ground. The double murder was never solved.
The siblings' tent-whare, hidden behind a shield of tea tree, was at Oromahoe, 10km northwest of Kawakawa and several hundred metres from the nearest houses.
It was also about 17km east of where another unsolved murder would be committed 17 years later. Farmer Ernest Severin Nelson, 55, died from a gunshot wound about 100m from his house in the Okaihau locality.
Mereana Takimoana was well liked in the local community but her brother, or half-brother - reports varied - was a source of fear.
Ihimaera was reputed to have been a tohunga, "and his influence was widely dreaded", the Herald wrote in the aftermath of the shootings, which occurred at around 7pm on Thursday August 14, 1919.
"The very appearance of Ihimaera prior to the affray was awe inspiring," the paper wrote. "One eye was blood-shot - the other being distorted by disease, and always covered with a bandage."
In mid-1919 New Zealand was still reeling after the influenza disaster that had swept through the country from late 1918 as World War I ended. The pandemic killed around 9000 people and the death rate was far higher among Māori than in the Pākehā population.
During the pandemic, some Māori deaths were attributed to the makutu or spiritual influence of Ihimaera, whose last name was sometimes reported as Haratu or Haratua.
One of those who died at that time was the wife of one of the Ashby family, a witness told the Kawakawa Magistrate's Court committal hearing for Walter Ashby, of Oromahoe, who was charged with the Takimoana murders.
Ihimaera had at first said he didn't know the shooter's identity, although he remembered a young man, short, thick set and part Māori. Then in hospital he declined to make a statement to the police until he had consulted another man. He later relented and told the police he thought the shooter was Willie Ashby, of Whangarei, although he wasn't certain about the first name and reserved the right to change it if necessary.
But he was certain he had seen the shooter at a bridge on his way to hospital.
Walter Ashby told the police he had been at the bridge on that day and he was charged.
The day after making his statement, Ihimaera died.
Mr R. A. Singer, the lawyer for Walter Ashby, told the magistrate his client had never lived at Whangarei.
Ashby was in September 1919 committed for trial. His case came before a grand jury, a form of preliminary hearing, in the Supreme Court at Auckland two months later.
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However, Justice Walter Stringer advised the jury to throw out the judicial bills against Ashby.
The judge said the only thing that implicated Ashby was Ihimaera's statement. But as that statement was not made with the full knowledge of his impending death, it was inadmissible.
Even if it were admissible, it was extremely vague, Justice Stringer said.
The jury at first returned a "true bill" on the Ihimaera murder charge, which would usually have led to a trial, and a "no bill" for the Mereana charge. But the following day it changed the true bill to a no bill and Ashby was discharged.
The judge said Ashby should never have been committed for trial on such evidence.
Singer said it was only fair to Ashby to state that he was prepared with an overwhelming defence to the charges.