Right now there are two high profile murder cases before the court in Whanganui.

In October, seven men were charged with murdering former mongrel mob member Kevin Ratana and six men were charged with murdering James Butler.

But what happens in the fallout of these tragic situations for the families of the deceased?

One option they have is to seek victim support.


Service coordinator for Wanganui Victim Support Julie O'Leary said that her team of eight volunteers have been busy, although not swept off their feet.

"We've had three recent homicides. One is an old one that has been definitely confirmed as a homicide, so that's four investigations going on here at the moment.

"That's quite big."

Up to 30 people can require victim support coming out of one homicide. They can include friends and family members of the victim, or witnesses of the event.

Victim Support provides assistance to anyone who is suffering from crime or trauma, whether it be homicide, suicide, sudden death, home invasion and more.

"We concentrate on grief because most of our work is grief, working with people who are traumatised," O'Leary said.

"Suicide, that is a big component of the training. Learning about yourself and your ability to cope with what you could be going into."

Victim Support started in the 1980s when it was realised that offenders were getting a lot of assistance, but victims were not.


Eight per cent of its funding comes from the Ministry of Justice, leaving it short of funds to pay staff, hence most victim support workers are volunteers, including all in Whanganui.

People wanting to become volunteers go through an interview process with police and referee checks, before participating in training and then doing a six month internship.

Those wanting to help in the fallout of homicide are required to undergo more specialised and precise training.

"With homicide, you also have the flow on effect when it comes to things like parole board and old homicides that have been sitting there resurface," O'Leary said.

"There may have been an incident, but it's taken two years to come to a charge being laid and then it brings everything back again. In some cases you start from square one again."

Some clients undertaking victim support following an incident will be within the system for up to five years.

Once trained, volunteers are expected to support clients for 12 hours per week and the organisation hopes to have their services for at least two years.

However, it doesn't always work out that way, as the heavy nature of some of the incidents can take its toll on the support workers.

"As a co-ordinator, I have to keep an eye on their wellbeing. If I feel that a worker is struggling, I will take them off and look after them," O'Leary said.

"I would rather have a happy worker who is coping, because to send someone out who's not coping is dangerous to the client."

O'Leary has been in her role for 15 years and would love to see the volunteers get supported by being paid.

She said that their results were evident every time that someone thanks them.

"The most beautiful comment we get is 'I was able to talk to you and not fear being judged, you're not part of my family, therefore I can speak what I think and feel.'"

"We're not there to say you have to have us, we are here if you need us or want us."