A Whanganui "chronic alcoholic" who died after being attacked in Wellington will be remembered at a service in the Whangaehu Valley on Saturday.

Wellington police are appealing for information about the circumstances that led to the death of James Whenuaroa on June 24.

Mr Whenuaroa had a drinking problem and was found alone, after drinking with others, outside the central Wellington Arlington Apartments just before midnight on June 17. He had serious head injuries and died in Wellington Hospital on June 24.

Wellington's Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Mallon wants to hear from anyone who saw or spoke to him between 5.30pm in Manners St and the time he was found.


Mr Whenuaroa has children and grandchildren in Whanganui, and his memorial service will be held at his brother's house in Whangaehu Valley Rd on Saturday. A memorial was held for him in Wellington on Friday, at the Downtown Community Ministry.

He was known to ministry director Stephanie McIntyre, who said he was homeless at the time of his death.

"Our goal with James was always to try and find somewhere safe and appropriate for him to live, and sadly we haven't achieved that."

The Whanganui man was previously said to have lived in the Hutt Valley and Wainuiomata.

Ms McIntyre said Mr Whenuaroa was likeable - a gentle and sensitive man who struggled with his addiction to alcohol. He was often seen drinking in the streets.

Wanganui Chronicle records show that by 2012 he had more than 350 criminal convictions. At an appearance in Whanganui District Court that year he pleaded guilty to stealing a bottle of orange juice from a supermarket and was sentenced to six weeks' prison.

His counsel at the time, Anna Brosnahan, told Judge Gerard Lynch it was no use telling her client he could not drink. He was a "chronic alcoholic", she said, and had been to every rehabilitation centre and programme in town, to no effect.

Katie Hedgman-Dalton was one of the Victoria Ave retailers who looked out for Mr Whenuaroa when he was drinking on the streets of Whanganui around 2010. She managed the Trade Aid shop and he was often sitting on the bench outside it.

She got to know him as he came and went over about four years.

"If I saw that he was there I would grab him a pie and a cup of coffee. A couple of particularly nasty days he came inside and had a wee sleep in my office out the back."

She worried about him when he wasn't there.

"He used to drink a lot of methylated spirits, which is a really horrible space for someone to be in."

Mr Whenuaroa was never unpleasant, and the two had some good talks. Ms Hedgman-Dalton wishes she had known him better.

"He just seemed kind of cool.

"I feel horrible that he got attacked, because he was so gentle and so apologetic if he was a wee bit worse for wear and under the influence."