19 Dec 2023

Coronial inquiry into Constable Matthew Hunt's death ruled out

5:53 pm on 19 December 2023
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Constable Matthew Hunt who was fatally shot during a routine traffic stop in West Auckland. Photo: Supplied / RNZ

The coroner will not open an inquiry into the fatal shooting of unarmed police officer Matthew Hunt in 2020.

Eli Epiha is serving a sentence of life without parole for killing Hunt and wounding another officer with a semi-automatic firearm on a West Auckland street after fleeing a routine traffic stop.

In a notification, Coroner Janet Anderson said an inquest will not be held because any recommendations she could make to prevent similar deaths had been responded to by the police, and ongoing work that was planned.

By law, coroners have the discretion not to open an inquiry where a person has been charged with an offence relating to the death, or some other investigation has been conducted into the death.

"I have considered the police and coronial files, including the post-mortem report and the information obtained during the course of the criminal investigation into Constable Hunt's death. I have also considered the additional information provided by WorkSafe as well as the steps taken by police to reduce the chance of further deaths occurring in similar circumstances."

Anderson said she had formed the view that the location, time, cause, and circumstances of Constable Hunt's death were established during the criminal proceedings.

"I have also considered whether it is necessary to open an inquiry and/or hold an inquest hearing in order to identify recommendations that may help prevent similar deaths occurring in future," she said.

"Having considered the material provided by police and WorkSafe, I have formed the view that these matters have been adequately identified and addressed by the steps already taken by police, and the ongoing work that is planned. Accordingly, I have decided not to open an inquiry in relation to Constable Hunt's death."

Anderson said there was no doubt Hunt was a hero.

"He was an intelligent, hard-working, and diligent young man. He served his community and devoted his life to the upholding of law and order."

She said he did not hesitate to go to the assistance of his partner, despite being unarmed and facing an offender with a semi-automatic weapon.

"His actions were courageous, and his death in the course of his duties was a tragedy for the Hunt family and for Constable Hunt's friends and colleagues. His murder was an evil, ruthless, and incomprehensible act by an individual who showed no regard for human life."

Anderson acknowledged his family.

"Diane Hunt [Matthew's mother] and other family members have been devastated by Constable Hunt's death. I offer my deepest condolences to them for their loss, and I acknowledge Constable Hunt's extraordinary bravery in the course of his duties as he worked to protect our community."

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