25 Sep 2014

Coroner looking at WINZ death

6:20 pm on 25 September 2014

The coroner is investigating the sudden death of a Canterbury Work and Income employee just six days after the fatal shooting of two workers at the organisation's Ashburton office.

Russell John Tully is charged with murdering Peggy Noble and Leigh Cleveland and the attempted murders of Lindy Curtis and Kim Adams on 1 September.

Six days later, Carol Orsbourn, executive assistant to the department's regional director, died suddenly at home.

Her death is now being investigated by the coroner.

Asked whether Ms Orsbourn had any contact with Mr Tully, the Ministry of Social Development released a statement saying staff who had dealings with him were given access to the support they needed.

The statement said Ms Orsbourn's death had been deeply felt by all staff who have had to deal with traumatic circumstances in recent weeks. All aspects of the tragedy and its aftermath would be reviewed.

It said they had been focused on supporting Ms Orsbourn's family and their staff, who had had to deal with traumatic circumstances in recent weeks.

The statement details the measures the department had taken to help staff in the aftermath of the shootings, including closing offices in the region and making counsellors and clinical psychologists available.

Extra security had also been introduced such as screening people at the door before they were allowed to enter offices.

The department was looking at whether all steps were taken to ensure the safety of ministry employees and would also consider what steps could be taken to keep staff safe in future.

The first part of this review, into areas at Work and Income which are open to the public, will be released tomorrow.

Public Service Association National Secretary Richard Wagstaff said Ms Orsbourn was a wonderful and dedicated public servant and her death was a terrible tragedy.

"The timing is awful. There's never a good time but obviously this is a very emotional time for everyone," he said.

"This is really heartfelt by a lot of public servants and we really feel for them."


A scene investigation at the Work and Income office in Ashburton after the shootings. Photo: RNZ / Jemma Brackebush

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