7 Jan 2020

Dame Catherine calls for more community support after sex worker killed

2:44 pm on 7 January 2020

The Prostitutes Collective says it's a tragedy five Christchurch sex workers have been killed in 15 years, including 34-year-old Bella Te Pania on New Year's Eve.

Catherine Healy, The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective co-founder becomes a Dame.

Dame Catherine Healy says perpetrators of violence are often left out of the discussion. Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King

But Prostitutes Collective national coordinator Dame Catherine Healy wants the spotlight to be on the perpetrators of violence, rather than the victims.

A man has been charged with Te Pania's murder, after she was found critically injured near Christchurch Airport and died a short time later.

While the man awaits a High Court appearance next month, Healy said she had been hearing about how much Te Pania meant to her friends and her whānau.

"She was also a volunteer with our organisation a number of years ago so there are people in our organisation who are outreach workers who are very deeply affected," she said.

After Te Pania's death, and those of other sex workers, the wider community also had shown an outpouring of respect and support, Healy said.

However, she said that support needed to go further.

"It needs to go beyond times like this ... we should be examining what's happening in our society that contributes. Sex workers are a part of society and often there aren't very good attitudes towards sex workers," she said.

Although it can't be assumed the killer was a client, Healy said, perpetrators of violence were very often left out of the discussion.

"Let's not forget ... this is someone who committed violence against a sex worker. I think we need to remember that we have very violent people with whom really have to work to make sure extreme violence doesn't occur," she said.

Other sex workers killed in the city since 2005 are Renee Duckmanton, Mellory Manning and Susie Sutherland, as well as another with name suppression.

The man accused of murdering Te Pania remains in custody until the High Court appearance on 7 February.

Police are still appealing for help finding two of her belongings - a small light brown, shimmery bag, about 10cm x 20cm with a strap, and a black Huawei cellphone with a cracked screen.

"If anyone has seen or found items matching those descriptions in the Christchurch area from early Tuesday morning onwards, they are urged to call police on 105", a spokesperson said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs