Attack on Upper Hutt homicide victim 'not random'

12:22 pm on 12 December 2016

The killing of an Upper Hutt woman was not the result of a random attack, police say.

The body of Lois Rita Tolley, 30, was discovered at her flat in Ward Street in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Lois Rita Tolley

Lois Rita Tolley Photo: Supplied / NZ Police

Police are looking for four men who were seen going to the house just before midnight and leaving directly after she was killed. The men were described as aged in their 20s and wearing dark, hooded clothing.

"One was visibly distressed and I'm making an appeal to that person and perhaps the other three to come forward," said inquiry head Detective Senior Sergeant Warwick McKee.

Police were trying to find a gun and knife believed to have been involved in the attack. One man was carrying a long rectangular object.

Officers had spoken to a "number of people" who had given them valuable information.

"Let me reassure the community this isn't a random attack," Mr McKee said.

"They went to the address for a specific reason and obviously things went wrong from there and they decamped."

He said it was not known whether the attackers knew Ms Tolley.

Upper Hutt mayor Wayne Guppy is appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

He said in such a tight-knit community, someone must know something.

"Someone will know who these people are and they will be talking or their actions would have been suspicious or out of the ordinary over Friday and Saturday and up to today.

"My advice is to make the toughest decision of their life and turn them in."

'Living in fear'

A neighbour of Ms Tolley said she had been "living in fear" months before her death.

The woman, who did not to be identified, said Ms Tolley had lived at the Ward Street flat for about five years.

She was well liked in the neighbourhood and often came to her neighbour's place for a cup of tea or to pick some limes from her tree to cook with.

Ms Tolley had recently begun a career as a chef, the neighbour said.

"This is a woman who put herself through many many different courses, and she ended up in the job which she really wanted as a chef, and she invited people around to taste what she's cooked.

"She was just a lovely person. She'd do anything for anyone and had a lot of friends, a tremendous amount of friends."

Ms Tolley had turned her life around a few years ago after going through a "rough patch", the neighbour said.

But someone breaking into her home about a year ago had left Ms Tolley terrified.

"Unfortunately she had been living in fear because she had been broken into once before. She was just so afraid and that is just horrible for anyone to live with.

"She had her lights on 24/7, day and night, outside and inside, living in fear that something would happen again, and she was on the verge of moving when this happened, and I wish she had moved."

It's not known whether the break-in had any connection to her death.

The neighbour was deeply saddened by Ms Tolley's death and said it had hit residents in the neighbourhood hard.

Police said Ms Tolley, who was the youngest of four siblings, had many family members in Australia.

It's understood many of them, including her mother, have flown to New Zealand.

Officers are still examining the scene and several bunches of brightly coloured flowers have been laid next to the police tape cordoning off the home where her body was found.