12 Aug 2015

Mourning neighbours seek answers to young girl's death

From Morning Report, 7:40 am on 12 August 2015

The grandparents of a four-year-old girl found dead in her Auckland home say they may never be able to comprehend what happened to her.

More than 30 neighbours and church friends of Maggie Renee Watson last night lit candles along the fence of her still cordoned-off Onehunga home.

Children light candles at the vigil.

Children light candles at the vigil.

Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Neighbours and friends lit candles at the Onehunga home.

Neighbours and friends light candles at the Onehunga home.

Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The young girl's body was found at the home last week after her mother called the police. The police have not revealed what happened, but said no-one else was being sought.

Neighbours on Moana Avenue in Onehunga said their street was normally a quiet one, with a close and supportive community.

Last night they prayed and mourned a life lost as candle after candle flickered in the dark.

A framed picture of Maggie Watson rested on top of a small table; a photo of the girl wearing a red dress and a princess tiara.

A photo of Maggie at the vigil.

A photo of Maggie at the vigil.

Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Her neighbours just want to know what happened to her.

A woman struggled through tears to give an opening prayer.

"For all the families around this area, for even the strangers Lord that you've brought here tonight, you have blessed them and their hearts," she said in the dim light.

Behind her, lay items placed in rememberance by others like her; A teddy bear, a stuffed tiger, a small windmill and flowers.

A woman at the vigil who gave the opening prayer.

A woman at the vigil who gave the opening prayer.

Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Next to these, across the driveway, was a line of jarring police emergency tape still cutting off any access to the home. A parked car was still in the front yard.

What happened to Maggie inside the house is still not clear - police have not yet said, and initial tests were inconclusive.

One neighbour, who did not want her name published, brought her grandchild and said she wanted to express her love and not pass judgement.

"This little girl's life was taken away. It's sad, so sad. You have to realise that this little girl has been taken, her life's been stripped away.

"I don't know why. It's sad, it's so sad, and it's why I'm here," she said through tears.

Children light candles at the vigil.

Children light candles at the vigil.

Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Vic Tamati came to the vigil from outside the street, and outside the suburb, and believed residents were struggling.

"They don't know what's going on, they don't know what to make of it. I mean they know that somebody's died, there's a lot of secrecy around it all.

"All they know is probably that these kids know that one of their playmates is not here anymore, for no good reason. Why would a four year old not be here?" Mr Tamati asked.

Avia Amosa's children are among those who've lost their playmate. They live right next door - their house joins onto the one now blocked off from the street.

"They've got no family in New Zealand... They were good, they were friendly. She [Maggie] was always playing around.

"My kids are scared of this house now," he said.

Mr Amosa, who has lived on the street for 13 years, said this was the home's second death. He said an elderly man died from a stroke four or five years ago before Maggie and her mother shifted in.

Des Gilmore is another neighbour who lives a few more doors down and the family friend who organised last night's community vigil.

"It's still cordoned off. It's been a shock for us, obviously, and knowing that Maggie's not here any longer... We miss hearing her voice, hearing her mum in the garden with Maggie.

Neighbour Des Gilmore

Neighbour Des Gilmore.

Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

"It has been a bit of a shock and still will be for some time," he said.

Mr Gilmore said Maggie was well-known across the neighbourhood and was well-loved by her mother.

"Maggie was a little angel. Her mother was a very caring mother, really looked after her and treasured her like gold... She was an awesome little girl," Mr Gilmore said.

Statement read from Maggie's grandparents

Des Gilmore's wife, Kim Gilmore, read a message from Maggie's grandparents who are in Malaysia.

"Angel Maggie you have left your footprints firmly embedded in our hearts and all your drawings on our walls," the message said.

They described their granddaughter as an artistic, self-confident and caring child.

"Grandma will always remember your encouraging words like 'you can do it grandma, good job grandma, awesome grandma, be safe grandma' and 'best grandma ever'.

"Why you had to leave us so soon I guess we will never understand. We will miss you tremendously but you'll always be with us in our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers.

"So our saying for you is, 'when someone you loves becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure'."

Maggie Watson's death is one of 10 police investigations involving the death of a child this year.