Support for family 'very moving'

SEAMUS BOYER
Last updated 05:00 21/01/2013

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For Keith "Porky" Sexton, there's nowhere he would rather be living.

The affable South Wairarapa district councillor grew up in Featherston and has lived there all his life.

"It's a brilliant place, a very close-knit community," he said.

"It's really safe and friendly."

Like many in the town, he was stunned by the death of Glen Jones, who died after being beaten at his home last week.

"People are absolutely gutted," he said.

"Jonesy was a well-liked and well-respected person, it's certainly had a big impact on the town. But the community is going to support the parents and, if anything, people will come together a little bit closer."

On Friday, Mr Sexton attended Mr Jones's funeral, along with hundreds of others.

"I was absolutely gobsmacked by the people that turned out and supported the family for their loss," he said.

"And the interesting thing was that a lot of other people who had lived in the town way back also turned up - it was very moving."

For some people, the town - population about 2500 - has a dubious reputation for crime.

But, apart from the high-profile murder of 6-year-old Coral-Ellen Burrows, examples of serious crime are difficult to find.

In 2003, the country was shocked when the smiley schoolgirl disappeared, later found beaten to death by her mother's partner, Steven Williams, who was high on P.

Five years later, in 2008, Featherston man Paul Irons, 36, was hit, kicked and stomped on during a brutal pack beating in the town's Triangle garden.

He was left half-naked in bushes, and later died in hospital. His three attackers were jailed in 2010.

Featherston community board chairman Garry Thomas said the town had experienced few major crimes.

"In all my time, those are the only two I can remember. To be fair, most of it's just petty stuff, and the community patrols are helping with that."

He said he had heard a few negative comments since Mr Jones's death.

"I've had a couple of people say they've had enough of this and that they were going to leave.

"But they'll pack up and move on to somewhere else and there will be something happen there as well.

"I've been here 30-odd years and I haven't seen that much violence at all - no more than anywhere else."

He was confident Featherston would come away from Mr Jones's death stronger.

"The town's pretty resilient and people will bounce back. They're a tough bunch here - the police are probably lucky they got these buggers before the public did."

South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples said Featherston was a "proper community".

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"If you compare [crime] in big cities, people just take it in their stride.

"Because it's a small community town, people over-react about it."

She has lived in the area for 15 years. "I'm really impressed with the community spirit of Featherston; the way that people support each other is incredible."

Contact Seamus Boyer
Wairarapa reporter
Email: seamus.boyer@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @SeamusBoyer

- The Dominion Post

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