19 Feb 2016

'Here comes another one, he's gonna get shot too'

1:47 pm on 19 February 2016

An East Cape woman who called for help over threats from a gang leader, who ended up shot dead, was met with police confusion and inaction, court records show.


Mary Jane Waitoa twice asked to be put through to the sole police officer at Te Araroa police station. Photo: RNZI

Recordings of the woman's 111 call before the shooting of Tumanako Tauhore, and of her neighbour's call to police during the confrontation, were played to a jury in a trial that ended this week.

Forestry workers Roderick Cooper, who was charged with murder over the shooting a year ago, and Wiremu Gladstone pleaded self-defence and were found not guilty by a jury in Gisborne.

Have you had an experience calling 111 you want to tell us about? Contact news@radionz.co.nz

Transcripts of the calls show that Mary Jane Waitoa, Mr Gladstone's partner, twice asked to be put through to the sole police officer at Te Araroa police station.

The operator asks: "Do you - sorry, you saying 'Te Aroha' or not?"

Caller: "Te Araroa. T-E A-R-A-R-O-A."

Operator: "Sorry, that's not actually coming up. Is that - what street is it on?"

Caller: "Um, hold on."

Operator: "Or is there a different name for it? Is there a different ...?"

It takes six minutes, and multiple long silences while the operator tries to find the location, before the woman gets to say what's wrong, that a gang is in town threatening to beat up her partner.

Mary Jane Waitoa tries repeatedly to be put through to the local policeman.

Caller: "I just thought it might be faster if I spoke with Mike directly cos I know him and he knows where we live and everything."

Operator: "That's - yeah, I understand that. It's just that we, if you call 111 we will just call him straight away if we, if we need to, yeah."

But the operator never told the local policeman about the woman's warning about the gang, though the officer knew Tumanako Tauhore personally.

Ninety minutes after that first 111 call, another one comes in, this one from a local man Conrad Rickard.

Twice he said he was at Te Araroa Holiday Park, on State Highway 35.

Operator: "How do you spell the holiday park?"

Caller: "Te Araroa Holiday Park. T-A- [sic] .... A-R-A-R-O-A. I think a man's been shot already. And here comes another one, he's gonna get shot too."

Operator: "Yeah, but I need the actual address cos that's not flagging up, so it's State Highway ...?"

The second operator shows no sign of knowing anything about the earlier warning call.

Conrad Rickard tells the operator that a man has been shot on the lawn, that children are at the house and that two carloads of gang members are outside.

The operator does not ask about the children. In fact, seven children were there including a baby, and Mary Jane Waitoa was eight-and-a-half months pregnant.

At no stage in these two calls, or another 111 call by a neighbour, do the operators say police are going to do anything.

To a fourth caller, the operator says someone is on their way.

But the closest any police officer gets for 90 minutes is a roadblock 1km away.

Wiremu Gladstone's lawyer, Tiana Epati, said the police response was hugely frustrating.

"When Mary Jane called there was no imminent threat at the time but she was reporting the fact that there were two carloads of gang members in town," Ms Etapi told Morning Report.

"I would have expected that to raise a red flag and at least the one local police officer to be alerted to that - but he wasn't."

She said the local policeman was not to blame - he could not go in on his own after the shooting, and it took 90 minutes for back-up from Ruatoria to arrive.

In the meantime, though, two volunteer women ambulance officers had already gone to the house where the body lay outside.

Ms Epati said Mary Jane Waitoa had carried out CPR on Tumanako Tauhore and he died in her arms.

Denis O'Reilly, a close friend of Mr Tauhore, said today that police took far too long to respond to calls made by family and neighbours.

"I think the family of those who were accused did have a right to call for help and it's tragic that no-one was able to respond."

The police so far have said only that they would consider any matters raised from their 111 response at Te Araroa.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs