'Weird, crazy': Grieving family reveals new details about fatal ram attack

8:25 am on 20 April 2024

By Shilpy Arora and Tony Wall of Stuff

Helge and Gaye Hansen.

Helge and Gaye Hansen. Photo: Supplied / Stuff

When Gaye Hansen's son couldn't get hold of his mother and his step-father, Helge Hansen, he drove to their rented farm property in West Auckland on Thursday morning to investigate.

The scene that greeted him on Anzac Valley Road was like something out of a horror movie - his mother, 81, and her husband Helge, 82, lay dead in a paddock and a rogue ram was standing guard.

Dean Burrell, Gaye's nephew, says the son was then attacked by the animal.

"He went to the house. He couldn't find them. He went ... to the paddock and found his mum.

"He's gone to her aid but she'd passed away at that point.

"He himself was attacked by this ram from behind. He managed to get it into a headlock and closed the gate and went back to his mum.

"The ram busted through the electric fence and attacked them again so he called the cops."

The ram wasn't done - it became aggressive towards officers when they arrived and they shot it dead.

Dean Burrell is family spokesperson for the family of Alfred Helge Hansen and Gaye Carole Hansen who were found dead at their home following an attack by a ram.

Dean Burrell, the family spokesperson for the family of Alfred Helge Hansen and Gaye Carole Hansen who were found dead at their home following an attack by a ram. Photo: RNZ/Marika Khabazi

Jan Hansen, Helge's ex-wife who was close to him and Gaye, believes Helge had gone out to feed the animals the night before, while Gaye cooked dinner, their normal routine.

When he didn't come back, Gaye went to investigate, she believes.

"That ram must have been waiting for her to come through the gate, I reckon. Don't think that animals can't think.

"A male animal in mating season can be quite vicious."

She adds: "I've never faced so much disaster in one short span of time. It's appalling that two people can lose their lives like that."

She says Helge was very active and continued to work on their daughter's farm at Kumeu.

"The ram must have come from nowhere to get him like that. You can never trust a ram." She says the ram wasn't a stranger to the property - it had lived there for some time.

Helge and Jan Hansen's son, Antony, a photographer who lives in the United Arab Emirates, says his sister, Leanne, arrived at their father's property around the same time as police.

He received a call around midnight, UAE time, from his sister, saying their dad and Gaye were dead.

Helge and Gaye Hansen.

Helge and Gaye Hansen. Photo: Supplied / Stuff

"It's frickin full-on for both of them to get taken out ... under such weird, crazy circumstances.

"You know the reality of ageing parents, but you don't expect anything so radical."

Antony Hansen says his father, of Danish descent, used to run a sheep farm at Port Waikato, and knew what he was doing.

"He's an experienced sheep farmer. He knows the potential outcome with rams, as far as being pretty stroppy.

"It [must have] caught him off guard, or he wouldn't be in a paddock with one, because he's always been really cautious around rams."

Hansen says his dad suffered a serious horse riding accident at his farm in the 1970s and had to relocate to Auckland, where he re-trained and went into marketing Alpine car stereos.

He married Gaye 30 years ago - they celebrated their wedding anniversary only a week ago.

Helge already had two adult children, and Gaye three.

More recently his father had sold cleaning products to hotels, worked loading logs on the wharf at Whangarei and renovated houses with Gaye.

He was "super active" and in good shape for his age.

Helge Hansen.

Helge Hansen. Photo: Supplied / Stuff

"He was no couch potato in retirement.

"He enjoyed his morning walk down to open the gate and get the paper and feed the sheep and feed the chickens."

Looking after animals was a passion. He and Gaye loved to travel, and had been to Alaska and China.

Hansen says he's seen videos on YouTube of rams fighting.

"It's pretty brutal - their heads are designed to take the impact, but it's like a sledgehammer swinging at you at 60 to 80 miles an hour."

He believes his father died instantly.

"He's gone about the stuff he loved doing and it's been over very quickly. That's something to give us a bit more comfort - that dad didn't suffer."

He says Helge was a great father - "he was super kind" - and had become a great-grandfather. He and Gaye were a "steadfast, loveable couple" and were "super happy hanging out together".

Hansen is unsure if he'll be able to make it to New Zealand, as Dubai airport has been closed due to flooding.

Jan Hansen says she can hardly believe her ex-husband and his wife died like they did.

"It's almost like a not-true story, it's absolutely gutting."

The only good thing was that they died together.

"They were a solid couple - to be killed at the same time and not one leaving the other behind is great."

She says a joint funeral will be held at the Kumeu Showgrounds on Wednesday.

- This story was first published by Stuff

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