10 Oct 2016

Tragedy of couple's killing hits hard for whānau

7:44 am on 10 October 2016

Burying her son's placenta on the property, the great-niece of an elderly couple found dead alongside Ross Bremner was possibly the last to see them alive, other than their killer.

Maurice Raymond O'Donnell and Mona Waikaukau Tuwhangai

Maurice O'Donnell and Mona Tuwhangai Photo: Supplied

Mona Tuwhangai and Maurice O'Donnell were found dead at their rural property in Kinohaku on the Kawhia Harbour, alongside the body of Mr Bremner on Friday night, three days after he vanished following a stabbing that left his mother dead and his father in a critical condition in Otorohanga.

Ross Bremner.

Ross Bremner. Photo: NZ Police

On Sunday, Donna Tuwhangai brought another afterbirth to be placed in the earth at the property just as her's was many years ago.

"So, I came out on Sunday, spent the day with my aunty and uncle. We actually came to bury our tamaiti's whenua on our whānau land. And we sat and had lunch with aunty and uncle," she said.

"Aunty had the flu this particular day. It was a lovely sunny day on Sunday, and I'm glad I got to spend the day with them."

The Tuwhangai whānau are Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Te Kanawa. Generations of Donna's Tuwhangai's ancestors have lived and died on the rugged coastline her family calls home.

"My nieces' and nephews' whenua are buried just over the hill there in the ngahere, and my brothers and sisters as well as mine - and now my son's. Yeah, on the last day I saw her."

No one was certain when the couple had been killed, but the family believed it was a random attack. They said none of them knew Ross Bremner.

Donna said her aunt and uncle were known for being generous and caring.

A crime scene investigator leaves the Taharoa property where 3 bodies were found yesterday. 8 October 2016.

A crime scene investigator leaves the Tahāroa property where the bodies were found on Friday. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

"Aunty and uncle were well known for their Manaaki Tangata (hospitality) and their door was never locked. Knowing their nature, it's a possibility that could be a reason that this has occurred."

At the house as their bodies were being removed a lone haka was performed by a great-nephew for his aunt and uncle.

Neighbour Allan Smith spoke of the great community which made up the Tahāroa whānau, Māori as well as Pākehā.

"We're all neighbours, friends, whānau - and we've gathered to give support at a time of uncertainty and grief."

Whanau of Mona Waikoko Tuwhangai and Maurice Raymond O'Donnell perform a karakia as their bodies are taken away from their homestead.

Whanau of Mona Waikoko Tuwhangai and Maurice Raymond O'Donnell perform a karakia as their bodies are taken away from their homestead. Photo: RNZ / Supplied

Many people came and went from the community because of its isolation, he said. Any other day, Mona and Maurice may not have been at the homestead when Ross Bremner turned up.

"They lived largely in Te Kuiti, but you know, she came out here quite regularly to the cottage," he said.

"It was her family's - her parents built that house when they left their little farm futher round in Kinohaku."

And while memories of the family homestead would never be the same, the land beneath which ties their children to it would always be this family's home.

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