A man has been charged with murder nearly two-and-a-half years after another man died in what was thought to be a fall in his home.

The accused, a 50-year-old Ōpōtiki man, is due to appear in Whakatāne District Court tomorrow.

Brian Hilton was admitted to Tauranga Hospital on July 7, 2016 with facial injuries first thought to have been caused by a fall. He died six days later.

Police recently reopened the investigation into Hilton's death after receiving new information.


A family spokeswoman said in a brief statement at the time the case was reopened they were pleased the police were reinvestigating.

"Brian's family is pleased the police are committed to finding answers and holding whoever is responsible for Brian's death to account."

Ōpōtiki District Councillor Barry Howe has described Hilton as an eccentric, and mayor John Forbes said he often received messages from the 77-year-old, as did former Prime Minister John Key.

"I have to admit a message from Mr Hilton often used to make me smile," Forbes said.

"Knowing he was also sending them to the Prime Minister made me wonder how often the leaders of our country receive messages from people, I can imagine they would be inundated."

Forbes said he recalled the police investigation into Hilton's death and said, at the time, police had met with him in his role as mayor and said, as far as they could ascertain, a fall had contributed to his death.